PRODUCT RED is an economic initiative created by Bono and Bobby Shriver (chairman of DATA – debt, aids, trade, africa) to deliver a sustainable flow of private sector money to fund investment in african aids programs.

What’s more right-on than that? Well how about this? In October, Converse is releasing a PRODUCT RED sneaker in conjunction with the estate of graff-legend, Mr Dondi White (one of the founding fathers of graffiti as we know it). I recently caught up with Damion Silver, the Converse designer who spearheaded the Dondi Pro Leather make-up for a quick interview. (see below)

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How was Dondi chosen?
When I started at Converse, RED was just beginning. They had a few people on the list that they were looking at and so I brought up Dondi’s name. Since his passing in 1998, The Dondi White Foundation has been doing some work with various AIDS Charities. I emailed Michael White, Dondi’s brother, and we went from there. Michael was into the idea of working on a shoe with Converse and raising money for RED.

Most of the RED campaign shoes have been Chuck Taylor’s. Why was this model used?
Well we decided to go with the Pro Leather because it was THE shoe back then for Converse. It’s also known as the DR. J, and Dondi rocked that style of shoe, it’s a real clean silhouette with subtle details. I think it speaks to the b-boy spirit of the time.

I heard you had dondi’s personal sketch book! what’s the story with the artwork you decided on?
Yeah, Michael his brother, Fedex-ed a package over. Needless to say, I was in AWE. Just to see what he was thinking back in ‘78 and beyond. The way his style evolved, the many names he wrote… Man, I mean, I had his composition and black book he drew in all the time! As far as what we decided on, Michael and I spoke about the various styles and icons that made up his brother’s world. The letter styles, iconic skulls and paintings. We tried to show all angles of what he blessed us with, here and beyond.

Did you ever think personally you’d ever be this close to this graffiti legend?
No. Not really. I mean, after he passed away in 1998 who would have thought it? But his brother, man, he was so helpful and open to working on the project. It was great.

Are they super limited?
Well, we are still working out some things, but there will be a limited black edition run of shoes and then a white edition. The white edition will go to more commercial venues, while the black edition, stays super limited, Tier 1 type stuff.

ROB HEPPLER

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