A Conversation with Brian Cioffi about the Revamped Converse All Star Modern - Freshness Mag
A Classic Reinvented
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How do you place your stamp on a classic while staying true to the original? As far as sneaker classics are concerned, the Converse All-Star is as exemplary as they come. As one of the best-selling and most iconic shoes to ever hit the market, the sleek and minimalist silhouette of the Chuck Taylor All-Star has been embraced by people from vastly different walks of life worldwide.  But as iconic as the sneaker is, the time has come to inject some contemporary features, and that's what fans of the model can expect to see soon.

While tooling up to release the and combing through the extensive archives, the designers unearthed an older All Star model they dubbed the "All Star '20," which Chuck Taylor wore but did not bear his name. We got a chance to sit down with Bryan Cioffi who is the Converse Vice President and the Creative Director of Global footwear about the new All Star as well as some things to expect in 2016 from the American stalwart founded in 1908. Read through to see what to expect from the new All-Star and get a peek at some exciting news from Converse, including forthcoming collaborations with HTM. 

Bryan Cioffi, Vice President and the Creative Director of Global footwear

Bryan Cioffi, Vice President and the Creative Director of Global footwear

Can you tell our readers a little about what you do at Converse?

Sure. I've been with Converse for almost 13 years. I started in the rapid prototyping department and then spent my time in innovations and all different sort of roles in product creation. In 2013, I joined the design department as the global creative director. That's what I do now, the seasonally conceptual work and global design for Converse.

Could you tell us a little about this new All-Star? There's no Chuck Taylor name on this one, right?

Yes, so as we were doing work on the Chuck II, we had this thought that the Chuck II would be the first step into newness for Converse. We wanted to start building well-crafted, incredibly comfortable footwear, to give that back to the consumer. Our consumers have constantly been telling us, "Hey, we're looking for more from you. We know you've been a footwear company for 100 years. What else do you have for us? The Chuck's amazing, we love the Chuck. What else can you bring?”

Converse All Star '20

Converse All Star '20

So during the Chuck 2 research stage and through the design cycle, the team became aware that we have this old sample from the early 1900s, and we became a little obsessed with that shoe that we now call the All-Star 20. It was a sneaker that Chuck Taylor wore, but it wasn't his signature. So we really studied that sneaker and realized in the study of that sneaker that Converse was leading innovation in footwear in the early 1920s. When that sneaker came out, the All-Star, it was like a rocket ship. It was the most innovative product on the market at the time, and we were really intrigued by that, so the team went back and kind of wanted to jump off that initial story that came before Chuck Taylor. We wanted to start where it all really began for us. That's why we picked the All-Star Modern to be the first of the silhouettes.

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What were the challenges to rework this classic model into this modern technological age? What were the challenges and the innovations that you incorporated into this particular model?

The easiest part for us was the partnership with Nike for the technology since they have the knowledge of how to do it. We learned what the tools were and we learned how to do some of the innovative techniques like hyperfuse, circular knitting and really beautiful foams for mids on the sole. I think the tougher part was what to keep and what not to change, and what to update. There are things that are updated and others consciously left out and other things that are kept the same. It's very lightweight and incredibly comfortable.

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Could you tell our readers about some specific tech upgrades?

The original sneaker was canvas, leather, and rubber. It was kind of all stitched together and autoclave. This shoe is circular knit, neoprene, PPU fused and fylon, which are all really current, modern materials. It's a close-knit construction. It's not autoclave anymore, so that leads to reduction of glue, reduction of weight, more comfort, and the ability to have a lighter weight, stronger, longer lasting product.

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What we wanted to do with this sneaker is use what's called close knit. You take everything that was the unit before that was rubber, and we turn that into very light weight foam. That foam is applied to the sneaker with a very thin layer of glue. It's put together and open, not put into the autoclave tank. What that allows us to do is use the materials that go into the autoclave oven. It allows us to make a more lightweight product. For the upper, we use Nike hyperfuse, which is a technique where you can attach TPUs and films that are very thin, very lightweight, and very strong.

When designing the shoe, who do you envision wearing this?

I think our consumer base is a wide audience who's going to react positively to this.

Can you see people playing ball with this shoe?

We didn't specifically engineer it to play basketball in. We really aimed it at sort of a lifestyle application. We wanted it to fit your life so that you can wear it all day, off court. What we try to aim for is all day, everyday comfort.

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Will we see these technological upgrades on other silhouettes?

Yeah, and with over 108 years to explore, we have a lot of different silhouettes and we're really excited. We're going to apply this design ethos and these types of technology to our heritage. We're going to use some of those really fun authentic silhouettes and those stories and were going to refresh them. We have the ability to take those and work to reimagine those and others that some people might not even be aware of that are really fun and exciting stories. We have this gold mine that we get to dig into and combine that with the technology and the innovation that we can kind of tap into going forward. It's kind of like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory right now. I didn’t know that we could have this much fun working on product.

I'll be honest with you, we're really really excited about what this means and this is going to sort of say to our consumers. We're really looking to surprise and delight Converse consumers and then people who didn't consider themselves Converse consumers.

Okay. I heard you guys are working with Hiroshi, Tinker, and Parker. Could you tell us a little about working with those HTMs basically?

Sure, yeah, this is the first time we collaborated with HTM, that design team specifically. We worked with Hiroshi in the past. He's an amazing guy who is always asking amazing questions and brings really cool thought to the table. When the HTM team reached out and sort of showed interest in this project, obviously it was incredibly exciting for us. Those guys they looked at taking the silhouette and making it even more contemporary, sleek, modern, and they wanted to come at it from a different angle. I would say they made it more sleek, refined, and simpler and then stuck to black and white. They really focused on all the little details of the sneaker. It feels very in the vein of what HTM has done. It's absolutely beautiful. I think people are going to really lose their minds when they see it and get it on and feel how light it is, feel how good it feels, and the see the materials that those guys selected and worked with. It's pretty special.

Can we expect more of an HTM involvement in the Converse brand? If so, what other models are in the pipeline?

I can't ruin the surprise of the models, but I will tell you that there's already other things designed. Nothing they ever put out is boring. It's amazing how they keep just one upping themselves.

They're always up to date with everything and stuff which is pretty awesome.

All the time, and those guys just have the highest level. They have eyes on everything. It's- put it this way, it seems very easy for them. I know it's not, but they are just so good at what they do. It's hit after hit after hit.

The Converse All Star Modern sneaker collection available on Thursday, June 16, at Converse retail stores, Converse.com and select pinnacle retailers.

The Converse All Star Modern HTM available on Thursday, June 9, exclusively at NikeLab retail stores worldwide and NikeLab.com