So the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II is finally out, marking the new chapter of the iconic sneaker that has been around since 1917 (yes, that long!). We had the opportunity to sit down with Damion Silver, the Global Design Director at Converse, to pick his brain about the updated Chuck and delve into the daunting process of creating a sequel to the most popular sneaker in the world.
SF: So are you stoked that the cat is finally out of the bag?
Damion Silver: Yeah man it's been a while coming. Super excited to get the initial launch done with or started. Coming out on the 28th and then moving on from there.
How long has this been in the making?
End to end it was two years in total, but it's like any other product. Product creation-wise was around 18 months so... It's all been amazing, and working on Chuck is a little humbling, because it's Chuck Taylor. I’m more cautious around how we treat it and what we do with it compared to other projects.
What’s it like digging into those archives for referencing on this project? We only saw a really small part of it but Sam the company archivist mentioned that the collection is humungous.
They're constantly acquiring new things. We get invites down regularly, when we talk about seasonality, whether we're doing sneaker boots for the season, or whether we're doing summarised product, or anything like that. We go in, check out materials, there could be a strike line in something that we did at one point we think is great, and that could be the catalyst to potentially incorporate into new product or just give us a new perspective on how we make something else. So we have access, and Sam, our archivist, is super smart. He knows the ins and outs like you can't believe, and it's great to have the dude on hand and to school us, it's great. Looking at our history was a big part of the Chuck II project.
Was there a very long research and development process or was it quite simple in terms of knowing what you wanted straight away?
Yes and no. There's pieces and parts we knew we wanted in the design right away but looking back, we literally wrote out almost every single detail of the Chuck Taylor and went through them individually and asked ourselves, “Do we need to mess with this?”
Certain things such as tonal stitching versus contrast stitching was debated. There's all sorts of pieces and parts of the shoe that we laboured over, some people would probably never notice the updated details but we know that we took the time to do it properly. So it took quite a while, it was definitely a labour of love.
The Chuck II is a pretty big update, most notably the inclusion of Lunarlon technology. Earlier in the year you also launched an updated Jack Purcell as well and you went with the Zoom Air insert in that one. Why did you decide to go with Lunarlon in the Chuck II?
Good question. I think for us it keeps our price points at a certain level. The Lunarlon is a comfort that we know and we've already been utilising, so we’re celebrating that in a bigger way with this Chuck II. I think the Lunar tech is more appropriate for our products versus Zoom Air, I think that's more relevant to the JP consumer.
The gum sole the team developed for the Chuck II is something you are very proud of, so much so that you made sure no one else is allowed to use that gum for any other shoe! Why was getting that sole right so important to the project?
To me the sole is as important as every other part of the shoe. When we looked back through some of the history books and our archive, we see the kind of tones and colouring we’ve used through the years, and we wanted to make sure that we're kind of striking on something that resonates with the history when we look at tape height, the wheel pinstripe and the gum rubber, I think they're all as equally as important when coming together on the finished product. It's just making sure that we sourced enough and sampled enough to make sure we have the right one. I think we struck a good chord with that colour!
So one of the most iconic parts of the shoe that everyone remembers is always the heel plate and that's always been updated throughout the years. And while you went back with the traditional feel with the wheeling and gum sole and all that, you chose to go for an updated heel plate, why was that? Was it something you needed to do to rebrand the sneaker?
No, nothing was mandatory. It was pretty much up to us to just figure out how we brought the product to life and I think when we came to the heel plate, it was just a matter of separating it from the normal Chuck Taylor range. We sell quite a few Chucks a year so it's just trying to elevate that as we went through every detail, like I said, the wheeling, tape textures, things of that sort, just adding that moulded element to that, bringing some extra depth and dimension to it I think just speaks to how we looked at the whole product.
The iconic midsole pinstriping is notably absent too.
I think when we were really looking at it, we cut apart a bunch of original Chuck Taylors, and analysed what was so special about the shoe. We wanted to break the shoe down and striping it back to its bare elements, so you could really kind of take in how simplistic it is. By taking away the pinstripes and leaving it textured versus coloured, leans it into that modern zone and feels just more contemporary product these days.
The new canvas upper construction on this debuting shoe is one of the biggest new features. Would we see different upper materials and fabrics being utilised on the Chuck II in the future?
Yeah as time moves on and we evolve, we want to make sure that we do what's right for the product. I assure you we'll be doing some other experimentation with materials and things as we move forward for sure but we just wanted to get this first one perfect first!
So now that this project is finished, what's next?? Or are you not even thinking about that yet?
I can't really say too much, but I think you can see this being like a catalyst for some change and some innovation throughout the organisation. We're going to keep staying true to our history while delivering new product, and continue challenging where we can go.