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By Kyla Wyllie
As a kid, I grew up in Chuck Taylors that were so worn out, they had to be taped back together. It’d be an understatement to say that Converse has played a big role in my life.
Converse recently released the Renew Collection, a line of shoes aimed at inspiring more awareness of fast fashion and the materials it consumes. The shoes are made out of recycled materials and minimize the amount of waste produced in the process. Fast fashion is a phenomenon I’ve tried to educate myself on, and while people are starting to become more aware of it, there’s a lot of change that needs to happen. When companies like Converse engage in a conversation about personal impact and consumption, it sparks inspiration. As an artist and thrift advocate, having the opportunity to collaborate on the Renew project felt surreal.
For the campaign, I and two other members of the Converse X Los Angeles creative team were invited to Boston where we teamed up with a designer. The challenge was to take articles of clothing we had either previously owned or thrifted, and give them new life through upcycling and re-construction. For my pieces, I took $6 to the Goodwill by USC campus and was able to create two different styles. The first was an oversized dark red sweater, turned inside out with stitched-on white sleeves. I added minimal embroidery with the name of my magazine,“Pure Nowhere,” across the front as well. My second piece was a large blazer, which we first fitted to hang better on my shoulders, and cut the bottom off for a rough hem. I took a collage of my two roommates I had made for my Rapid Visualization final at the Iovine and Young Academy and printed it onto a large piece of canvas, which we then stitched onto the back of the blazer. My goal was to make something that was inspired by 60s and 70s punk fashion while keeping true to my own style.
The purpose of the Converse workshop was to highlight their new shoe line, but also the extent of sustainable practices. They interviewed us, asked about our stories and the importance of sustainability in our personal lives. Converse gave us the freedom to run wild, taking inspiration from anywhere. Sketches of clothing I’d frantically drawn on the floor of my dorm transformed into physical products in a matter of days. It was a flurry of activity -- designing, cutting, sewing -- and when things inevitably went wrong, problem-solving. Yes, it was satisfying to see the finished product come together, but even more so knowing I had made it. Each piece had once been something completely different, each revision process sparking new ideas and possibilities. It made me think about what I’m capable of.
Fast fashion is one of the largest contributors to waste produced in the world, and the amount of clothing we consume has only been increasing. It’s important that companies like Converse are taking initiative to change the way production and consumer industries think. The fact that I was a part of this initiative on some small scale means the world to me. They didn’t invite “influencers,” or celebrities who could add clout to the project. Instead, they told us they wanted to encourage collaborations with creators who have passion, vision, and are able to disrupt. These are concepts that were instilled in me as an Academy student from my first semester, and I was able to take a majority of those skills and apply them in real-time. Having that connection early on showed me the true impact we can all make. You don’t need to be famous to be impactful, all it takes is creativity and innovative thinking to make a statement and inspire change.