How Albino & Preto Created a Jiu-Jitsu-Themed Nike SB Dunk Collaboration

A&P director Arvie Gimeno talks about skating in Guam, sneaker collecting, and the hidden details of the Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk

Skating is art. A martial art to be exact, according to A&P Director Arvie Gimeno.

The constant pursuit of perfection and the mentality of getting up after falling down are the beautiful, inspiring, and humbling aspects that Gimeno sees between both sports. 

Nike SB’s Paul Rodriguez in the Albin & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low

The martial artist who skated as a child turned his 20-year passion for Brazilian jiu-jitsu into Albino & Preto, a martial arts brand with ties to streetwear. 

Since California-based A&P started in 2011 as a company that specializes in products such as jiu-jitsu gis, training gear, and accessories, it has dabbled in more hyped-up products. 

A&P’s reach and reputation went beyond dedicated students of the martial art by collaborating on collectible gis with Wu-Tang and Bodega, jiu-jitsu-inspired art with Be@rbrick, and a sneaker with Saucony. 

Wu-Tang Clan x Albino & Preto Gi

Now, Gimeno is putting both of his passions together in one product through a collaboration with Nike SB. The Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low is an opportunity to showcase the martial art through a sneaker as it tells a story by using the sport’s garments on the shoe.

We caught up with Albino & Preto director Arvie Gimeno to delve into the five-year journey of the sneaker, the hidden details of the shoe, and the resilience of BJJ that can be applied to everyday life. 

Nice Kicks: How’d you get into sneakers? 

Arvie Gimeno: [Sneakers] goes all the way back during the Nike Pro Bs era, before Nike SBs came out. I wouldn’t even call myself a shoehead because back in the late 90s, early 2000s, we were all about sneakers. Not because it was something to collect or because it was a fashion thing. It was something that the group of friends and myself were into during that time.  

Albino & Preto Director Arvie Gimeno

NK: When did jiu-jitsu and skating cross over for you? 

AG: I skated a lot as a kid back home in Guam at Hafa Adai Exchange and the ITC building. A lot of us growing up had parents who had merchandise stores, we would all hang out all day, and we would all skate. Sharing the experience of jiu-jitsu and skating was a big thing to me. 

NK: What are the commonalities that you see in the martial arts form and in skating that a lot of people might not realize? 

AG: Repetition, consistency, and the persistence of just trying to become a better person, or becoming better at what you do. And we may be able to use that to apply to life in general. There’s also a common mental ground: you fall down, you get back up. The grind doesn’t stop. The beauty of both sport and art is being humbled. When the project finally came to fruition, it was more the commonality of the mental aspect of martial arts within jiu-jitsu and also skating.

Nike SB's Hailey Wilson and Paul Rodriguez practicing jiu-jitsu in the Albino & Preto x Nike SB Gi
Nike SB’s Hailey Wilson and Paul Rodriguez practicing jiu-jitsu in the Albino & Preto x Nike SB Gi

NK: Were there any shoes that stood out to you growing up? Did any influence your Nike SB collab? 

AG: I remember Dre from Project Blitz and I were all into cars at the same time, I remember him acquiring 30 pairs of “Paris” SBs. We didn’t even know it was going to be a thing. I remember those being such a big highlight other than “Heinekens” or elephant “Supreme” SBs.

I don’t think there was really a shoe that helped me figure out how to design [the shoe]. 

NK: What went behind the design and fabric choices for the shoe

AG: The shoe itself was based on the [jiu-jitsu] uniform, the history, and the story of martial arts. We wanted the shoe to wear and tear like the uniform and the laces would wear and tear like the belt. 

Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low FD2627-200

[The shoe] is about the history of what the color of the uniform cotton used to be in martial arts. That’s how cotton was in general, right before anything was ever bleached, it was natural, so that was like paying homage to the history of martial arts. 

The shoe has five different fabrics, four of which are used on the uniforms: pearl weave, rip-stop, canvas, and herringbone. For the Swoosh, we ended up going a little more premium on that with a simple suede that we don’t use on the uniforms. 

Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low FD2627-200

NK: What are other key details that fans can appreciate?

AG: The insole is supposed to mimic our version of a duck camo that was infused with the colors of the belt ranks: white, blue, purple, brown, and black. I wanted to do duck camo to also pay homage to the Oregon Ducks, with Nike being in Oregon. 

Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low FD2627-200

You’re probably wondering about the shrimp drawing [on the Zoom bag]. Shrimping, also known as hip escape, is a warm-up we do. You’re taught this in warm-ups to escape or to get out of a mounted position.

Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low FD2627-200

The reason we put it on insoles was that I had dinner with the Nike SB team we were joking around, “shrimping ain’t easy.”  They were like, “What if we put this on the insole like a hidden gem?” 

Former Nike SB designer and OG James Arizumi also came up with the idea of adding the degrees of the stripes to each tip of the belt rack to the laces as well. 

Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low FD2627-200

Most tongue labels are just woven labels, right? What we did with this was we got a canvas fabric, they heat transferred the A&P logo in a very tonal way, and then embroidered stitched the Nike on top and then sewed it onto there. I think that’s the first thing that’s been done. 

NK: When did the conversation with Nike SB start?

AG:  This project actually had a first conversation back in December 2018. It took some time since there were some changes within the company, and so it wasn’t until June of 2021 that this conversation came back up when James Arizumi shot me a text. 

NK: What’s the significance of the bag that’s packaged with the shoe? 

AG: When I got my third sample, it came to me shipped in that paper bag, and there was a stamp on it. 

I asked Nike SB, “what’s this bag? It’s really cool.” They’re like, “Oh, that’s how the sample bags are. That’s how the samples come, but we typically don’t send the bag.” 

Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low FD2627-200

So I asked, “well, how do we add this to the packaging?” I wanted to add it because people are going to get confused and think the bag has something to do with the shrimp drawing.  

My dad happened to be visiting from Guam around that time, and I really love my dad’s handwriting. I asked if he could write it for me and he said yes. The writing is a homage, and I pay my respects to my dad. 

Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low FD2627-200

NK: Were there any changes from the initial design talks from 2018 to the final product? 

AG: When we were designing the shoe, we were still in the multicolor box era. I wanted the multicolor box to be the belt with red, the stripes to be blue, purple, brown, black, and the Swoosh in white. 

But they were like, “You’re going be a part of the sail box era.”

NK: What was going through your mind when the talks with Nike SB stopped? 

AG: Definitely a lot of things were running through my mind, but I figured I just keep doing what I’m doing, and maybe they’d call me, you know?

It’s like in jiu-jitsu or skating: you win some, you lose some, right? But it’s about having a positive mental attitude, living that life knowing that time will tell. I always believe that patience is a virtue. 

Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low FD2627-200

“Wait for great” is a big thing in my brand deck whenever I present. I think for anybody, it’d be a bummer if it didn’t happen. But for me, I thought maybe it’s not the right time, maybe we need to wait till the timing is right and the story is better told. 

NK: You’ve been into sneakers for most of your life and you’ve been doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for almost 20 years. Did you ever think you’d be able to combine the two on such a large storytelling platform? 

AG: I never in my life would’ve thought I’d be making or designing my own Nike SB dunk even when I was into shoes back in the day and was a part of the culture during that time.

Albino & Preto x Nike SB Dunk Low FD2627-200

I’ve always had ideas about it, but who doesn’t, right? If you’re designing stuff and you have a brand, who doesn’t have aspirations for it? 

But, I never thought this day would have come. I’m honored that Nike SB took a chance on me and my ideas to tell a story that, I would say for the very longest time, a lot of companies and brands would turn around and think otherwise. 

Imagery via Ben Colen/Instagram

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