Exclusive: PLEASURES Founder Alex James Chats Converse Pro Leather CollaborationRelease: 22 November 2019
Constructed with a premium suede vamp, the build is decorated with stickers and slogans inspired by gritty nightclub bathrooms in LA. Employing a special Tyvek base layer and protective outer transparent layer, the upper’s crinkled graphics wear down over time, giving each pair its own one-of-a-kind vibe. Down below, the rand on the midsole has been raised, delivering a more classic look akin to the Chuck 70.
To celebrate the launch of PLEASURES’ latest project, we caught up with co-founder Alex James at a special launch event in London to chat about the design, collaborative process, and current sneaker landscape.
How has your strong resume of work in the fashion/streetwear industries influenced your latest footwear project?
You really get to learn how shoe design works – there are some things that are just not capable, and not possible. My concepts are a little bit out there, but we’ll always try it. In this case, invisibly, the end result took some engineering – some science – but it came together, and it’s really something cool. For example, the rubber rand goes back to the 1970s – it was just a combination of what we thought looked good mixed with some innovation.
In regards to the eye-catching prints on the shoe, was this planned from the beginning, or one of those moments where it all just came together?
We’ve travelled and visited bars and concerts all over the world, and something that frequently came up were those crappy bathrooms – you know, the ones with graffiti all over them? Stickers, tags, etc. We wanted to take that idea of a bathroom wall and put it onto a shoe. The main image for the campaign was this image of a guy and girl sitting on each other’s lap. That really translated to what we were trying to accomplish.
The collaboration marks one of the first times we’ve seen Tyvek used on this kind of silhouette, were there any difficulties working with it?
We asked ourselves ‘how’s this thing not gonna fog up’? So somebody on the production side said ‘listen, we just have to go along the seam line and put these ventilation holes, so when they heat up there’s not condensation. A lot of these types of shoes fog up and just look like shit right? We wear-tested these, went to Moscow like a month ago and beat the shit out them – never once did they fog up or anything. They also look good beat up and we want people to beat ‘em up – it’s the DNA of Converse.
Was there a main image on your mood board that spawned the thought behind the shoe?
Honestly, I really like the ‘stop lying to yourself’ message. I had this idea that someone would look down on your shoe, and it would affect them in an adverse way, cause everyone on social media is lying anyway, right? It’s like, how do you lie to yourself? Maybe there’s shit going on internally inside of you and it might spark someone to say ‘hey I have an issue with something’ or ‘hey, I have a problem’. We’re a brand based on expression, and we really try to align with peoples’ emotions.
What was the collaborative process with Converse like?
It was pretty quick, honestly. The team came to LA and had a two-day work session. We kinda had an idea of what we wanted to do, and they asked ‘how do you feel about the Pro Leather?’ I said it’s different, it’s cool, and I’m down for it. We sat down with Matthew Sleep and a few other designers, and asked if what we wanted to do was possible. This was all about a year ago, so it ended up being a little longer than anticipated, but I’m glad it worked out the way it did because it got some life and build up. We showed it at the Paris showroom, and it was cool to see it on display alongside collaborations with AMBUSH, Midnight Studios, and Tyler. So yeah, it was amazing to see how everything had come together at that moment.
We’re at the launch in the UK, so I thought we’d ask your opinion on sneaker/streetwear culture over here. From your view, how does it differ from the US?
Everyone wants to think that everyone in the UK is wearing Tracksuits and TNs. But you know, everyone out here’s got steeze, got style. They’ve got their own shit. London always reminds me of New York. I grew up outside NYC, and yeah, the city pretty much kinda raised me. The vibe I get from being here is the same as there – the streets are alive and people are active. People out here say how they feel, while people in LA are a little more reserved.
The Pro Leather was a solid choice for your first project with Converse, what would be your next choice?
If I had to choose an upcoming silhouette, I’d really choose that Dennis Rodman basketball shoe (Converse All Star 91) – it was going in with that crazy sun on the back. I was like ‘damn, Converse is making basketball shoes that are tight!’ Scottie Pippen, Jordan and Rodman – that was the triple threat! Up until then, there wasn’t really graphics on sneakers like that sun on the back – it was sick!
The PLEASURES x Converse Pro Leather is available now at Converse.