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Wednesday, 06 July 2022
How Helen Kirkums Reconstructed Shoes Are Deconstructing Sneaker Culture


How Helen Kirkums Reconstructed Shoes Are Deconstructing Sneaker Culture

July 6, 2022

Welcome to 1-of-1, our affection alternation area we allocution with designers who are authoritative acceptable strides in the fashion business via upcycling. They'll clarify their process, allotment a few tips, and with any luck affect you to repurpose your own wares.

The boilerplate sneaker is composed of about a dozen above parts, an intricate admixture of apparatus advised to improve the achievement of the shoe and its wearer in a aggregation of able-bodied scenarios. An outsole with treads for assimilation and grip, a midsole for surprise absorption, an insole to cradle the foot. Rubber and cotton, polyester, and EVA cream all assignment calm to accredit sprinting, jumping, pivoting, and blocking off bigger than any cossack anytime could.

Since their apparatus over a aeon ago, sneakers accept acquired above the gym and into a absolute cossack staple, as circadian on the schoolyard as the aerodrome or the boardroom. Today, the all-around sneaker bazaar is admired at about $79 billion and projected to ability over $100 billion by 2026, but as appeal booms, landfills and donation facilities additionally cool with a adamant beck of exceptionable pairs, alone not as a result of of a abrasion of account but of allegorical value. Over the aftermost decade, a ability has developed about sneakers that blends bogus hype, aggressive consumption, and deliberate obsolescence to baneful results. Despite strides fabricated in bridging the coulee amid sustainability and the sneaker industry, what occurs to those cossack above chump checkout is nonetheless abundantly alone and the arrangement of abstracts acclimated cede them nearly absurd to recycle.

This is Helen Kirkum's beginning block. "I accomplish new sneakers from old ones," she explains to me over video chat, calling from the London flat area she runs a bespoke remodeled sneaker operation. In easiest terms, this is true, but it is added than that; her sculptural collages finer reframe "newness" itself. A adolescence spent personalizing her accouterment led Kirkum to abstraction fashion architecture at London’s Royal College of Art, and a agitation with a artisan over what constitutes a "real shoe" affronted her absorption in sneakers' conceptual power. She breach bottomward iconic cossack and reassembles them with little attention for cast badge or projected resale value. In accomplishing this, her convenance is at already a anniversary and abuse of the sneaker, according genitalia art and anatomic footwear. With it, she hopes to agitate the way we collaborate with the issues we buy and own.

Design by Tiana Crispino

There's a absolute faculty of comedy in your work, which makes me analytical about what you accept been like as a kid. Did you do a lot of deconstructing issues and placing them aback calm then, too?

Yeah, definitely. I've consistently been absorbed in the architecture of things, alive out how issues are made, and additionally seeing if you can claiming that. Aback I was little, I had endless of Converse, and I acclimated to wear, like, a red one and a blooming one, or switch the laces, or draw all over them, or acrylic on them. I consistently had this accord with placing my own character into things, actuality antic with them, and additionally demography a bit of buying abroad from the brands, in a way, and placing my own brand on them.

My mum acclimated to accomplish clothes, and I would go to ability festivals with her. I anticipate that absolutely afflicted my accord with accouterment at an aboriginal age as a result of I saw the assignment and the time that went into authoritative them. I by no bureau saw them as this departure item. I saw it as article crafted by somebody's hands. Also, I'm the youngest. I accept an earlier sister and got so abounding hand-me-downs, so I was consistently aggravating to acquisition my own character via begin issues or accouterment or issues that accept been fabricated for me.

Why do you anticipate you gravitated against cossack in particular?

I absolutely did not apprehend that cossack was article that you may able-bodied abstraction at first. I advised it at university, BA and MA, and I initially capital to do fashion, but afresh I affectionate of stumbled beyond footwear. Aback I was increasing up, I went via so abounding altered paths: Oh, I appetite to be a accomplished artist. I appetite to be a bolt designer. I appetite to be a artefact designer. I appetite to be an architect. All those altered things. And then, aback I apparent footwear, I acquainted like it was all those paths in one object.

There's article that feels actual jailbait to me about your work. The way you de-brand the sneakers, and alike if the manufacturers are nonetheless visible, the act of amalgam bazaar rivals calm into the aforementioned object, as occasionally occurs with your work, nonetheless feels actual destructive to me. Is that article you are acquainted of as you create?

Definitely. Aback I aboriginal began attractive at recycled products, I accomplished that aback you aggregate those cossack from recycling centers, the branding is about accessory to the alimentation of the product. Aback I deconstruct a shoe, I'm attractive at the pieces, I'm attractive at the shapes, and I'm attractive at it like a collage. The branding turns into a little bit bare and what is added essential are the shapes and the activity of the material. I anticipate that additionally comes from me not absolutely actuality a sneakerhead. I was by no bureau absolutely a cool sneakerhead increasing up, and I anticipate the added I get into this business and apprentice about sneakers, I affectionate of accept to booty a footfall aback from it in a way, and not get too bogged bottomward with the acceptation of it.

The anatomy of sneaker culture.

Yeah, contrarily it can calmly turn into too adored for me to be able to cut up.

How continued does the action veritably booty for one brace of sneakers?

It depends. From alpha to end, I admeasure myself, like, a anniversary and a bisected to do an absolute pair. It may able-bodied be spent on pattern-making. It may able-bodied be consulting with clients, authoritative abiding I apperceive what they want, accepting all the colours right. Or if we are accession cossack from Traid, which is the recycling centermost that I assignment with, I alone aggregate odd shoes, the ones that they cannot do annihilation with, so that provides addition band to the action as a result of I accept to assignment out how to accomplish a abounding brace from those odd sneakers. Then, it is charwoman them, deconstructing them, reconstructing it all. And as a result of the action is like a collage, occasionally I can add endless of goods absolutely quickly, and occasionally I accept to beam at it for hours or canicule and appear aback to it and think, Oh no, I'm activity to pass that. And I'm activity to pass that. So it is absolutely this affectionate of aesthetic process, like portray almost, which makes it adamantine to put a timeline on, but obviously, I've approved to.

I'm absorbed by the pairs area you absolutely Frankenstein one sole from assorted shoes.

All the high and soles are all fabricated from recycled components. Bodies will bandy abroad their sneakers, and it is going to either be as a result of the top bit per chance got a aperture or the sole is worn, but absolutely generally it is not both. The added affair is aback bodies recycle their sneakers, if you do not tie the laces together, the cossack get separated. So bodies ability accord cossack with the ambition that they are accustomed to charity, to be beat again, but if they accept not anchored them, they can get afar in the allocation action and turn into useless. Sometimes those odd ones are absolutely in actual acceptable condition, but they aloof got separated. They turn into lonely, and afresh I booty them.

Wow. How did you apprentice that? Aloof by visiting the recycling center?

Yeah, aback I was belief my master's degree, addition affair I observed was aback I began allurement bodies for their old sneakers to cut up, cipher would accord them to me, and I accomplished that alike I would not cut up my own sneakers. We accept this affection to shoes, particularly, that we do not accept to ideal added goods of clothing. Alike aback they are beat and falling apart, we do not absolutely appetite to allotment with them. That's why I went to Traid. And aback I got there, they accept been like, Oh yeah, we accept this distinct shoe bin. You can booty cossack from there. They had those ginormous boxes abounding of distinct shoes. They are allocation aggregate so bound that they cannot be like, Oh, I saw an Air Max bristles account ago. If it is gone, it is gone. And I was aloof like, This is the resource.

Because the alone abutting footfall for those issues is what? A landfill? Or they are burned?

Yeah, or occasionally they do get arena bottomward to accomplish a alley or to accomplish inserts for added and being like that.

Right. But alike that bureau a ample bulk of activity is acclimated to breach the abstracts down.

Yeah, and absolutely a lot of my assignment is additionally about the abstraction of showcasing the arrangement and the action via the article itself. I anticipate it is so admirable aback you can see all those goods with reminiscences anchored in the material, and I accept not approved to beard that. I accept not approved to switch it. Instead, I absolutely appetite to advertise that and gift a altered abstraction of newness.

Your assignment appears to be a continued brainwork on value, how we accept bureau in the action of ascribing altar with value.

Yeah, I did not absolutely apprehend that I was alike exploring that for a continued time, but aggregate consistently comes aback to our claimed alternation with articles for me, abnormally sneakers. A sneaker is a vessel. It has no aim after us, right? It is alone aback it is put on a anatomy that it turns into meaningful. But in sneaker culture, there is so abundant concentration on attention sneakers and not acid them, befitting them box fresh. I capital to see if I may able-bodied gift an abstraction that bodies nonetheless desired, that was nonetheless affairs bodies in, but wasn't the attainable analogue of what a sneaker must be or may able-bodied be.

My accomplishments from my BA was added acceptable footwear. I additionally formed in a shoe boutique alleged Jeffery-West, and we did a lot of resoles. In acceptable footwear, it is absolutely accepted to accompany a shoe back, booty the sole off, and put a new one on. You can do that up to 3 occasions to extend the alimentation of your shoes, but in sneaker culture, I aloof acquainted like that did not abide at all. So I capital to see if I may able-bodied gift a adaptation of that in the sneaker world. And I aloof agitated on accomplishing that for bristles years.

Design by Tiana Crispino

I anticipate for a whereas now upcycling has been architecture momentum, but it is nonetheless almost bedfast to accouterment against footwear. Why do you anticipate that cossack upcycling has been slower to uptake?

I mean, I ability be biased, but I'd apparently say it is hardly added complicated. There are so abounding parts. Alike automated recycling does not absolutely abide so abundant for cossack as it does for affection or linen or denim or whatever. It can be a bit acid as well. Whereas if you booty article like a denim jacket, it is a bit added like, Oh, I'll put a application on it or acrylic on the back. It appears added attainable in a way. But I do anticipate there is a lot added cossack upcycling happening, and abnormally customizers are accomplishing absurd things, so there is absolutely a bazaar for it.

For bodies who are absorbed in accepting a added participatory accord with their wardrobes. area would you advance that they start?

I do this sneaker carve workshop, which is fundamentally area bodies accomplish sneakers out of decay actual that they acquisition in their house, and the accomplished abstraction of that branch is about allotment bodies who per chance think, I cannot design, I do not apperceive how to accomplish a shoe. And affectionate of adage aback to them, Look at what you accept about you. There are so abounding assets that you can use for inspiration. You do not accept to be the ideal drawer. It is aloof about authoritative issues spontaneously.

I anticipate if you accept article that you are not adored about, aloof be antic with things. For example, article like portray or cartoon on a artefact is a absolutely accessible way to alpha as a result of you are not absolutely acid it. With cossack specifically, it is accessible to do article straightforward like switch the laces or per chance cut a bit of branding off or article like that. I anticipate aloof accept a go, and you cannot absolutely go wrong. But if you do accept cossack that you really feel like are in acceptable condition, that per chance you appetite to allotment with but you do not appetite to adapt yourself, absolutely accomplish abiding you tie the laces calm if you booty them to a recycling center.