The Nike-owned label announced today that it would once again compete in the basketball footwear market.
“Our brand has 110 years of history and Converse is truly the original basketball brand,” the firm’s VP of Global Footwear Brandis Russell told FN. “Basketball has always been a genesis of bringing cultures together. We look at youth culture today, basketball culture today, as being interconnected and we want to be engaged and connected to youth that’s shaping culture on and off the court.”
Leading the brand’s push is the All Star Pro BB, a performance-driven silhouette with design language informed by its iconic Chuck Taylor.
Ready for the court, the silhouette is executed with drop-in Nike React cushioning that is both lightweight and responsive and cupsole construction for foot containment.
Aesthetically, the model boasts several nods to Converse’s past such as the medial side All Star patch on the Chuck Taylor and the Star Chevron on the lateral side (a throwback to the classic Weapon sneaker). It also features an upper built with the foot-conforming Nike Quadfit mesh tech, which aside from giving the wearer a custom fit, provides a look similar to the Chuck’s single layer of canvas. (Aside from the visual, the tech is made to provide a custom fit.)
“The All Star Pro BB is a great blueprint for how the new era is going to come to life,” Russell said. “Our design and leadership teams have developed this concept of Future Familiar — this notion of taking ideas, stories, concepts from the past and pushing boundaries of design by bringing innovation, technologies and insights to bring them to life.”
She continued, “The All Star Pro BB is an example of that through the lens of Chuck. It has the same characteristics — a beautifully balanced simplicity — but it’s definitely been engineered to be a performance vehicle.”
And the All Star Pro BB from Converse, according to Nike’s VP of global design and innovation/creative director Eric Avar, will differ from what Nike and Jordan Brand (another label owned by the Swoosh) have in their respective portfolios.
“It’s a slightly more minimalist design and a more overall versatile, democratic design,” Avar said. “It fits into that high-level performance zone but probably cheats a little more to lightweight, responsive and versatile.”
Damion Silver, Converse’s associate creative director of men’s footwear, said the All Star Pro BB was in development for more than a year and a half and went through roughly 50 to 60 prototypes before landing on the one that is going to market.
“When we test these shoes they have zero branding. Our athletes don’t know if it’s a Nike shoe or Converse shoe, but they consistently asked, ‘Is this a modern day Chuck?’ So we knew we were on the right track early on,” said Nike designer Thomas Bell. “We refined every little detail, obsessed over every little detail.”
The All Star Pro BB will debut in two colorways, black and white, both with mandarin hits. It will arrive at retail in May and come with a $140 price tag.
Also, Converse said it would deliver several basketball lifestyle options this summer.
The heritage lineup includes a rerelease a ‘90s college hoops standout, the VLTG, exclusively for women. The drop will mark the first time it will hit stores since its original launch. Also, Converse will deliver new takes on the ERX and introduce collaborations on its classic Pro Leather sneaker.
But Converse is coming into the market at a time where Nike and Jordan Brand are running things. Both Nike and Jordan Brand have several superstars in the sport with signature product that’s helping drive business. But Russell isn’t worried. Instead, she’s excited about the differences Converse brings to the table.
“Where Nike brings the best innovation and Jordan leads in this notion of flight and the passion of the sport, Converse has the opportunity within the [Nike Inc.] portfolio to celebrate the individuality and signature style of each athlete,” Russell said. “With all three brands we offer every consumer different access points to the sport.”