Converse looks to the future while nodding at its past.
KICKS readers should have learned this when we dropped our annual ish in August. Industry followers might have read about it this week. The Converse Evo, a regular in Kick of the Day recently, is now for sale. Given that, the time is right to run Khalid’s feature on the shoe and its iconic logo from KICKS. Enjoy.—Ed.
by Khalid Salaam
Relevance. That’s the most important word in the sneaker industry. Staying exciting and groundbreaking without losing your core identity. Looking forward while not ignoring your past. There are numerous companies that sell sneakers, but only a few can boast relevance.
One of those is Converse, the legendary brand that is looking to shake off a bit of bad news (starts with a D and ends with an E) and build around their new basketball shoe, the Weapon Evo, which harkens back to the days of Bird and Magic. We talked to Chief Marketing Officer Geoff Cottrill and Evo designer Michael DiTullo about what to expect.
KICKS: Why is the hard push to really re-establish the Star Chevron logo happening now? Why 2009, as opposed to 2007 or 2005?
GC: Converse Basketball has a new look, a new feel and a new attitude. We want to communicate that message and the Star Chevron logo is the perfect way to tell people we have something exciting going on.
KICKS: As a brand, what has the Star Chevron’s impact been on the Converse culture?
GC: The Star Chevron logo represents a defining time in basketball history. This logo first appeared on footwear when players changed the game by not being afraid to be different. Converse still stands for that today. We celebrate people who want to create positive change and do it with their own unique style.
KICKS: Is there a best-case scenario Converse is hoping for? What would you like the Star Chevron to do for the company?
GC: Converse celebrates originality and creativity. Our brand has been adopted by musicians, artists and originals across the globe. We want to bring that attitude to basketball. Our consumers will soon see breakthrough basketball products that carry both on- and off-court appeal. We see a huge opportunity to offer quality product to kids who want to celebrate their originality.
KICKS: Is this “new” Star Chevron exactly the same as the previous incarnation?
GC: The Star Chevron logo remains the same as when it was first introduced on basketball shoes in the 1970s.
KICKS: Besides footwear, where else can we expect to see this new and improved Star Chevron?
GC: The logo is being primarily used on our skate and basketball footwear. As we start to communicate to the consumer, the logo will appear in more and more places.
KICKS: What marketing push will there be?
GC: We are currently planning a brand campaign around the Star Chevron and the attitude it represents. As the primary logo on our skate and basketball product, we hope the Star Chevron emerges as the logo for people who don’t want to conform to the status quo.
KICKS: What new products will be highlighted?
GC: Special Ops is the first basketball shoe in stores to carry the Star Chevron logo. The Weapon Evo will be in stores in September, followed by the EB2 signature shoe in October.
KICKS: Give me the idea behind the Weapon Evo.
MD: The Evo came out of looking at the Converse archives. There is always a lot of love for the Weapons and we thought it would be cool to do something with that shoe. The Weapon Evo is that. We wanted to do it through a technical aspect, though, and the biggest part of that is the Balls technology. [Balls technology is an all-new
cushioning system in the shoe’s heel that provides excellent impact protection. The heel of the shoe has several polyurethane balls, which when compressed during play, rebound and push back to create a unique, low-profile support system that reacts to the foot.]
KICKS: How long was the creation process for the Evo?
MT: It took a long time. The first sketch I did for it was in September of 2007. The interesting thing about technology is that you have to test it for every size and every kind of player because of the technology. I went on three China trips myself and we went five times overall, and we’re talking five or six prototypes per trip.
KICKS: Are there different versions for different position players?
MT: No, it’s a very flexible shoe for a lighter player or a post player; it doesn’t have too much of a bias. The shoe is very supportive. But we made sure it wasn’t heavy. For instance, there’s no rubber under the arch where you don’t need it.
KICKS: Can you explain the shoe lineage?
MT: The line comes from the Weapon. For instance, the herringbone track pattern is directly from the ‘86 Weapon, but there are other lesser-known shoes in our past that are present. The Fastbreak is one. There’s a really nice language from all of the shoes from the ’70s all the way to like ’87 and ’88. There’s a nice angular and logical language that a lot of companies got away from in the later ’90s that we wanted to get back to. We wanted it for that sense of timeliness and I wanted to get back to some of that. Obviously it’s a modern shoe but I wanted to get back to the philosophy of building a shoe from the inside out and styling it. And then adding on little layered details on top of that.
KICKS: Was there anything that didn’t work?
MT: There were a lot of things that were simplified down. The lace system was one and we removed some of the fussiness of the overlay because we didn’t need it the way we build shoes today. And we decided that the rubber sidewalls had to go.
KICKS: What colorways can consumers expect?
MT: The Energy colorways will come out first. There’s a black/green/silver and Laker gold/purple/teal. Those are going to be very limited (200 pairs only) and will only be sold in top sneaker stores. Things started out with the Laker/Celtic rivalry but in a way that doesn’t scream it. We think that’s a good way to start out. After that we’ll come with the team colorways like the all-black with a white Star Chevron and white/black/red colorway. [Team colorways come out September 15.] As far as materials, consumers can expect full-grain leathers, metal mesh and patent leather toecaps. And there will be nine colorways of the Team Pack and the Rap Pack.
KICKS: Tell us about the Rap Pack?
MT: The inspiration for the Rap Pack is based on the original Weapon commercial. Bernard King, Isiah, Bird, Magic, McHale and Aguirre were rapping in the commercial. When we did the first prototypes of the shoe, we did it in those players’ team colorways as an homage internally. We didn’t order them for production. But when they came back in, we were like, Wow, we gotta do a Rap Pack!
KICKS: Do you categorize the Evo as an on-court shoe only? Will people wear it off-court as well?
MT: I always develop shoes for both. Everybody growing up in the ’80s wore basketball shoes. You had to have them. There’s something about those shoes that resonate still today. People are hungry for that.
KICKS: Demographically speaking, where do you predict the strongest numbers?
MT: I think it will sway a little bit younger. This line looks younger and fresher. We have a chance to re-engage and create believers again. With the team offering we hope to get middle school and high school players and older people in their 30s who remember the shoe from their youth. But really it’s for everybody.