Converse has redesigned its iconic canvas basketball shoe – the Chuck Taylor All Star – to appeal to a growing audience of non-sports-playing sneaker fans in the music, fashion, arts and design industries.
"Since its debut in 1917, the Chuck Taylor All Star has become one of the world's most celebrated sneakers, with fans, artists and musicians adopting the brand as a badge of creativity and self-expression," said a statement from Converse, the 100-year-old American shoe company now owned by Nike.
"The Chuck Taylor All Star II is designed to meet the demands of the creative lifestyle and is built for the next generation of self-expression."
The original design's rubber toe-cap, All Star ankle patch and textured foxing – the white rubber strip that connects the sole to the canvas upper – have all been retained.
A sole liner has been added to cushion the wearer's feet and provide arch support using Nike's Lunarlon foam material, which has been a key feature in a number of its most successful recent basketball shoe designs. strip of padding has been added around the collar of the shoe, and the tongue has been given a non-slip finish. A perforated artificial micro-suede upper liner has also been introduced to help prevent the wearer's feet from getting too hot and sweaty. "The Chuck Taylor All Star is one of the most legendary and iconic sneakers of all time," said Jim Calhoun, president and CEO of Converse. "The launch of Chuck II is a ground-breaking moment for Converse as we continue to move the brand forward through creativity and innovation, ushering in not just a new sneaker, but a completely new way of thinking."
The redesign is available in both a classic high-top style, and a low-cut version – with a rectangular patch at the top of the tongue – and is available in black, red, blue and all-white for its first release on 28 July.
Converse began producing its basketball shoes in 1917, to compete with ball manufacturer Spalding. The now iconic Converse Chuck Taylor All Star design is named after a basketball player of the same name, who helped refine and improve the design of the shoes and became a Converse spokesman in the 1920s.
It was Taylor's suggestion to add a protective patch to the ankle, which led to the addition of the distinctive round reinforcement with its star-shaped logo on the side of the high-top shoes. Taylor's name was added to the patch in 1932.
The shoes found a new wave of fans in the Indie music movement of the 1990s and early 2000s, and remain a steetwear staple.
Nike bought Converse in 2003, in a deal that was then worth an estimated $305 million. The Converse range was the first to be marketed under its own name, rather than under the Nike banner.
According to the brand, this is the first time that the shoes have been redesigned since Taylor's day, although Converse has collaborated with artists and designers to create a variety of prints for the canvas uppers. Comme des Garçons is one of the longest standing fashion collaborators, replacing the star logo with its red heart-shaped motif.
In 2012, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer included a Chuck Taylor design in his collection of sneakers and slip-ons for Converse, featuring a handwritten poem celebrating the "sensual curve" for which his architecture is famous.
Recent additions include Converse X Missoni, with the Italian fashion house adding its distinctive zigzag textile design to the trainers, and a partnership with avant-garde French label Maison Margiela, which covered Chuck Taylors in white paint that cracked when dry to expose peeks of the underlying fabric colour. Sports brands are increasingly targeting a fashion and street-style audience, adapting the technologies created for athletes and working with designers to make their footwear and clothing more appealing for a wider audience.
Recent examples have included Nike's capsule collection with Japanese fashion studio Sacai, as well as Adidas' partnership with musician Kanye West and footwear collaborations with fashion designers Raf Simons and Rick Owens. Musician Pharrell Williams recently recruited architect Zaha Hadid to help redesign the Adidas' classic shell-toe trainers. Nike has also been revisiting and updating a number of its design classics recently. Last year it reissued its iconic Zvezdochka trainers designed by Marc Newson, ten years after the shoes were first launched.
Swarovski, best known for their blingy crystals, has a history of innovative collaborations with product and fashion designers. Nearly 8 years ago, a collaboration with Swarovski and Hussein Chalayanresulted in the first wearable tech garments, decorated with crystals and lasers, to be shone on the runway.
No stranger to fashion tech, Swarovski’s latest fashion tech collaboration is with Misfit. The offerings radically reconsider the materials that tech products can be constructed from. To note, the Misfit Shine set itself apart from other activity trackers by creating an elegant activity tracker, minimal in design, entirely constructed from metal not plastic. Now the Shine is available with a crystal surface that allows the LED lights (indicating a user’s progress) to glimmer through the faceted glass interface.
A purple solar-powered version is also available for pre-order which Misfit claims will never need external charging.
Let's pause here for a second to focus on the significance of this particular feature.
If the solar-powered Shine works as promised, one of the greatest usability hurdles that affects a user’s persistent use will be entirely eliminated, moving us one step closer from perceiving these products from being gadgets to authentic lifestyle products. And for that alone Misfit deserves to be lauded.
Whether bling is your thing or not, the Swarovski Shine is simply another voice to add to Misfit’s accessory collection.
Personally, I prefer studs to shine, leather to lace, but I can appreciate a brave fashion risk when I see one.
The collection, including several new accessories for the all-metal Shine, is available for pre-order here.
Founded in 2013 the Berlin based fashion label and art collective UY outlines the mix of the Middle East and Scandinavian culture. Idan Gilony, from Tel Aviv and Fanny Lawaetz, from Stockholm are the designers and co-founders behind the contemporary and innovative label. There is no aesthetic division between him and her, old and young, and UY doesn’t label their garments or themselves. Therefore, the collections are not labeled according to season, time or gender. The main focus of UY’s aesthetics is its minimalistic silhouette with clean lines, original cuts and interesting shapes. With its unchanging tone of color and futuristic approach, UY communicates in a strong, dramatic and unexpected language. Throughout time UY has evolved into an art collective where the brand explores innovation in all the creative fields, making it a UY experience. The collective involves fashion, art, photography and home décor. Following the inception of the brand, UY is handmade in Berlin and the designers form a personal relation with every garment that that they create. Using natural fibers and fabrics, buying it from local markets are UY’s statement towards mass production and it’s aftermaths. With UY’s good quality, evoking design and it’s affordable price range it invites contemporary individuals to wear the garments while making their own interpretation of the brand and let them be a part of the UY art collective and it’s enthralling experience. In 2014 UY launched a home décor collection where they also collaborate with upcoming and talented interior designers. UY Home offers lamps, ashtrays, candleholders and other designs for their customers to compliment the UY experience.
THE ROOM EXPERIMENT
Video shot by Michal Andrysiak
Conceived in 2003, KTZ is a contemporary London-based fashion label under the creative direction of Marjan Pejoski and management of Sasko Bezovski. In 1996 the pair opened the shop Kokon to Zai in Soho as a hybrid music and fashion store, which became a platform for creative projects, showcased cutting edge designers and produced the label KTZ.
KTZ designs men’s and women’s ready-to-wear clothing with couture detailing known for its raw energy and contemporary urban edge, but also for embracing ethnographic references and multiculturalism. The label creates a dynamic combination of contrasting elements: modernity and the ancestral, the secular and the religious, anarchy and severity, spectacle and depth. This makes a unique label identity that is recognized widely and is worn by pioneering personalities in other creative industries, in art and music. KTZ operates two flagship stores in London and Paris, and receives international exposure.
The New York radical queers are creating a powerful community through progressive politics, community gardens, wild parties, and colorful performance.
Twenty years ago, Jack Waters and Peter Cramer created a radical sanctuary in the form of a community garden called Le Petit Versailles. With its psychedelic art installations and freeform events, the East 2nd Street plot is a slice of the old, pre-Bowery Hotel Alphabet City. Jack and Peter met in 1980 through the art and activism collective ABC No Rio, still a downtown institution hosting hardcore punk Saturday matinees and poetry readings.
These two are elders in a loose community that also includes young artists Michael Bailey Gates (who photographed his extended creative family for this story), Mars Hobrecker and Leah James, artist Bizzy Barefoot, artist and DJ Juliana Huxtable, activist and Wild Ponies film collective member Connor Donahue (aka Blush Cassidy), and Gage of the Boone, founder of queer art space Spectrum. They're joined by an endlessly expanding cast of characters that meet at Bizzy's house in Brooklyn, through the MIX NYC queer film festival, at Le Petit Versailles, on the Internet. Where you probably won't find them is at the yearly Gay Pride parade, which several dismiss as being too commercial. Some are radical faeries (a faction founded in 79 by Harry Hay, with pagan-spiritual elements and remote sanctuary camps), some are not. They're all artists in some way or another, and activists with counter-culture leanings, fighting for causes from green space to health care to youth art. You could call them "anti-assimilationist", as the Radical Queer Reddit bio does. Or you could just listen to what they have to say.
Although each person I spoke to has a different definition for radical queerness, many describe it as a critique of mainstream society. As Connor puts it: "To be radically queer is also to be radically critical, and to strive to embody and practice and spread that criticism. Looking at gender, race and class structures altogether, and just saying, no thank you." Reflecting on what unites the people he chose to photograph, Michael says, "It's really going against the grain, doing what you think is right."
I meet two of the youngest radical queers, artists Mars and Leah, on a frosty Brooklyn winternight. Both clad in layers of black and exceedingly polite, Leah is as tall as Mars is small. Finishing each others' sentences, they talk excitedly about queer icon Flawless Sabrina, whose Upper East Side salon they have just come from. It's hard not to notice the bleeding bandages on Mars's arm, the result of a recent performance where he - physically - sewed himself to Leah. As Mars explains, "A lot of our art is focused on community building and chosen family and connecting ourselves. Connecting ourselves to other people that we identify with - and then all the community." Leah adds, "Through art that allows us to be multi-generational, passing down knowledge between generations."
Whereas Jack and Peter can remember a time when they wouldn't walk around the East Village without pitbulls for protection, the younger artists are deeply indebted to the Internet for connection and inspiration. Michael met Mars as a Tumblr-obsessed high schooler. When I ask Mars what advice he might have for a young queer artist living in a remote area, he says simply, "Go on the Internet. That's your best resource, go online. If you can't find a community directly where you are, make one somewhere else."
And once you make it to New York, you will play, since many radical queers in the city are passionate in their commitment to exploring nightlife. Juliana Huxtable started throwing her Shock Value parties so her friends would have a nonjudgmental place to dance. As a child, she discovered the world of Studio 54 online, and began focusing on New York as a "queer space of transgression." Now, she's making her mark on the city by "creating an intentional space where you could come and it wasn't weird to have a bro next to a trans dude next to a lesbian couple next to a Burning Man guy and seeing how that plays out." Juliana sees the parties as an extension of her artistic practice (which includes avatar-like self portraits featured at this year's New Museum Triennial).
Bizzy Barefoot, too, works in the nightlife medium. She hosts underground queer parties at her Brooklyn home, sometimes lasting as long as 36 hours. As Bizzy says, "My apartment is very much a queer playground for a pan-queer experience." Mirroring Juliana's commitment to acceptance, she continues, "One of the radical things about radical queer culture is, a radical welcome as opposed to this factioning that often has happened."
The emphasis on colorfulness comes up again and again. Dressing radically is often a means for the personal to become political, linking into what Connor describes as "street politics." As he says, "Just walking down the street can be an act of defiance." The multi-colored costumes worn by some in Michael's pictures show the extent of how performance and drag can create an unavoidable, joyous statement. Bizzy (who wore a surreal iridescent flower costume for the shoot) explains, "Anything bright and colorful and over the top is activism in a world that judges that. Particularly men in bright, flamboyant color. That's not how men are raised in this country."
How important is activism that empowers young queers to create art, develop community, and wear whatever they want? Think of 15 year-old Larry King, the female-identifying California teen who was killed by a boy she asked to be her Valentine in 2008. Or 18 year-old Sasha Fleischman, the agender Oakland teenager who was set on fire in a bus for wearing a skirt in 2013. As Bizzy Barefoot says, "Art saves queer kids. When there's no one else to go to, your community theater is definitely going to have a gay person there. Without art, there is no hope for queer community - or the world actually."
Text Rory Satran
Photography Michael Bailey Gates
Taiwanese digital artist/illustrator Hsiao-Ron Cheng, began working as a freelance illustrator in 2012. Her talent quickly catapulted her into the limelight and she has since worked for a range of clients from fashion brands to design agencies worldwide.
This self-initiated, continuous series of airy, digitally-illustrated portraits are so beautiful we just had to share it with you.