If there’s one sneaker that looks better over time, the Chuck Taylor has to be at the top of the list. For decades, the silhouette has been a canvas for expression, an anchor in culture, and seems to age like fine wine. Converse wants to ensure the shoe’s legacy and longevity continues – not in the name of style or fashion, but in fact, for the priority in sustainability. The Boston-based brand has launched the Renew Labs Fitzroy in Melbourne, Australia as a means to energize the local community around collaboration and sustainable self-expression.
Renew Labs Fitzroy is a one-stop-shop that operates opposite of a traditional store. Instead of pushing new Chucks as the focal point, the goal is to find creative ways to extend the life of the beloved sneaker. A full menu of services are available including a full overhaul deep clean that ensures shoes are fresh inside and out, repairs to heel lining and separated outsoles, lace and eco-friendly insole upgrades, and customizations to add a unique, personal touch to your pair like patches, embroidery with recycled PVC thread, and eyelet swaps.
Intimate workshops by local artisans such as REMUSE Designs owner and creative director Tamara Leacock provide attendees with a hands-on approach to customization. It’s a great opportunity to learn first-hand the benefits (and even challenges) of natural, low-impact techniques like indigo dip dying. “Indigo dye is a really bold color, it matches so many things, it’s a great way to extend the life of garments as they’re getting close to end of life,” said Leacock in a social post about the Converse Renew Labs.
Leacock’s workshops allow for sustainability-focused discussions and education in a way that she feels speaks truly to the Converse brand and her personal approach. “For me as a consumer and someone who also works in fashion, I felt like [Converse] were very much aligned [with my ethos], particularly with the project being a way of extending the life of your shoes, reducing waste, using a lot of renewable and circular fashion methods. So not only did I feel aligned with the brand, but I felt aligned with the project,” the designer and creative director told Fashion Journal.
Similar to the collaborative work with Leacock, the Renew Labs initiative is a community effort with local artists adding to the store’s design, which was built using locally sourced, upcycled, recycled, and repurposed materials such as reclaimed brick, timber, and furniture from the area. Melbourne-based artist Callum Preston used found and repurposed items to create a mix-medium wall that channels youth culture and street art. Shoe shelves and planters crafted from post-consumer plastic waste by Precious Plastic Melbourne and Joshua Space are also found throughout.
If attendees to Renew Labs have pairs that are truly ready to be discarded as opposed to reusing through refurbishment or customizations, the brand has partnered with TreadLightly to collect unwanted sneakers to be broken down and recycled. Reusable components like rubber, leather, and fibers are then used to manufacture products such as gym mats, floors and playgrounds – a process we’ve seen through Nike Grind.
The opening of Renew Labs is an ongoing effort by Converse to address the environmental concern of waste in the industry. The brand launched a virtual Renew Lab store on the infamous Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch where Chuck 70s models customized by eco-conscious artists and activists were showcased driving to donations for the non-profit Take3.org. Converse also offers Earth-friendly models under its Renew line such as knitted Chuck 70s and Chuck Taylors with Crater Foam soles made from recycled rubber. Renew sneakers are also available at Renew Labs Fitzroy.