A reward for doing the window-shopping research rounds allowed me to discover a cool pop-up in Carnaby Street on Saturday. For one week only, (coincidentally the Boxpark Shoreditch pop-up model) Converse Shoes, specifically the Chuck Taylors legendary All Star brand are inviting Chuck Taylor shoe wearing dudes to have a photo of said shoes immortalized, signed by themselves and printed (to be later framed), for a small fee as part of the ‘Made By You’ campaign series.
The location, excellent footfall on a Saturday and the right demographic hanging out in one of London’s most iconic, trendy fashion streets, includes tourists who because of the universal appeal of the brand are potentially already wearing them. And as happened that day apparently, some were inspired enough by the concept to go to the nearest Converse store (spitting distance away), buy some Converse, return and do the deed. Brand loyalty finessing par excellence or gimmick-gullible, I had to admire the concept on several levels.
First of all, there’s a novel, thinking outside the shoebox thing going on. Trading off the brand’s iconic status and loyalty by giving it another dimension of attachment is clever. Doing it close to the point of sale, also smart. (at least two stores close to Carnaby Street). Engaging the customer in an interactive experience. Tick. And giving them something lasting to take away, that is personally personalized. Mmm. Groovy.
Step inside the pop-up store (Liberty’s end of Carnaby Street) adorned with framed pics of Chuck Taylors All Stars with its emblematic star within the circle motif, that you just had to have because it said you were old enough to wear them, and then color in the star with biro or felt tip, or because somehow you had an instantly adopted American persona. (Or just because you liked them since whenever dude, get off my case). A white case is what occupied the central area of the store. A tiny hint of the Heath Robinson – a white painted box, resembling an early experiment in holography, on closer inspection had camera at one end, object to be photographed down the other. A few bits of technology linking image taker to print machine with nice glossy finish and hey presto, papa’s got a brand new bag/ shoe image.
The marketing company behind the idea is We Are Amplify and in this case it does what is says on the tin, amplifying the brand. I’m curious to know who or what inspires who to pull this off. The company managing the retail space for Carnaby Street are presumably happy and responsive to these ideas – an empty retail store is these days a pop-up in waiting, if you can be bothered to manage it or the lease arrangements and insurance permit it. But might it have been someone canny approaching Converse, having spotted the existence of two stores in the locale to know that it was and is another way of driving traffic to the store? Well, we shall see.
In the meantime it set my mind off with all sorts of leveraged ideas, taking the concept and running with it in my own virtual Converse shoe. (Well I have owned a pair or two in my time). It would work with many iconic brands that have long-lasting cross-generational appeal, and provide a springboard for launching new ranges, off the back of ma and pa’s collection – bonding without the fussy, complicated emotional stuff. Rayne shoes for example, newly re-launched and in the wardrobes of many style conscious parents, hip to the trip in the 50s and 60s (and much longer if you want to go back or forwards!) How cool would that be, getting this brand immortalized thus?
A little bit of research on Converse reveals that they are pretty hip to trying lots of cross-brand, cross-cultural tie-ins to energize the brand across demographics and lifestyles. Their Black Sabbath collection in collaboration with the album cover designers demonstrated the appeal of the brand as synonymous with the group regarded as the inventors of Heavy Metal. That’s heavy. Or dope, these days. Proving a shoe, is a shoe, is a cross-cultural brand-appealing style statement. Get your sorry ass and your not so sorry looking Chucks down to Carnaby Street and doooooo it now, while socks last.
Chuck Taylor Studio London is open from 23rd-31st May at 32 Carnaby Street, London, W1F 7DN. Opening hours 10am-7pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday), 10am-9pm (Thursday), 10am-8pm (Saturday) and 11am-6pm (Sunday).
By Paul Markevicius