CREATIVE ALL STAR SERIES; THE NEW UNIVERSE
words Filipe Phitzgerard - talent images Jake Turney
American footwear and apparel label, Converse is without a doubt one of the most iconic and well-recognised names across the globe and with its origins dating back to the early nineteen hundreds it has become a reference in style and functionality throughout the decades. We may wonder what makes a brand not only survive but thrive amid decades of changes in human behaviour and response towards fashion and, for us, one key ingredient for success they have is their ability to adapt and influence every generation they step into. Up until the 1990s Converse was recognised as a utilitarian brand where their canvas shoes were even part of the school uniforms in various cities in the world. Back then, Converse was the brand we all would wear but without really thinking about it. Fast forward to the early 2000s and we start seeing a change in the way we consumed fashion. People started breaking free from the standard norms of style and began to live for their true self. Step forward another twenty years and what was once a utilitarian piece is now a wearable piece of art.
If we look back on the last twenty years we will be able to find dozens of collaborations and collections that testify of Converse's commitment with their inevitably-changing consumer base and year after year this American giant has not let us down as they have been moving fast forward towards the new and unique while staying true to their history and identity and never compromising quality for the sake of mere profit. There are a lot of positive things we could point out about Converse; however, their more recent (and ongoing) initiative is something for us to really think about - and experience.
Continuing with their commitment to creativity, Converse has launched what they call Creative All Star Series which is a fresh and ongoing program that brings their global collective of creatives into the same creative space and shines a light on local talent covering areas from sport, music and art at highly relevant cultural moments. The initiative encourages this - and the next - generation of young creatives to embrace their individuality while providing a space to strengthen their talents through experiences that enable creativity and the exchange of ideas. The Creative All Star Series is originally rooted in basketball but here and now the roots have not overpowered the message. The roots are the firm foundation on which this message is set upon. Whether you are a basketball fan or have never watched any sports matches Converse is creating an environment where uniqueness and creative identity are recognised, developed, and celebrated.
The “All Star” factor came to London this Fashion Week, and, is a new travelling experience from Converse which is currently happening in London at LFW and Chicago during NBA All Star Weekend simultaneously as they use their basketball heritage to put a new twist on fashion and to motivate and celebrate young creativity.
In London, consumers have the chance to learn, craft and celebrate the game of basketball but in a way that is still very London while also using Converse products as canvases for their creative expression and personalization by local London collaborators and creatives. Among this creatives are four undoubtedly brilliant young artists who themselves are becoming contemporary icons. And this is where the project gets even more exciting. Converse has teamed up with another contemporary giant; TikTok, to celebrate and inspire creatives through the work of these four Tiktokkers who are customizing some pieces live at the hub in London.
From Belgium comes the super talented and ever so captivating Vince Okerman a.k.a @Vexx. This twenty-one-year-old artist is known for his bright and beautiful art which has the power to draw you into his world. When looking at his creations we can't stop but dive into this colourful universe inside his head. Vexx has worked with customization of footwear before but when it comes to this new project with Converse, he states; "Converse is an amazing brand to work with and I hope this is the start of a great relationship. One day I do want to create my own shoes and I look at Tyler the Creator and what he has done with Converse so it makes me feel like one day I can do that as well; have a collection with an iconic brand such as Converse." For him, this initiative is a statement to the changing times we are experiencing in the fashion and creative industry and he continues; "I think there is a lot of space available to create things like this and today it feels like the possibilities are actually endless. I am kind of surprised by the people who came here. They are all very creative and fashion-minded people and they came because of the whole idea of customization."
This creative initiative is surely a good step forward when it comes to recognising and encouraging uniqueness and Vince agrees that "being unique is something people always wanted but now we have found a new way to do it; by customizing our sneakers and clothes." For him "the way people are consuming fashion now is different, people are looking for originality and to be unique." Alongside Vince is also London-based creative Jake Sweet a.k.a @surfaceldn whose technique and creative perspective are easily seen not only in his art but his personal style. From the colourful hair to the customized Pro-Leather he was wearing when we met yesterday, Jake is the epitome of bright uniqueness. This young creative is one who encourages and appreciates creativity to a very personal level while seeing the potential in customization of shoes; "I really do encourage creativity and I think people should become even more creative all the time and, for me, shoes are a great place to start. Shoes can tell a lot about someone's personal style and identity and in general and seeing someone with cool unique shoes is always fun."
Jake sees how important and relevant the collaboration between young artists, big fashion brands and tech companies is at the moment "I think that personally, I love to inspire people through what I do and I love to see so many young people, sometimes millions, being inspired by something that I created and showcased on a platform like TikTok and events like this create a new dimension to that relationship between brand and consumer. I think it provides a space where you can physically create art. We need more of this." And for digital illustrator and TikTok icon, Lulu a.k.a @Tootymcnooty the initiative is not only important but needed to build a brighter future; "I definitely think that more big brands should work like this in their campaigns; creating an environment or space even if not a physical space where young creatives can take part in creating for them." Lulu's work is contemporary, witty, and captivating as she tells stories through a fun yet unique way. Her art is deep in meaning and emotion while remaining uplifting.
For Lulu, coming along to work with Converse has been a great experience and she looks at each individual aspect of this immersive experience as a perfect way to create and connect; "This is so much fun and how they (Converse) created a space where there is so much you can do. There is from laces and tie-dye to drawing and painting and printing. I love the fact that you walk into this space and you have so many different things you can do and everyone is busy doing something. I also really like how people come in and they can work together and meet new people. To me, a space like this creates so many possibilities not only to be creative but to connect with other people." She continues by giving us an insight on how she feels about working in this fresh environment and how it has impacted her as an artist; "It is actually a pretty good environment to work in. It looks like it is hectic but I found it to be quite relaxed and casual. I really like it. It is very different than working in my own studio space. I do animation so everything is done digitally and when I am here I am actually creating drawings and painting and using my skills in a completely different media."
We also chatted to the brilliant lettering artist James Lewis a.k.a @jamesllewis. This young creative has worked with some of the biggest names out there from Amazon and Montblanc to Samsung and Supreme and many more. His work is fresh and somewhat a presents traces of a Roy Lichtenstein meets Andy Warhol. The mix is subtle and yet his signature is his own and twisted to perfection. For James, Converse's initiative to create the All Star Series is proof of their commitment to the young consumer; "I think it (All Star Series) just shows how much Converse is taking the steps to reach a whole new demographic. For me I always liked Converse and I grew up with it but I see Converse engaging with this newer generation and by partnering with companies like TikTok just opens up a whole new sphere." James is precise not only with his art but his words and seems to get this whole movement without having to wonder too much about it; "The way to combine these audiences together and create with them is just great and such a good step forward. I grew up wearing Converses to school and you were allowed to were the black canvas ones and couldn't customize or doodle on it; it was a utilitarian sneaker and today it is moving from that place into a piece that people want to wear because it has a lot of creativity both in concept and design attached to it." He continues by saying; "in events like this, the focus is on customization which, again, is a new thing and what this generation is into. Converse to me is a blank canvas that people can engage with."
When looking at the relationship between art and fashion James believes that shoes and clothes are a "new media to work with" and adds; "It is really cool how people are appreciating and going after this new media of art which is shoes and clothes. Like people now can wear this really cool art piece on their feet because it is wearable art." And he looks at the future with hope and expectation and sees the many benefits of this moment; "I think we are in an incredible time where you have so many creative people who have been boxed in for so long. I have a degree in graphic design and that was never something I wanted to be boxed in. I started doing lettering and then art and customization on clothes and I think this is the time where if you are creative enough and have the desire and drive in you, then you can really push the boundaries of what you wanna do. Just put yourself out there and if your stuff resonates with people and you can get some traction on it then you are free to do it as you want." He also recognizes how important companies like TikTok are in encouraging creativity; "I especially look at TikTok and how important it is to have this platform in today's culture. It (TikTok) is so perfect for creatives because it gives them a potentially wide reach to the stuff they create. And especially for the young audience, there are a lot of young people who get in touch with me and they say 'I saw what you created and that inspired me so I created this...' and some of those are such young people and don't come from a creative background but they see what other young creatives are doing and they feel inspired to do the same and end up discovering they are actually born for it. I think TikTok does such a great job helping creatives reach people. "
When talking about the Pro Leather silhouette and material these four creatives unanimously agree that "it is a blank canvas with endless possibilities" for each of them and their respective styles. James admits although he had "not used leather a lot before" he sees how his style of work has translated really well with the Pro Leathers with Vince adding that for him "...(the Pro Leather) is a very fun silhouette to work with. It is white and plain which gives you a lot of space to create and design within. I love the possibilities we have with this particular design and it makes customization fun and exciting. Leather is perfect for my style because it allows me to be very detailed and cartoony outlines while on canvas I try to make very realistic stuff because the ink spreads out but both are pretty good."
The Creative All Star Series London is being held at a pop-up brand experience located at Hoxton Docks, London, E2 8BD. During an exclusive creative class at Creative All Star Series, London based designer Feng Chen Wang unveiled the unique 2-in-1 Pro Leather, exclusively made for the experience. Applying the same design principles as her 2-in-1 Converse Chuck 70 that was on the runway at her SS19 London Fashion Week show.
For more information on Converse visit CONVERSE.COM
For more information on TikTok visit TIKTOK.COM
Follow Jake Turney on INSTAGRAM
Special thanks to EXPOSURE and TikTok
Feng Chen Wang Pro Leather