Debuted March 10, 2020, Converse's CX toolkit forms a base for benefit-led innovations, including comfort and ease of wear, which are transforming the brand's design language, functionally and emotionally.
This summer, CX gives radical form to three new silhouettes — the Weapon CX, Run Star Motion and Aeon Active CX. The last represents a view into Converse's future ambition, challenging preconceptions of aesthetic and translating the jogging shoe into a city-right daily driver. With the Weapon CX and Run Star Motion, classic Converse design lines and gestures go into hyperdrive: the impact of the CX toolkit felt in exciting new proportions.
Brandis Russell, VP of Footwear Development and Merchandising, and Phil Russo, VP of Design and Innovation, break down the way the CX innovation toolkit is unlocking the brand's future — including everything from bolstering confidence to making the world a more comfortable place.
Russell: The notion of benefit-led innovation stems from how we make Converse, which has delivered on a significant amount of emotional comfort for consumers — meaning connection, nostalgia and memory — and now create a more physical connection.
Russo: When I think of benefit-led innovation, there's the functional and emotional component built-in. We put beautiful, desirable things out into the world that serve a purpose, that have a job to do, that provide a function. So, there's an optical delight, but then there's also a wearer experience and interface experience that delivers on two fronts, emotionally and functionally.
Evolving the CX Toolkit
Russo: The original intent of CX was to create an innovation suite that answered for what we were hearing from people about Converse: They loved our brand and product, but they thought we were lacking in comfort. It was a motivator to answer the call. And it’s allowed us to now push even further on a more forward-leaning aesthetic. When you create products that have that amazing mix of functionality and emotionality, and there's a reason behind it, you organically get to this fresh design language.
Russell: The toolkit is focused on a couple of key components. One is underfoot comfort. To get it, we really pay attention to our foams and our foam formulas. What the team's done is look at how we evolve the chemistry of that foam to ensure that we're getting to the right level of absorption. We are also pushing forward with color. We match the overt expressions of the foam with this calming Wild Mango. We harnessed that color because of the sensation it creates — adding another layer of emotional comfort.
Unlocking the Unexpected
Russo: Think about the Aeon Active CX. That shoe is created for someone with multilayered needs with respect to what job their footwear does for them. It taps into a city lifestyle, being highly mobile and commuting on-foot place to place. We deconstructed those specific needs and married that information with inspiring nods to our past, and that led us to a dramatic expression of form, stance and comfort. The CX foam is used for cushioning and energy return and it's paired with an outsole that’s designed for flexibility and ground contact in multiple city environments. Putting it all together was a proud moment and we opened up the aperture quite a bit. It can be a polarizing silhouette, and I feel that's good. It's emotional in that way. It moves people and it's unexpected from Converse in terms of design language.
Russell: CX unlocks next-level comfort and next-level style. It allows permission to reference the past, but not always be so literal with that reference. With the Weapon, the teams pushed on proportion. They've created a different stance. They're using a totally new last. The toe down is different. There's definitely something that is familiar in the legacy of this shoe, but it is progressive, different, bolder.
Progressing Through Discomfort
Russo: Growth comes from discomfort. I think it's a healthy thing when something is shown to people and they're like, “I don't know about that.” You get a debate, you get discussion, you get input. Some people say, “Hey, I get it,” and others are like, “I don't.” But there is a confidence that comes from knowing that you’ve gone through the process, that everything is lined up and it’s been built and designed for the right reasons.
Russell: One of the things that Phil and I have talked about is how do we start feeling comfortable in the idea that gestures from our brand don't have to harken back to Chuck. So, when you go into our archive, you see a lot of line language and gestures that give us leeway and opportunity to bring a “future familiar” vibe to some of our products. We've been very intentional, and I give a ton of credit to Phil's team, on progressing the innovation that we're bringing and the form, stance and proportion. And through all of that, having some level of reference back to who we are.
The Run Star Motion CX launches globally June 16 at converse.com and select retailers. The Chuck Taylor All Star CX and Weapon CX will launch later this fall. The Aeon releases late 2021 in collaborative form with Samuel Ross. Inline versions drop from early 2022.