Converse first applied a graphic pattern — a camouflage print — to the Chuck Taylor All Star in 1983. Glow-in-the-dark animal prints followed in 1988, a patriotic American Flag print in 1991 and since then innumerable motifs have graced sneaker culture's most recognizable silhouette.
These archival prints form the starting point for the new collaborative project between Converse and Los Angeles-based creative collective Brain Dead. Led by founders Kyle Ng and Ed Davis, Brain Dead takes an unexpected, unique approach to retooling the iconic Chuck 70, and debuts subversive spins on archetypal garments like the MA-1. "People always expect us to do graphic work,” says Ng. “We wanted to take a more conceptual approach with Converse. We were inspired by pattern deconstruction — we were interested in creating chaos with something that already existed.”
The Chuck 70 is the most apparent example of this, taking a variety of prints (animal, American flag, camo) and bringing them together. If the intent was to baffle the eye, the end result was a surprise — at least for the Brain Dead crew.
"The weird thing is, because these are classic patterns, it works together in harmony," says Ng.
What could have served as a point of tension became a point of distinction, and subsequently the backbone of the whole project, where preexisting icons are reworked with a dissident eye. This speaks to Brain Dead's creative spark, and the elasticity of the Converse brand's place in a variety of subcultures.
"The Chuck is an icon. But the spirit of the brand is iconoclastic — that's important to the way we look at collaborations," says Brook Bergland, Converse Apparel Design Director. "For example, with Brain Dead, we took the fleece hoodie and the MA-1 and we subverted both classics to create a hybrid that is unified by a PrimaLoft lining."
The garment, the Converse x Brain Dead Hooded Bomber Jacket, is a testament to the notion that disparate points of view create new and often very interesting ideas. Here, the sanctity of apparel standards is destroyed in favor of experimenting with "what-if" potential.
"The mash-up of the hoody and the jacket is part of the deconstruction mentality — we're dissembling things and putting them together to make something new," Ng explains.
The result, like the marriage of pattern on the Chuck 70, is serendipitous harmony. And with it, a rooted aesthetic, which blends Converse, Brain Dead and tried-and-true classics in the rest of the collection — a tall-collar fleece, T-shirts, bags — with a rebellious exuberance.
The Converse x Brain Dead collection is available October 26 from Converse and select retailers globally. To see more photography of the product conceptualized by Brain Dead, click here.