Footwear

Daphne Chao on How Her Crochet Kicks Became a Gorpcore Craze

“Wait, what if the Quicklace tie is really just a Bolo tie for your shoes?” –Daphne Chao

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Daphne Chao is the brains and hands behind Ilyang Ilyang, a creative project which has recently been experiencing virality thanks to its witty crocheted flower designs using the Salomon XT-6. While Chao’s love for crochet began as a means to simply pass the time amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, she was also unknowingly laying the foundations to inform the conception of Ilyang Ilyang. Over the past three years, Chao has created everything from sun hats to bikini tops and her love for the artform is still alive as it was in the beginning. As Chao says, “I just indulge in whatever ridiculous idea my brain comes up with.”

Chao admits that she was only half serious when she first thought about dressing up the XT-6, but fast forward to 2024 and Ilyang Ilyang’s Salomon Quicklace flower accessory has played a key role in refreshing the Gorpcore aesthetic, bringing a much needed whimsy element to a world of structured seriousness.

In our latest installment of Baes with Kicks, we caught up with Chao to hear about her archive of crocheted pieces, how she coined the term “Bolomon,” her hopes for Ilyang Ilyang and more.

Daphne Chao, Ilyang Ilyang, Salomon, Crochet, Design, Sneakers, Baes With Kicks

Name: Daphne Chao

City: Quezon City, Philippines

Occupation: Founder of Ilyang Ilyang

What’s your relationship with sneakers?

To be honest, my relationship with sneakers is pretty new. Growing up, I would only wear them out for sport activities and long walks. They weren’t something I would choose first and base an outfit on for going out. Instead, I’d usually wear my dressier, sometimes uncomfortable, shoes. It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend Carlo, a sneaker buff, that I got to appreciate the comfort, design, art and story behind sneakers. Now, I find myself reaching out for them more than my other shoes. Sure, I can’t help but get tempted to purchase new pairs whenever a new release catches my eye but luckily I have storage issues. Also, a lot of times it’s difficult to get them locally and if they were available, the women’s sizes are usually limited or nonexistent. For those reasons, I’ve learned to love the current mini collection I have right now because I’m able to accessorize them with crochet.

How did you get into crocheting?

I started crocheting in 2020 during the lockdown. I was stuck in an island in the Visayas at the time and my housemates and I needed to do something to pass time and stay sane. We dedicated our evenings to learning how to bake, watercoloring, doing origami and eventually crocheting. One of our housemates knew how to crochet, so we immediately bought whatever materials we could find and learned from her. That lasted for about two weeks until we got frustrated because our yarns were too thin and our hooks were too small that it was just a pain to make something with them. I revisited crocheting when I got back home to Manila and I was able to explore more materials for crocheting that made it a bit easier.
Daphne Chao, Ilyang Ilyang, Salomon, Crochet, Design, Sneakers, Baes With Kicks
What’s one of the first things you ever created?

The first thing I ever crocheted was a wonky bikini top that took forever and never saw the light of day. When I revisited and fell in love with crochet, the first piece I made was a onesie for my two-year old cousin. From there, I started exploring and learning more until I was able to pattern out my own design which was the Sun Hat with removable side ties. This hat is what started the Ilyang Ilyang account along with other practical items. It wasn’t long after that I just started creating for fun without practicality in mind.

Now, the majority of the pieces I designed and made have an element of quirk and unseriousness to them which sort of gave the brand its identity. My brother would always say, “Is it a meme page? A fashion account? A crochet art instagram?” That’s what kept it fun for me because I just indulged in whatever ridiculous idea my brain would come up with. One quirky favorite of mine is the Nipple Mask made up of differently colored and shaped tiddies, some with piercings, too. I’ve made other masks as well, ones that can hold eggs which makes them impractical to use.

The term “Bolomon” is so perfectly witty. What sparked the idea to start jazzing up the Salomon?

Thank you! I take pride in coining the term. After receiving a XT-6 Gore-Tex pair last November, I was joking around saying, “what if I crocheted on it?” Crocheting shoes was something that I wanted to do ever since but the idea was never fully there because as much as I wanted to crochet bomb all over the shoe, I still wanted to preserve the design integrity of it. Anybody could cover the whole thing in crochet and call it a day – but where’s the fun in that?

With the Salomon pair, I thought of doing something small that would just complement the shoe and its colorway without taking away from it. It just so happened that I was wearing a bolo tie for an event a week before, so while playing with the Quicklace I thought, “Wait, what if the Quicklace tie is really just a Bolo tie for your shoes?” So, an accessory for an accessory was made. I even made a sock collar to support the idea.
Daphne Chao, Ilyang Ilyang, Salomon, Crochet, Design, Sneakers, Baes With Kicks
That first Ilyang Ilyang-ified XT-6 took the internet by storm. Not only was it perfectly executed, but also gave the Salomon a refreshed look, which many can’t get enough of. What do you love most about the juxtaposition of crochet and Gorpcore?

I didn’t even think anything of it! When more Gorpcore-related moodboards started reposting my work I saw that it got mixed reactions from people, one of them even asking, “How is this Gorpcore?” To me, it wasn’t that deep but it’s funny to think about because a crochet accessory resembling a flower is the last thing you would think about when you hear “Gorpcore.” It’s definitely not for everyone but by adding a little bit of softness to the shoe through crochet it reached a new audience that just gets it. There’s nothing wrong with marrying different aesthetics together. More than its concept, the “Bolomon” provides a great way for people to freshen up their current pairs so that they can fall in love with them again and at the same time it’s a great way to encourage people to get their first pair of Salomons.
Daphne Chao, Ilyang Ilyang, Salomon, Crochet, Design, Sneakers, Baes With Kicks
We’re in an era where women are redefining and disrupting the world of sneaker customs and in a way reclaiming the creativity of it all. Is that something you have in the back of your mind?

Everytime I come across a post on Instagram of custom sneakers designed and crafted by women, I’m constantly in awe. These are designs that speak to me and I love the creativity behind them because it’s not just another boring pink shoe. They’re the same shoe models that my boyfriend and male friends wear, but yass-ified. You have customs that explore girlhood and others more unisex-leaning that explore function. There’s really something for everyone. Seeing all this just inspires and encourages me to keep creating and exploring my medium using sneakers as the canvas.

What are your goals for Ilyang Ilyang?

Ilyang Ilyang has been around for three years now, it’s still growing and I’m still learning along the way. It has grown to be more than just sun hats and bikinis, now it has branched out to more genderless wearables and accessories. So, it keeps steering in different directions where it allows me to explore more options, without a clear definite destination. Ultimately, I just wanted to see crochet in the streetwear scene more, whether it’s through subtle accessories or big pieces. I think we’re slowly achieving it, but hey if more brands and artists wanna collaborate to get us to this vision sooner I’m open to anything.
Daphne Chao, Ilyang Ilyang, Salomon, Crochet, Design, Sneakers, Baes With Kicks
What’s something you’re looking forward to working on this year?

I have no idea but I would love to get back into experimenting and creating for myself again. Ilyang Ilyang is still a one-woman show, so balancing work and personal time has been something that I’m constantly working on. I usually lose balance between making orders, exploring new designs and personal time. So, this year, I’m taking it easier. We’ll just see where things take us!

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