Stefan Van Dorn

The Success of Converse – Part 3

Chuck Taylor’s white, red, and blue design for the 1936 Olympics was what brought the shoe out to its success. The colors were a perfect fit for the Olympics and 18 years after WW1 with tensions rising for what would become WWII, the patriotic colors were a huge success in the public and on the court. The black canvas with white trim was a great classic addition that appealed to a wide variety of people (“The History of the Converse All Star”).

It was in the late 1970s that Converse responded by making shoes with graphics as well as adding a bunch of bright colors to their selection. The brand, with its new color and pattern choices, managed to remain popular with the younger generation and became more of a fashion piece that it is today (Foreman).

In a Harvard journal article titled, “Product Development Should Focus on Customer Needs,” Dave Power discusses the importance of the customer in the development of a product. He argues that it is one of the most important factors in the design and claims it to be what is missing in many companies today. Power informs us that from his experience the success of a product is directly correlated to customer involvement, getting feedback from consumers and colleagues regularly is a good way to. “Listening to customer prospects before designing products, and getting feedback on early product concepts, can save time and money in the innovation process” (Power). Power takes a look at an upcoming company called Charlie, which is an application intended to help people prepare for interviews or other types of meetings. The app researches information about the company and people you are meeting with then gives you this information for you to utilize in your meetings. Through Power research, he and the company credit their early success in testing the product concept regularly and early in their process with what was their target audience. After doing so they were able to develop the product in a way that filled an unmet need and stood alone in the market. Power again points out how this simple action is what is missing in most bigger companies today, who don’t want to take the time or effort to involve the customers in any design process. 

Lee Devin and Robert Austin write in their book title, The Soul of Design: Harnessing The Power of Plot to Create Extraordinary Products, how many creators “assert that they care nothing for accessibility, or for the effects their work might have on the external word” “I’m doing it for me” (84). “But a business must care about who it’s for” (84). If you work for another company or want to sell your own product, it is necessary to care “whether the effects of a made thing will convince customers to buy it” (84). There has always been this sort of disagreement between the “makers and marketers” (84) that has to be balanced if a company wants to successfully sell. 

In the early years of the Converse, before Chuck Taylor became involved, the shoe was quite heavy and solid (Foreman). Taylor was supportive of the shoe in its early on and liked it so much he got into contact with the Converse Rubber Shoe Company. They were excited by his interest as well as his knowledge of the game of basketball. The hired him into their team, making him ambassador and salesman. With Chuck Taylor being such an avid supporter of basketball, he began bringing the shoe to all the events he attended. This, with that fact that he was a player himself, led him to make many of the design change decisions that the Converse would have. He reduced the size of the rubber toe to create more comfort while running in, tweaked the thickness of the canvas upper to provide more support to the player’s ankles, and in 1932 added the eyelets near the sole for better ventilation. He was such an influential part of the Converse development that in the same year his signature was added into the All-Star ankle patch. It was because of his love for basketball and coaching, that the shoe became exposed to large amounts of customers, enabling him to really focus on their needs. The players, coaches, even later the military, saw the shoe all over for many years and Taylor used their feedback to create a better shoe on the court as well as off. (Foreman)

After the brand began suffering in the late 90s which led Converse to be forced to file for bankruptcy in 2001, their rival Nike, purchased the company for $305 million (Tkacik). With new ownership, the brand began to lean away from sports and instead towards casual streetwear. Nike is known for doing a good job with customer involvement and they have tried a number of new designs with the customers (Foreman). A few years after their purchase, Nike began collaborating on the shoes with other small and big-time brands to create a shoe for even more fans to resonate with (Shazzani). Collaborations are a great way to involve other customers and welcome new ideas. Nikes collaborations added hundreds of new brands to the converse team with all of those brands followers coming with. The 10 most successful and notable collaborations with Nike’s adaptation of the Converse include Feng Chen Wang, Fear of God Essentials, Golf le Fleur, Brain Dead, Midnight Studios, CDG Play, Dr. Woo, Off-White, AJ Anderson, and lastly Ambush (Shazzani). Feng Chen Wang took the shoe and expanded its market toward the runway in a high-end look. The primary creation, essentially combining the back and front half of two different Chucks to create an eye-catching deconstructed shoe that found its home on runway fashion. Wang kept the design but added something new to the converse by following true to their style of meshing pieces together to create a unique look of an otherwise ordinary, everyday item. This is perfect for its audience of runway style (Shazzani). Jerry Lorenzo with his brand, Fear of God, created a surprisingly original look at the converse as well, it is surprising because of his choice of black and white, which are common colors of any shoe, but still created a never before seen take that happens to look magnificently minimal and yet still interestingly eye-catching. The relatively low price of his collaboration, as well as the iconic Fear of God branding, led to a huge success in accessible stores such as Pacsun and sold out quickly to the public (Shazzani). Tyler the Creator, with his brand Golf le Fleur, has taken his collaborations across the years to the height of creativity and expression. His fondness of multicolor pairings is evident in almost every one of his adaptations. He pairs purple with green, orange and pink, bright red with bright light blue, and many other colors that would normally be seen as clashing. He creates a shoe for those who want to stand out with colors and want to show off the unique style that they have. Perhaps one of his more unique creations is a burlap upper that completely breaks the boundary for what a unique sneaker looks like (Shazzani). Brain Dead took the converse and applied 4 different patterns to the shoe, with each side being independent of the other. One side has a star pattern, the next has a camo pattern, then a zebra type pattern, lastly topping off with a leopard print on the final side. Each side looks like a completely different shoe and it makes for a design that includes a large variety of taste and style (Shazzani). CDG Play took their iconic heart eyes logo and placed it on the bottom of the upper peeking out from above the sole. They chose a black and white colorway with clean simple stitching and a contrasting heel piece for their first collaboration. The shoe gives off an elegance that appears almost formal. The cream white and contrast of rich black create a shoe that is simple but appears innovative (Shazzani).

(See Part 4 for More)

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