Converse’s Brandis Russell on How Collaboration Helps the Brand Break Barriers
January 15, 2021
In collaboration, the organic affinity Converse partners hold for the brand’s storied product becomes catalyst for progressive conversations about its future. Or, as VP of Footwear Brandis Russell reminds, the process is all about welcoming “new thought, new vision, new purpose, new energy and new intention.”
Converse has more than a century of culturally-connected history — ranging from the early barnstorming days of basketball to streetwear sweeping the runways of Paris. The through line remains a shared sense of opportunity in breaking from convention.
“An important value of Converse is one that respects, honors and wants to continue to foster creativity. Inviting in the collective genius continues to breed innovation for us,” says Russell. “Our brand has been a positive agitator in really critical moments in culture. Today we want to assure that our creative impulse, and that of our partners, has an intention attached to it.”
“For my upcoming collaboration with Converse, I was really interested in the functionality of the design. And making something that was Ivy League via the ’90s and in a preppy American way with grunge elements — and exploring the reality of this, but also the functionality.”
“We just want to continue to make great, fun, affordable sneakers with Converse that can appeal to a wide and diverse community with no borders and no labels.”
“We went ahead and made some non-gendered sneakers — what happens to them is up to the streets.”
During the past few years, the collaborative sphere of Converse has developed alongside a revived spirit of internal collaboration to meet the promise of purposeful progress. This coalesces in spirited shifts in thinking about inclusive design, sustainable practice and, also important, how Converse maintains a consistent sense of fun.
“Our collaborators are always helping us to be more playful and a little less serious,” says Russell. “You can do that and still celebrate heritage; take a new stance and hold a position.”
That notion holds true through upcoming work with a beautiful array of creative partners including, but not limited to: Kim Jones, Telfar Clemens, Comme des Garçons PLAY, Off-White and Tyler, the Creator. It rings loudly in recent projects with Boston-neighbor Concepts, as well as forthcoming projects with Bandulu and Chinatown Market. And it sets the tone for collaboration with athletes like Alexis Sablone, Natasha Cloud and Draymond Green. “There’s something special that this place honors: the diverse spectrum of thought and choice,” says Russell.