Helen Kirkum Gives Festival Beaters New Life

Helen Kirkum, globally renowned for bespoke creations and sustainable deconstructions using deadstock and recycled materials, recently unveiled her eponymous brand’s first ready-to-wear, original silhouette dubbed the Palimpsest. But Kirkum also had another project in the works – creating made-to-order sneakers that breathe new life into a bunch of festival beaters. The well-loved pairs were supplied by a client who was after a truly unique shoe. We chatted with Kirkum about how this project came to be and the process involved.

How did the project come about?
We are so lucky to have an amazing network of creative clients that spread their magic across a whole host of incredible disciplines, and they love to do so while repping the HELEN KIRKUM brand. Wearing a sneaker that is not only uniquely them and one of a kind but tells a story of their particular journey through life. For this particular made-to-order request, our incredible client Mary dropped us a message. She wanted to create a unique sneaker using her old festival beaters. This was music to our festival-loving, story-wielding ears, and we knew this made-to-order was going to be a special one.

What interesting details can you share about the shoes and the festivals they were worn at?,
Mary actually hosts an incredible festival in Inis Oírr (the smallest of the Aran Islands) called Drop Everything. It is a week-long multidisciplinary residency focusing on contemporary culture. Bringing together national and international participants from a cross-section of the creative industries, it culminates in a weekend of showcases, performances and lectures. So these pairs had so much life to them, completely faded, soles falling off and scuffs all over, our favourite kind of challenge. After going through a few key details that were important to Mary in the pairs, we got to work deconstructing them. 

Talk about the process of creating the shoes. What difficulties did you encounter?
The making process was a little tricky on these ones as some of the material was so damaged. We had to carefully select the pieces that held the memories of each pair but also functioned within the design. With such a mix of colours and metallics both in gold and silver, I spent a long time playing around with the design to find a combination that worked. Keeping some key HK details, mismatched eyestay details from Mary’s two pairs of Air Max 1s and differing metallic details on the left and right heel came together to celebrate the different pairs.

Now that you’ve completed the project, what are your parting thoughts on the creation?
In the end, we loved how they looked, and, as always with our made-to-order clients, we felt the pair inherently represented not only the client but all the journeys the shoes have taken them on. The size UK4 is the smallest made-to-order we have done so far, and we are really proud to offer an inclusive size run from 3–12.

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