Converse Case Study Pack : In Conversation with Sage Elsesser & Bobby De Keyzer
Ahead of the Converse ‘Case Study’ footwear capsule release on November 29th Flatspot caught up with Converse team riders Sage Elsesser and Bobby De Keyzer to discuss the design, functionality and inspiration behind the two footwear styles included within the collection. We were lucky to catch the duo during their whirlwind stop in London and not only did we gain a solid insight into how the project came to be, conversation also turned to art school, travel and life lessons.
Flatspot: Hi guys, can you introduce yourselves and tell us where you’re from, your age?
Sage: Sage Elsesser I’m from Los Angeles I grew up in New York over the monumental years [laughs] and I’m 22.
Bobby: Bobby De Keyzer I’m 23 years old and I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto.
“he came up to me and gave me Andy Henry’s number and said ‘he’s sending you over a box’ so I’m like ‘oh thank you!’ ...and that was that."
Flatspot: How did you both find your way onto Converse?
Sage: I got on Converse through Scott Johnston, he knew someone at Converse and he asked me to skate for Lakai and at the time I was just like ‘I’m good man’ and then at the end of a skate session he came up to me and gave me Andy Henry’s number and said ‘he’s sending you over a box’ so I’m like ‘oh thank you!’ ...and that was that.
Bobby: I don’t remember, I think through Brennan Conroy who was with Habitat Skateboards and then John Coulthard, I just started talking to him from there and got me on a trip.
Flatspot: Have you got anything else planned whilst you’re in London?
Sage: It’s a long trip for just two days, it’s pretty heavy so I’m here to see some family - my aunt, my grandma and some friends.
Sage: Bobby’s got no loved ones here he’s on that grind!
Flatspot: What about skating in the UK? Do you enjoy it, think it’s good?
Sage: Not really, well I like it but I like chilling here.
Bobby: I like skating in London a lot I think it’s tight, there are a lot of spots. I’ve only been here once to skate and film but it was a lot of fun.
Sage: I think part of me thinks that I’m from here because of my family so I just wanna connect rather than skate, ‘cus my Pops is here so I don’t wanna work I wanna chill.
Flatspot: Are you working on any video projects at the moment or anything you can share with us?
Bobby: I think there’s gonna be a new Converse video at some point and we have a Case Study video dropping with the shoes, I think that’s pretty much it.
Flatspot: Is that what Ben Chadourne is working on?
Bobby: Yeah, it was filmed in Toronto and New York, we’ve got five days each.
“We were pretty much in a group chat with the main designer from Converse and started sending old references that Sage and I had found."
Flatspot: When the Case Study Project first came about as an idea did you both approach it with a certain image of how you wanted the shoes to look or were there a few variations to get to this final version?
Bobby: We were pretty much in a group chat with the main designer from Converse and started sending old references that Sage and I had found. We narrowed down all the shoes that we had found to their archives and the ones that we liked the best we worked on from there. It was something that me and Sage were already talking about anyway like finding old shoes and just being interested in it, then it came up that if we wanted to do it then we could.
“The 70’s is the era for all the good Converse."
Flatspot: When you were looking through the archives did you find yourselves into a certain era of design? Do either of you have a favourite era of footwear?
Sage: The 70’s is the era for all the good Converse.
Bobby: All the ones that we did came out of the late ‘60s or early ‘70s.
Sage: We wanted to keep it very simple, take it back to the roots of the shoes that a lot of modern styles are based on.
Bobby: What’s important that people don’t acknowledge about Converse, is that the Chuck Taylor’s hold a lot of cultural significance so what was cool about this project was that we got to reference different athletes and a combination of all of their ideas. We didn’t want to directly copy the originals though, we changed some of the soles and made them a little more modern.
“It wasn’t about making the best skate shoe but if we like the way it looks then we’re gonna believe in the shoe. "
Flatspot: Did you think about the more technical elements to the shoe to make it good for skateboarding or was it more about the archival look?
Bobby: I think it was just about finding the silhouette and personalising it with our tastes and what the shoe was about. It wasn’t about making the best skate shoe but if we like the way it looks then we’re gonna believe in the shoe.
Sage: Everyone loves the classics so it was nice to bring back these because Bobby and I love vintage clothes so it kinda goes hand in hand, especially with a lot of the Japanese shoes we were referencing because I think due to licensing they can do more OG vintage shoes and people like it - yo the One Star in Japan has foam in the arch support!
Flatspot: Do you guys collect vintage then? Do you have a big collection?
Sage: It’s not really a collection but I guess I collect black heritage t-shirts. I’m not trying to put an emphasis on ‘vintage’ but that’s what people are into y’know like soles that look a little old, they want simple stuff that they can rock.
Flatspot: It feels more authentic as well...
Bobby: Especially when you’re designing a shoe like a Converse you want it to be a style that looks well with age and will personalise to you and how you want it to look.
Sage: We also want to pay homage correctly ‘cus a lot of people try and put their twist on something, I’d rather show the silhouette as what it is. This has sort of been my thesis for my whole time at Converse - try not to steer from its core and it being a classic, original sneaker.
Bobby: You kinda don’t need to steer cus it’s all right there.
Sage: You don’t have to constantly fight just reiterate ‘Yo, this is what we like and we back it’.
Bobby: ...and it’s all available.
Sage: We back this presentation more than modernised presentation.
Flatspot: That’s great, really interesting. Sage - are you still studying at PRAT?
Sage: Nah and everybody loves to ask that but I’m like no man screw college save your money! Don’t do it unless you really want to learn the fundamentals y’know? Art history is fun and I love it but the debt you’ll have is crushing.
Bobby: The best thing to do before going to art school is to reach out to artists you respect in any way and do some assisting or interning or just get good advice and take it from there. If you still feel like you have a desire to go to school and learn more and you feel like it's going to help you in some way then yeah but I would just contact people that inspire you first.
Sage: I really enjoyed school and I’ll go back and finish up eventually when I have the time but it just didn't make sense and my grade was being jeopardised.
Flatspot: Bobby you work with photography, it must piece together some pretty hectic international trips! What does your creative process and approach to making pictures look like? You’re quite selective right?
Bobby: Yeah but maybe that’s just like lack of motivation, haha.
Sage: Not even!
Bobby: It is and it isn’t, if I see something that I actually care about. Because I shoot with a larger camera (a Mamiya 7) I have to think whether it’s something that is worth taking it out of my bag for, I don’t look at my work as art.
Sage: You’re trippin’! Bobby is an incredible artist!
Converse Rep: I don’t think you did yourself justice there but I do agree with the fact that on a skate trip and you’ve got a camera it’s either one of the other, so it is difficult to shoot pictures.
Bobby: Yeah I’m kinda lazy now...
Flatspot: For sure it’s a tricky balance, we’re really into what you do though. With 2019 almost up what has been a highlight for you this year?
Sage: Well, if we’re gonna take it there...trying to understand mental health and understanding it better, y’know trying to truly dissect and understand what’s going on up here - addictions and all that - so that’s the highlight of 2019, just being more aware, self aware, more self care...yeah learning, trial and error.
Bobby: It kind of all merges when I’m not in a ‘real job’ so it’s hard to pinpoint cus it’s kinda the same thing year after year but yeah just the same stuff, but it’s still fun and exciting to be travelling, skating and working on projects.
Flatspot: We've now got a quick fire round for you.
Flatspot: Favourite trip ever?
Sage: South East Asia - Cambodia, Vietnam - I went for two weeks with my girlfriend, it was nice to experience the contrast of being bad and boujee staying in nice spots then staying in a shack living a beach lifestyle, plus I love curry.
Bobby: Any opportunity I get to go to Paris.
Flatspot: Most played album?
Sage: Pieces of a Man - Gil Scott-Heron.
Bobby: I’m gonna need some time on that!
Flatspot: Favourite film?
Sage: Just one? That’s hard. I love The Prestige, I love Shawshank Redemption, I love Black Dynamite.
Bobby: A good one I’ve watched recently is There Will Be Blood.
Flatspot: Most important lesson you’ve learnt?
Sage: Love yourself - you can only give as much love as you have for yourself.
Bobby: I don’t know, that’s too hard!
Flatspot: Any last words or shoutouts?
Sage: Shoutout to Bobby!
Flatspot: Thanks for your time guys! Have a safe journey home and best wishes for the New Year - we’re looking forward to seeing what you guys get up to.
The Converse Case Study pack is available online at Flatspot on Saturday 29th November.