Japan’s No.1
Sneaker Marketplace

7th August 2022 EDT FEATURES

[Interview] Virtually Real: Hartcopy’s Tim Suen on NFTs & Digitized Sneaker Culture

SNKRDUNK had the opportunity to speak with Hartcopy's Tim Suen on his entry into the sneaker scene, his thoughts on the coalescing of NFTs and sneaker collection, and whether the scene will ever turn virtual.


By Cheyenne Chia & Anton Karve

Back in October 2021, in a playful attempt at online tongue-in-cheek humor, Mark Zuckerberg (on Meta’s business account, no less) tweeted at Balenciaga: “What’s the dress code in the metaverse?” However, this humorous attempt at connecting the digital world to high fashion is more than just a friendly quip — it’s a valid question that has permeated much of the fashion industry and is already an ongoing conversation in the sneaker realm. 

The digitisation of the sneaker space has accelerated the sneaker collecting market into a billion dollar business. It is only expected to increase in value as time passes, especially given the resounding welcome of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) into the space. A quick summary for the uninitiated — NFTs are essentially unique crypto assets that cannot be replicated as they exist on the blockchain (Still scratching your head? Check out our NFT guide).  

So how do digital assets find common ground with sneaker collecting — a typically on-foot experience that’s so traditionally obsessed with material feel? For one, the exclusive tokens share a core value with sneaker collection: authentic exclusivity that accentuates one’s individuality. But don’t just take our word for it.

Tim Suen, the current Social Media Manager for HYPEBEAST’s Web3 and founder of polished sneaker print Hartcopy, has had strong personal and professional interactions with the digital metamorphosis of sneaker culture. In fact, he recently acquired his own pair of Tinker Hatfield’s Air Max 1 “Ducks of a Feather” — a limited edition piece only offered to 120 NFT owners. He shares with us his thoughts on the future of sneaker collecting, NFTs’ disruption and whether our future closets will be entirely digital. 


Q. Thank you for agreeing to this interview Tim! As a starter question, could you share with us about how you first encountered the street scene and what sustains your interest in it?

Hey there, thanks for having me. I went through what most teenagers did, from reading streetwear blogs to photography and sneaker collecting. While the industry has become quite saturated and repetitive, I still like to see new innovations that push the boundaries in fashion and footwear.

Q. How did you first get involved with crypto and blockchain technology? 

I bought my first bit of ETH when I was in university and had no idea what I was actually doing. It was right before a major bear market and I lost most of that investment. Months later, I got back in again when NFTs were starting to make their rounds on the internet. I bought my first piece on Niftygateway, it was a piece by Steve Aoki and Antoni Tudisco.

Q. Did you have an inkling that NFTs would receive such a fervent response from the sneaker community? What do you think are the factors that thread the two fields together?

It was quite predictable. The sneaker community was looking for the next sneaker trend. NFTs included everything that sneakers had but amplified: community and resell value. Communities in sneaker culture largely existed on Facebook groups before slowly dying down. In the meantime, each NFT has a booming community in Discord where people actually feel like they belong. With regards to reselling, NFTs are just so much easier to sell as there’s no need to ship. 

Tim Suen Hartcopy Hypebeast NFT Sneakers Interview 3

Q. The NFT Sneaker scene has grown exponentially. Could you share with us how you think sneaker collecting, as a traditionally physical activity (from queuing for raffles to owning the actual shoe), would be disrupted by NFTs?

There are many cases for NFTs and sneakers. One project worth highlighting is the Flying Formations project by Tinker Hatfield. 120 NFTs were auctioned off and each NFT came attached with one pair of sneakers that can be claimed in real life. The beauty of this is that you can trade ownership of the sneaker without having to physically move it. The claiming process was extremely smooth too as I didn’t have to pay any additional fees, including shipping, to get my pair.

Another project to consider is the Nike CryptoDunk by RTFKT sneakers. Each CryptoDunk is a blank canvas, and can be upgraded with Skin Vials which changes the appearance of the sneaker. There’s also a gamified element to this project in which these vials can evolve. It’s exciting to see how Nike and RTFKT apply this technology in creating real pairs, or “forging” as they call it. I think NFTs will disrupt the market in terms of sneaker verification and ownership transfer. 

Q. Each brand seems to have their own take on what a sneaker NFT should be. Some (like Nike) sell them as standalone collectibles, while others (like Hatfield’s) use them as a token of ownership for physical sneakers. Which one of these concepts do you think will drive the future of the Sneaker metaverse?

I definitely think it’s token ownership. I’m still skeptical about NFT sneakers solely as digital collectibles without IRL utility. I just don’t see a reason to own them as it doesn’t add to your digital identity. That being said, I think the way we interact with sneakers will be predominantly digital. That includes purchasing from retailers, and trading on the secondary market. However, digital sneakers will never take the place of physical sneakers. 

Tim Suen Hartcopy Hypebeast NFT Sneakers Interview

Q. Could you give some advice to those looking to enter the trade of Sneaker NFTs? 

Fully understand what you’re buying into and be prepared to be patient. NFT projects are all extremely new and will take time to build IRL utility. It might take a year or more until you see the benefits. 

Q. As per any sneaker-esque editorial, we are burning to know about your collection. Could you let us know how big your collection is now, personal favourites, and any special stories associated with them? 

Significant pairs I’m holding onto are an incomplete collection of 1985 Air Jordan 1s (missing Royal Blue, UNC, and Black and White). Other favorites include the 1984 Nike Aloha and 1985 Kentucky Dunk High PE. A piece that holds a special place in my heart is the Futura x Stash Dunk High that was made for Futura’s 50th birthday. I had them signed by both artists in person. 

At the moment, I’m really inspired by independent designers/creators/visionaries. People like Hidden NY, Hal Studios, Salehe Bembury, and Jjjjound have all built aspirational brands from the ground up in a short amount of time. We are living in their world. 


Special thanks to Timothy Suen for the insightful interview and images. You can find more of his fire fits on his Instagram.