BLACK MAGAZINE SPENT THE WEEK IN LOS ANGELES TO COVER AN EXCITING NEW STAGE OF CONVERSE_X_ SELF-EXPRESSION THROUGH STYLE, MUSIC AND SUSTAINABILITY
Over the years Black Magazine and Converse have partnered, we often shared many similarities in how our brands see the world, a world that many today (given the current climate) view as a frightening and unaspiring place to be. One thing our brands connect on is the strong support and positive growth we provide the younger generations who aim to push the boundaries and succeed in their given passion, no matter what challenges they may face. Over our years in publishing, Black have been at the forefront of seeking out new talent and with our influence on global stage, take these up and coming talents (that many media may push aside) and guide them to the limits of success. This ranges from models, artists, musicians, writers, photographers and stylists, to name a few. We couldn’t be prouder to be working with Converse in joining our two platforms to now allow these youth and talent to grow further in a project called Converse_x_.
For those that might not be aware of Converse_x_ community, please allow us to fill you in. It is a global group of influential "Gen Z” chosen by Converse to participate in, create with and advocate for Converse based on their style, attitude and ambition. Those selected forge their own way, see the world differently, don’t follow a typical path and ultimately succeed by doing everything on their own terms. Currently a closed Instagram group of almost 2000 global members, Converse_x_ is growing at rapid speed, aiming to expand to 2800 by the end of 2019. Since launching two years ago, Converse has curated more than fifty one-of-a-kind experiences for creative youth from around the world in twenty countries, providing a platform to amplify their creative visions – from art, music, dance, photography, design, with their profiles aligning to the Chuck, One Star and ERX sneaker. Their ages typically range from 18-24, and they are leaders of the pack, influencers of their spheres but don’t aim for Instagram fame. Something we at Black feel very strongly on.
The simple aim of the project is for Converse to provide these youth with a genuine platform that allow their talents to grow, learn from the like-minded and over the two years, have provided the most incredible experiences to allow this to succeed. With these life changing experiences taking place globally in London, South America, Los Angeles and Malaysia, the selected members are fluid, don’t label themselves or each other and ultimately use the Converse brand to tell their own stories.
In November 2018, we connected with the brand in Los Angeles, in the early stages of Converse_x_ and introduced the project to the New Zealand and Australian market. At this point, the community was very fresh, but this is no longer the case. We couldn’t be more excited to join Converse_x_ in LA for a second time to announce and meet the latest additions to this family.
On each adventure hosted by Converse_x_, there must be a purpose. Why are these youth here and what will they take home? The purpose for the November 2019 Los Angeles experience was self-expression and using Converse as the canvas for their progress. Three key interests Converse wanted to form the LA experience around was the blending of style, music and sustainability. And what better place than the city of Los Angeles to dive into all 3 aspects through the Converse lens.
Upon arriving at LA’s historic Roosevelt Hotel in downtown Hollywood, we could easily pick out the Converse_x_ community, and it wasn’t difficult. The latest additions to the X family were the most stylish, humble and friendliest group of Gen Z, and if in doubt, just look down. A sea of stylish Converse footwear, all worn in a creative and unique way. A fresh group of Converse_x_ from around the globe, all meeting each other for the first time, yet from the outside, could be the closest of friends. Day one was spent connecting with the community and other media partners lucky enough to be involved, and within hours, felt as if we had known each other our entire lives. This is something Converse above any brand we work with can achieve so freely, forming a family of unique but so many like-minded creatives that connect so easily. The Converse whanau’. To us, it felt like home and we couldn’t be prouder to be included as one of six global media partners to share this experience with the world. An experience nor money or fame can buy.
The first night was an ultimate introduction to Los Angeles, and for those that hadn’t been here, it doesn’t get any better than a private welcome party on the roof/penthouse of the famous Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Views that kill, and no we aren’t talking about the stylish Converse_x_ community, food to die for and a night that ended in the hotel swimming pool or liming to the local IHOP diner. The following morning, dusty for many (us included), the Converse_x_ community jumped on a bus and with the Californian sun beaming down, made our way to Santa Monica for a workshop focused on self-expression and sustainably, two of the planet’s hot topics.
For many corporate companies or fashion power houses across the globe, sustainability and style are quite often divided but at Converse, are the two focus points for driving their brand successfully into the future of sneaker production. It is clear, that a brand will fail if style or trend are favoured over sustainability. It is the forefront of our generation, our nuclear moment and a very strong mindset in the Converse and Converse_x_ community. We spent the morning learning about Converse’s sustainable progress and the incredible steps taken to reduce their carbon footprint. A prominent step for the company’s journey was this year’s release of Converse Renew, sneakers made from repurposed denim and recycled PET plastics (read our coverage here). Since the release, Converse are fast approaching what else they can do to lead the world into a sustainable future. We were lucky enough to hear from four companies working with Converse to make this journey successful.
Two companies, taking ours and many others interest; is one producing eatable packaging (made form seaweed) and the other having created a paint that cleans the air (one square metre of paint equivalent to the work of one tree – and yes this is a thing, hopefully entering the global market shortly). The Converse_x_ community were asked to contribute, with each member sharing their thoughts on climate change and the challenges many companies and brands may face, and how to overcome these challenges. This led to working with the Converse innovation team, designing their own sustainable chuck and uniquely dying their own t-shirts using natural and no impact dyes. To us, this really was the key moment for the experience’s self-expression theme. The generation in front of us, are so passionate about the planets future and you could literally see the trust they have in Converse playing their part, yet still providing the most popular and stylish sneaker on today’s market. A journey we can only hope others are willing to take quickly.
To end the workshop and lead into the following days experience, we began to focus on the ‘style’ aspect of the LA experience by being the first in world to see and hold Tyler, the Creators, unreleased GOLF le FLUER* Converse collaboration - the GIANNO sneaker. With Converse’s full trust in the X community, we were given the task to join creative forces to shoot the sneaker – a sneaker literally no one across the globe had seen, so naturally a very surreal moment for all. Converse_x_ crew were grouped together with one media partner to roam around Los Angeles, create unique content, and the following afternoon present their editorials to Converse HQ, which included two members of Converse’s Senior design team (view our editorial here). Prior to presentations, the design team took us through the step by step process on how a sneaker becomes Converse, focusing on the creation of the Gianno sneaker with Tyler, and the hurdles one would naturally face in any collaboration. The three colour-ways available in the Gianno, started with over 5000 design sketches, multiple meetings, factory trips to China and quote “shit everywhere in the office chaos”.
We wrapped the week up with the final aspect of the Los Angeles experience, music, with VIP passes to Tyler the Creators, Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival. The carnival set to celebrate eight years since starting, it gives fellow musicians an honest and genuine platform to perform and express the musical talents. A carnival like no other. Prior to CFG, we celebrated at a private pre party with special guest’s Jasper and Errol in LA’s famous Fairfax District. Two lucky Converse_x_ musicians were also given the opportunity to perform to the private gathering, one being Sydney based Brae Luafalealo or ‘SODA’ (interview coming soon). A dream come true, especially in the presence of such industry legends.
Over the final two days, and our last chance to party with the most incredible Converse community (emotional goodbyes, with many members in tears), we witnessed a world-class line up of artists at the carnival including Solange, H.E.R, FKA Twigs, Thundercat, Earl Sweatshirt and Blood Orange, Tyler himself, and of course that famous Drake moment I’m sure you are all aware off. We reflect on an incredible week with Converse, a global empire leading, not following. For many reading this, the journey isn’t over. This experience had one goal in mind for Converse, a family and emotional bond made by creatives across the globe. Many friendships that will last a lifetime. Please tell us how many brands can form such a connection in only ONE week? Stay tuned as we talk to the New Zealand and Australian representatives about their passions, experience as a Converse_x_ member and how this experience changed their life’s for the better. Strangers we can now call friends.
Words by Ethan Butler
Special thanks to Suevia Ellison, Nina Bonica, Dave Dullens, Magnum and the most incredible Converse_x_ community