Japan’s No.1
Sneaker Marketplace

21st October 2022 EDT FEATURES

[Interview] Real or Fake? SNKRDUNK Authenticator Kaoru Nohara Can Tell You

As the prices and rarity of genuine sneakers rise, so do the quality of their replicas. Unless you've been a long-time collector, you might not be able to discern them—but SNKRDUNK's authenticators can. Introducing: Kaoru Nohara.

[Interview] Real or Fake? SNKRDUNK Authenticator Kaoru Nohara Can Tell You
[Interview] Real or Fake? SNKRDUNK Authenticator Kaoru Nohara Can Tell You

By Charles Basa
Translated by Dickson Chin
Photography by Hidayah Goh

The pervasion of replicas, or fakes, has been a battle perpetuated for as long as the Jumpman has taken to the skies. And for as long as sneaker prices follow a similar trajectory, there will always be a demand for these cheaper, inferior alternatives. Nevertheless, safeguarding you from such has been one of SNKRDUNK’s tenets, installing gatekeepers to perform stringent appraisals on every item that passes through our warehouse.

One such gatekeeper is a charismatic 24-year-old sneaker authenticator from Osaka, Kaoru Nohara. Past his unassuming disposition is a young man with a discerning eye.

Almost typical of the Japanese—he applies craftsmanship in his discipline, and discipline in his craft, continuously learning and researching making sure that he’s erudite and equipped to do his job well; analyzing the minutiae of a sneaker, from the box and various embellishments, down to the stitching. It can be a piece of work, but it’s for your peace of mind. It’s hyperbole but if the devil is in the details, then before your item is shipped to you, Kaoru’s made sure it’s a holy grail.

He begins his tenure in Singapore as an integral member of our team that’s bringing the SNKRDUNK Singapore brick-and-mortar store to life. With him will come not only his expertise, but the success culture established in the home base in Japan as well. While you can read about what we do to authenticate our sneakers, the following conversation with him will offer you a glimpse into what it’s like, what it takes, and what he looks out for.

Q: How did you get your start?

When I was 22, I worked for a trading company. I didn’t want to give up working with sneakers and clothing, so I changed jobs. I was introduced by the SNKRDUNK Harajuku Store Manager and I joined the company thereafter. I saw him post a story on Instagram stating that he is recruiting authenticators so I reacted to it and that’s how it all started.

Q: What kind of skills do you need to do your job well?

Being a sneakerhead is only the first step, the important thing is to keep learning. Being able to continuously research and learn about new stuff. For example, assuming there is a re-release, we need to make it a habit to ask ourselves, is there a difference between the old one and the re-release? From there on, we will need to research and look into the details to be able to differentiate the different models and releases.

Q: How long did the authentication training take and was it difficult?

There is no fixed period for the authentication training but it takes about 3 months for quick learners. It was overwhelming at first to have to deal with so many sneakers in a day. Having the need to not only check whether the shoe is a fake, but also to check on the condition of each pair. That requires a lot of attention from an authenticator.

Q: What model of shoes are the most difficult to inspect? Are there easy telltale signs that indicate the shoe is a replica?

It is more difficult to inspect models that everyone knows rather than collaboration sneakers, because the quality of the replicas are higher. Material, inner tag, and stitching are important inspection points.

Q: Are there specific materials harder to inspect than others?

Smooth leather commonly used for the upper. This is because it is easy to replicate it when the material is readily available to everyone.

It’s part of the process. Sometimes, you have to stop and smell the coffee—or in this case, the “Dark Mocha”.

Q: What shoes get replicated the most?

Nike Dunk Panda, Supreme Air Force 1, Jordan 1 and 4.

Q: What’s your personal collection like having work so closely with sneakers?

I’m happy to see so many sneakers every day. But on the contrary, I don’t buy anything unless I really want to. I owned about 50 to 60 pairs when I was back in Japan. But after moving to Singapore, I am left with around 10 pairs, sending the rest back to my hometown.

Q:  Any specific shoes you have a special attachment toward, a special memory?

Stüssy Converse CT70. It’s because I couldn’t buy the Stüssy collaboration sneakers in Japan*, so I had to order them from overseas.

Also, I remember a friend’s experience of buying a pair of Supreme Air Force 1 from SNKRDUNK. He said the process from purchasing to receiving it was very pleasant. When I heard that, I felt really rewarded.

*Converse Japan and Converse International are separate entities. International collaborations are not available in the Japanese market.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to pick up the craft?

Anyone with a curious mind can rise to the challenge!

If you have any more burning questions, come down to the SNKRDUNK Singapore grand opening on 15th October at Mandarin Gallery, and meet Kaoru vis-à-vis. We’re sure he’d be more than happy to answer them!

SNKRDUNK Singapore:

#01-09B/#02-10, Mandarin Gallery,
333A Orchard Road
Singapore 238897