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Sneakers January, 25 2010

Highsnobiety Q & A – UNDFTD for Converse Poorman Weapon

The first Undefeated for Converse Poorman Weapon shoe launched exactly one year ago today, January 24, 2009, in black. It was then followed-up with an olive version in May 2009 as UNDFTD’s celebration of US Armed Forces Day. This is the third installment of the shoe in navy that features the same bomber jacket nylon upper, removable velcro logos and orange lining. Again, the midsole carries an UNDFTD logo and the overall look is perfect. This time around the sneaker is accompanied by both a matching MA-1 Flight Jacket and Flight Helmet Bag.

The navy UNDFTD for Converse Poorman Weapon shoes launch globally on January 29, 2010.

Take a leap to read all about the project direct from the creators – Undefeated’s Eddie Cruz and Converse’s Ian Ginoza.

Q. For those unfamiliar with your respective roles – what are your official titles?

EDDIE: Co-owner of Undefeated.

IAN: Senior Manager First String and Special Projects

Q. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Let’s start with a side of the shoe that hasn’t been touched on yet – the name. What exactly is the Poorman Weapon? Where does the “Poorman” tag come from?

IAN: Well, the silhouette is a fusion of two iconic Converse shoes – the Chuck Taylor All Star and the Weapon. The story behind the term “Poorman” actually dates back to the 1970s when we debuted the classic Pro Leather shoe. As you know, everyone wore Chuck Taylor All Stars to play ball throughout most of the last Century, and then, when Converse debuted the Pro Leather shoe back in the mid 1970s—it changed everything. It was the first modern basketball sneaker and every kid had to have one. Another legend of the sport, the Weapon debuted in the 1980s and also became a must have. In both cases, those who couldn’t afford leather versions bought canvas version, which were basically like a Chuck with the Star Chevron logo and a few other modifications. UNDFTD liked the silhouette and the story and took their version into entirely new territory with their play on the classic bomber jacket using nylon and custom details like removable Star Chevron logos, cool color pops and bomber jacket materials. All in all, a nice reinterpretation of an iconic shoe.

Q. It’s been interesting to see the overall slimming/paring down of footwear across the board. What are you thoughts on the current footwear trends? Is this a good place for the market to be heading?

EDDIE: With regards to “in-line” footwear being offered by major brands, I’m liking what I’m seeing. Very wearable and price conscious. People don’t want to wear loud over priced kicks. I think it’s in a great place for the time being. However, going forward people are going to want a little more than a simple all white or black shoe in nice leather. There going to want it, but with a twist. I personally only like styling kicks with a story behind them. It’s what our customer expects from us.

IAN: I do think it’s a good thing, a departure from the bells and whistles and a return to a lot more wearable offerings.

Q. Do you have any specific memories of the Converse Weapon from your childhood?

EDDIE: Larry Bird + Magic Johnson = Fresh.

IAN: Eddie hit it on the nose. The quintessential classic rivalry, they brought out the best in each other on the court. Choose your Weapon!

Q. How did the UNDFTD for Converse Poorman Weapon shoes come to life? What was it like to reinterpret a Converse classic?

EDDIE: In this case, we were very lucky. We have good relationships with a few “like minded” people over there. We’re all on the same page. Reinterpreting this particular kick was cool because it comes from 2 very important Sport inspired classics. A Chuck Taylor and a Weapon. It was the perfect kick for Undefeated to get down with.

Q. Most readers already know that the UNDFTD Converse was inspired by the classic military bomber MA-1 jacket. Can you give us a more in-depth description of the design approach/material choice and inspiration for the shoe? Are there any basketball references hidden within the military design?

EDDIE: I admire brands like ALPHA, WTAPS and PORTER. I love military surplus stores. Everything is so clean and simple and most importantly every detail and color the military uses has a purpose. In this particular kick, there are no specific basketball references except for the style itself.

Q. Touching back on the last question – where does Undefeated’s fascination with the military stem from? Many UNDFTD releases share similar color stories.

EDDIE: We are a sports inspired brand. The military and sports go hand in hand. Both genre’s wear uniforms and do not play to lose. Sport is War. ( :

Q. The first release was accompanied by a matching Flight Helmet Bag. Tell us a little about the Jacket that goes along with this release.

EDDIE: It’s the last color way in the Poorman Weapon project, so we thought why not do the actual jacket in which the kick was inspired from. Converse actually did the production on it and they nailed it. It looks authentic and fits like a glove. We only made 144 pieces.

IAN: Undefeated wanted to do it and it just made sense. Our apparel team did a great job, and the end result is really nice execution of the jacket that inspired the project.

Q. This is question specific to Ian – You’ve done collaborations from both from the store side and the corporate side. What are the inherent challenges and benefits of working from different sides of the coin?

IAN: My approach is the same from both sides of the coin, to be mindful and conscious of the brands identity and image. From a pure resource standpoint Converse has a great pool of talented people that I have the great pleasure of working with them on daily basis. From the Brand to the Product teams they are definitely some of the best of the best at what they do. Prior to joining the Converse family from the retailer side I always had a good crew from the jump, it’s mad competitive out there and to compete you need a good squad to show and prove on a consistent basis. Success to me in business is never a one man proposition, great things come from great teams and they always will. I have been blessed to have that structure throughout my journey and it continues on with the Converse family in spades.

Q. The UNDFTD for Converse Poorman Weapon was rated as one of the best shoes of 2009 by several publications. How does this project rank for you personally in comparison to the numerous releases you’ve taken part in?

EDDIE: True story. A few years ago we had the opportunity to work on an Air Jordan 4. It was also inspired by an MA-1 Bomber Jacket. We called out the same exact material and color as the first Poorman Weapon, but ultimately it didn’t come out the way we wanted, so we shifted gears on that kick and did it in a nice buck-skin. It was just as beautiful, but not our original intent. Later we had the opportunity to revisit the idea with Converse and somehow the combination of the Poorman Weapon’s style and collaboration with Converse crew just worked. Converse nailed it and with that said, it’s one of my favorite collaborations, because it’s very wearable, it looks good and it tells a story. Perfect.

Q. It’s one of our favorites as well. Can we expect a fourth Poorman Weapon from Undefeated and Converse?

EDDIE: We actually called out a beautiful deep burgundy, but I’m not sure if Converse wants to proceed. If it was up to me, I would also do it in a battleship grey. Hopefully the crew at Converse will read this and make it happen. Greed is good. ( :

IAN: I didn’t get the TPS report yet on that let me look into it, stay tuned…

Q. Gordon Gekko and Bill Lumburgh. Good men. Last question. Just for fun — who is your favorite Laker of all time?

EDDIE: KOBE BRYANT. If feel like I watched him grow up.

IAN: Magic Johnson. Amazing court vision and one of the greatest passer’s of all time. Some of the best “no looks” ever to go down.

Interview by Pete Williams

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