The launch of the All Star Modern has been momentous for Converse. The decision to take the All Star’s beloved design, and develop it as radically as they did was daring. But then again – most good ideas are. Along with sneaker media from all over the world, Sneaker Freaker was invited to New York to witness the evolution of an icon.
The launch wasn’t merely an event that revealed the shoe, but a full day of carefully curated activities which spoke to the shoe's identity and how it built on the pedigree of the Converse line that preceded it. The Whitney Museum of American Art was the first leg of the launch, where we toured an exhibition centred around great portraiture by American artists. Sneaker Freaker quickly realised that the other publication and personalities invited had no idea why they were there. We'd already seen the All Star Modern in Converse's HQ in Brooklyn, but everyone else had flown to New York on a blind invitation with the promise that something big was happening. Fair to say then that most were confused as to why we were being shown avant garde American portraiture but, knowing that the All Star Modern was coming, the parallels were clear. Just like Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s commissioning of Robert Henri to paint her reclining in pants (something akin to Kate Middleton doing a Terry Richardson shoot), Converse were about to show how they have built on a cultural lineage to create a modern product that’s informed by – but not trapped in – the past.
A bougie meal and about 30 triple black Escalades later, the suspense had only elevated. We'd arrived at another exhibition, this time starring the ancestors of the All Star Modern. Converse's archivist, Sam Smallridge, animatedly educated us on the sneakers in his vault. He proudly showed us pre-WWII silhouettes that dated back to 1923, and post-war silhouettes that showed how the All Star was slowly and subtly perfected over the 20th century. Other guests were starting to get an idea of what we were here for – questions began to veer from a Nike collaboration on a performance basketball shoe towards what a Chuck Taylor All Star III would look like. They didn't know how close they were until we got downstairs and there – seemingly levitating in the most New York-style minimal gallery you could imagine – was the All Star Modern.
A photo frenzy followed and posts on the #ConverseModern hashtag page multiplied until batteries were sapped. Ryan Case, Converse's global footwear product director, then began a presentation where he expounded the upgrade, explaining that, even though it was an unprecedented leap forward for the brand, it was just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. He then revealed that the All Star Modern would also be the first Converse shoe to receive an HTM collaboration, and instant cheers rang out. Converse's generosity was extended in the next room where we were simultaneously handed our own pair of the new shoe and our beverages of choice.
The attendees had all marvelled at the shoe's refined design when they saw it suspended as an installation – instantly notable features like the revised midsole and streamlined overlays clearly marked the Modern as a contemporary sneaker. But once we had it in hand, the first thing everyone remarked on was just how light it is. Up close it’s apparent that that clean midsole is a full-length Phylon unit, and the overlays are actually Nike Hyperfuse technology. The tactile Circular Knit also reveals unexpected durability, and given a chance to flip the shoe over, we could see that the traction on the outsole is updated with lined patterning that nods to the diamond design on previous models.
Many thanks to Converse for curating the incredible event. The Converse All Star Modern will be available from all good Converse retailers on June 16.