Let ‘s go back in time 3 years ago. The year is 2008 and I was, among other things, taking a shoes design class in Shenkar. Each student was working on his own project, and simultaneously on another, smaller project sponsored by Converse. It was the 100th birthday of the company, and s0 they turned to Shenkar for collaboration. Each student received a pair of white, size 4 (about size 36-37 for us Israelis) , Chuck Tailor All Star shoes to bash up, and a decade between 1908 and now. Our assignment was to transform the shoe so it would best represent the chosen decade. The best designs were to be exhibited in a special expo in Jaffa, dedicated to celebrating 100 years of Converse.
Now, usually whenever I have a choice in the matter, I tend to pick the roaring 20’s (a great decade!) or at least the 60’s-70’s which I love. But in this case, I simply felt compelled to choose the 90’s, with the ultimate connection to the grunge culture which was perfect for my project, and that I just could not pass.
I put together an inspiration page of the period, which included what I felt were the main representatives of the grunge culture in Seattle at the early 90’s: torn jeans, flannel shirts, electric guitars and of course long-haired bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana.
Since the shoes’ purpose was to be exhibited and not worn, it was encouraged to really make the most of them and pack them with as much detail possible.
I was aiming for the “life in a rock band” feeling, and so I started off by hand-writing the lyrics of two of my favorites Nirvana songs: Lithium and On A Plain. I scanned them and then reprinted them on a light, almost papery cotton fabric. this would later become the inside body of the shoe. I also added a hand-sketched Converse star, to keep the low-tech vibe, and to top it all I put adhesive reinforcement rings around the laces holes, as eyelets.
For the outside body, I sew a rubbery guitar patch (with real strings!), and I switched the tongue for distressed denim. Added red shoe-laces and colored the rubber sidewell red and green, which helped me keep the 90’s color scheme. For the final touch (and my favorite part of the shoe) I sewed a tiny flannel shirt (with super-cute tiny buttons which the pictures doesn’t show), and then wrapped it around the shoe!
My investment had paid off and I got both great reviews and a spot in the exhibition booth, and all was well except that I never received my shoe back, even though I was promised I will.
Oh, well. A couple of years have past when sometime last year, while visiting my parents-in-law I suddenly noticed my sister-in-law was wearing what seemed like Converse shoes with, perhaps, hand-written lyrics of some sort. I immediately found myself flat on the floor, holding her leg and inspecting her shoes with interest, and they were staring right back in my face: a Converse’s All star pair of hand-written Nirvana lyrics shoes she had bought in 2009.
At that point I felt both excited about my discovery, and also a bit hurt, that no one thought of maybe informing me of how far my idea had come. Converse has released a full collection of Kurt Cobain shoes, and one particular design even includes his personal notebook’s scribbles, including a guitar drawing on the outside body, in much resemblance to my design. Keep in mind that my design was intentionally packed because of the show, and it goes without saying that when attempting to move such a design to production, it always gets simplified, more accessible and so on, but the basic idea stays.
Since I did my project specifically for Converse and through my college, I did not hold any legal base for suing them or anything of that sort, and yet it would have been kind of them to let me know and allow me to maybe add this to my work portfolio, not to mention, hmmmm, offering me job…
Luckily I do not tend to write stuff without a some amount of research on the subject, especially when I’m about to accuse a big corporation for ripping me off…
And so it turns out that Converse announced the Kurt Cobain line at the exact same day in which I took the pictures of my shoe!
So yeah, first of all OUCH. a bit of an ego-bruise… I guess I’m not such a great Converse inspiration after all. But, if anything, it does say I might have a decent sense of what’s RIGHT, so it does give me hope, fashion-wise. Anyway, it seems I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t resist the powerful combination between All Star and Nirvana, after all.
Thank you for reading and sorry for the anticlimax…
As a bonus, If this post has given you the urge to design your own pair of All Stars, I recommend you check out the Converse One Builder, in which I ran into while researching this post. You can create there a costume-made shoe just for you. Here is what I designed: