Image: Instagram; Reina Koyano in the Air Jordan Retro 4


Our Chick Chat series is all about sitting down and getting to know certified boss chicks making things happen in their respective fields. After our last trip up to Chi-Town to meet Blkcreatives founder and EBONY Social Media machine Melissa Kimble, we head back out to L.A. for a little art lesson.

Reina Koyano, an L.A.-based commercial artist turned celebrated sneaker enthisiast, is well on her way to creative insta glory as her sneaker-inspired pinup's flood our sneaker timeline. Reina took time out of her busy creative schedule to give us a little insight into what inspires and drives her, why she has mad love for her kicks, and what #Chickspiration means to her.

Reina in Air Jordan 12 Retro 'Gym Red'


"I’m a graphic designer [and] illustrator from Japan. I grew up moving many times between LA, Hong Kong and Tokyo ( 11 times to be exact), so my background is  a little confusing.  But, it's still diverse and colorful which I'm very proud of. As a kid, I always loved to draw and when I was old enough I dreamed of becoming a designer at an ad agency.  When I finally got into advertising after putting in many rigorous years pursuing my dream, I realized that wasn't quite what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn't easy re-positioning myself to figure out what I wanted to do but, thanks to so many people in my life, I was able to pick up a pen again and pursue what I've always loved to do: make people smile, get people excited using the power of design. Today, I'm a designer at a tech company during the day, and I draw badass sneaker illustrations at night. I'm like Batman."


"I'm still relatively new to sneaker culture. Growing up, I've always been intrigued by sneakers, but I never quite understood why. I would find these wild colored Vans, Pumas, Adidas and Nike high tops and I knew I wanted them, even though most of them didn't fit me or match any of my outfits. When I moved out here to L.A. three years ago, I met my "Sneaker Sensei(s)", Neil and Brandon. They were the two people that introduced me to this immense world of sneakers. Man, were they serious about their shoes! They had glass towers of unworn sneakers in their living room displayed like a museum and I was like "What is this?"

They showed me their collections, and every pair had an endless story. Through them, I learned that sneakers were far beyond just "cool looking footwear." Each pair was layered with history, design, culture, and memories; when you're wearing them, you're literally walking in a piece of art. That's when it sort of clicked in my head like, "ah, THAT"S why I like these things!"


"I think my favorite part of illustration is how we are able to visually deconstruct something that already exists and mash up different ideas to create new concepts. I've always loved drawing the female figure - it's so much fun to draw. My favorite thing, prior to this series, was to mash up traditional Japanese art with 60's pin-up figures. For example, what if I draw a girl with a rockabilly ponytail with huge eyelashes, but then she has this sick Japanese tattoo across her arm with waves and tigers?

I was excited about my newly discovered sneaker world, and I so badly wanted to incorporate it in a similar manner. So one day I was like, "what if I drew a pin-up style model with corsets and garter, but the lingerie was made of parts of the 'Chicago 1's'"? Because, why not?  Right?


"To me, there is something about sneakers that is just so visually sexy, but not in the same sense as semi-naked girls rocking Jordan's. Is it the way the laces tighten up your feet? Or the smooth, curving silhouettes? You know how you see a glossy motorcycle or  [a tricked out] car and you just can't help but run your hand along it because it's just so beautiful? That's sort of how I see sneakers. Whether it's the color way, or the construction, or the silhouette, there's something about the design of sneakers that just draws you in.

When you see a dope pair of shoes you wanna pick it up, brush your hand against it, feel the weight, adore the textures and details. It just shows the very human part of us that proves we have appreciation for things that are visually sexy." 


"I think I'm at 50 some pairs now. It's been hard to find places to store them! I know people with collections of hundreds of pairs and I'm like, 'How!?! Where?!' I love, love, love my [Air Jordan] Cement 4's and Bred Low 11's. My OG Air Max Zero's are my "no touch pair." It was the first pair that I got lining up on Air Max Day last year, so it's very special to me.  Plus, I remember opening the box and the white was just glowing. It's sort of like you don't want to put a knife to a perfectly iced cake. I was like, "nope, I am not going to ruin these pups."


"Currently, I'm rotating between the Nike WMNS Air Max 90 Anniversary "Cork", my Cement 4's, the Air Jordan 7 'Nothing But Net', and the Nike Air Max Zero 'Tokyo' from the 2016 City Collection."

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"Inspiration comes from everywhere. A lot of times I have a blurry image in my head and I keep researching visual references to help me clarify my visions. Sometimes, I watch videos of fashion models strutting, athletes, dancers, to capture the poses and energy. High fashion is a really cool place to hunt for inspiration as well. For example, for my "Air Mags Girl" piece, I was inspired by the iconic Alexander McQueen visor sunglasses, and while researching that I came across his "Plato's Atlantis" Collection. So badass. 

There are so many sneaker artists that I look up to! Grafittikicks,, Freehand profit, Solestitches, jcolegraphix, tomyoo23, atmosatmos, name a few. These people are insane!


"I usually work digitally, although a lot of times I start sketching on paper with pencil. I love drawing on paper, the experience is so different from working on Photoshop. It allows me to draw freely, draw all these messy lines. I love how I can feel the paper's surface and how my hand gets a little bit dirty while sketching, I almost feel like that's part of the idea process. Once I'm happy with the overall idea, I bring it into Photoshop, color, shade, and do a lot of adjusting to match the artwork with the rest of the series."


"I love it. I think to me, #Chickspiration is a reminder to be true to your passions and [what makes] you unique. We all face our battles, walls, limitations in life. Sometimes people will label you and put you in a box. Sometimes you will even come across situations that make you feel belittled and start doubting your passions or even your abilities. But you know your best. Don't forget about that fire inside of you that drives the infinite potential to do amazing things. I hope #Chickspiration will grow to be a community that can remind and encourage each other to keep that fire going. I love what you guys are doing!"

Photos Courtesy of Reina Koyano 

Photos Courtesy of Reina Koyano 

If you folks out there are looking for more inspiration, head over to Reina's InstagramWe've included a small taste, but be sure to follow her feed to see what she's up next! 

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