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Converse 70’s Renew Shoes: Sustainable Footwear

The debut release from the Converse Renew Project introduces innovative footwear styles that utilise 100% recycled polyester fabric that has been woven from used plastic bottles. Promoting process innovation over just product developments, the tagline of “there’s always a way to renew what we do” highlights Converse’s confidence within their own designs that have both stood the test of time and are now paving the way for the future.

Two of Converse’s most iconic silhouettes - the CTAS 70’s Hi and CTAS 70’s Ox - have been selected to carry the brand’s latest innovations, coloured individually in a palette of rich moss, wheat and ozone blue which hints at the environmental influences at the heart of the project. Almost indistinguishable from previous models however on closer inspection metal components have been replaced by embroidered alternatives for the eyestays, ventilation eyelets and signature Converse All Star ankle patches, as well as including recycled polyester laces. Proving that there is depth of thought behind the plan, as opposed to the replacement of a single element or material, text reading ‘life’s too short to waste’ has been stitched along the top curve of the tongue and ensures the message behind the project is reiterated, without taking away from the classic look of each shoe. Staple features such as durable white rubber midsoles and toe caps remain in use with a subtle speckled finish across the tread - which perhaps intentionally mimics the look of microplastics - and roughly eleven plastic bottles are used in the process of creating each pair.

 

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Four years in the making, this debut collection is one of three Renew capsules that look to make use of discarded fabrics and waste, which in turn is also improving Converse’s manufacturing process. Alongside working with plastic waste collection company First Mile, twenty percent less carbon and thirty percent less water is used in comparison to conventional styles, in addition to the amount of waste from their factory floors being reduced. Brandon Avery, head of Converse’s innovation lab, initiated the idea and welcomed experiments that proved the iconic Chuck Taylor silhouette could be made out of anything. This led to two pairs being made from Avery’s baby blanket (one of which he gifted to his mother) and another from a used postal bag with others from unused but sentimental clothing from members of staff that resulted in unique, up-cycled footwear styles. Whilst this individual, custom-made process is not currently viable for the masses, it proves that the simplistic, iconic silhouette is the perfect design for the job and allows the boundaries of the idea to be pushed.

 

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Arriving at a time where innovation is running hand in hand with sustainability through both environmental demands and customers asking for more transparency from their favourite companies, statements from Nike and adidas suggest that it’ll soon be commonplace for recycled materials and upcycled designs to be at the centre of seasonal collections for both footwear and apparel. As part of the wider picture, in spring 2019 Nike released an online guide entitled ‘Circularity: Guiding the Future of Design’ aimed at educating designers and product creators with insights gathered from both Nike’s own developments and like minded brands who are championing new materials and production methods across all areas of design. Adidas have vowed to use only recycled plastics by 2024 which is progressing alongside their ongoing partnership with Parley, their ‘Run For The Oceans’ initiative which was launched on World Oceans Day in June and of course the recently revealed 100% recyclable ‘Futurecraft Loop’ shoe that has been made to be remade as part of a circular design process.

 

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The future of the Converse Renew project looks to incorporate other waste materials, such as vintage jeans, for the Renew Denim range in collaboration with British vintage store chain Beyond Retro, and Renew Cotton styles which use forty percent leftover manufacturing scraps from Converse’s factory floor to create all-new yarn. By incorporating not just their design teams but creatives from different brands and collectives, Converse have captured the international movement towards a better, cleaner future without feeling the need to completely reinvent their design character - further proving their strong position within footwear history and iconic image.

 

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At Flatspot, we’ve made it easier to shop more consciously through our organic and recycled sub categories that collate our best picks of new season arrivals from brands that are working hard to produce their styles using considerate techniques. Having lead the way since their inception in 1973, apparel from Patagonia continues to put the future of the planet and the health of workers first without compromising appearance. This has no doubt influenced independent labels, such as Mollusk, Satta and Piilgrim to be more selective of their materials, which favour fabrics such as organic cotton which is not only beneficial for agriculture, it also looks and feels great. 

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