Converse x Alexis Sablone | Celebrating at the Guggenheim Museum

An NYC gathering to honor the olympic skateboarder's newest collaboration and documentary

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Converse is taking skateboarding where it’s never gone before as pro skater and MIT-trained architect Alexis Sablone skates the ramps inside NYC’s iconic Guggenheim Museum. Shot by Jeremy Elkin, the short documentary film, which showcases Alexis achieve the dream of so many skaters in the past, unveils the special collaboration between Converse and the Olympic skateboarder. Sablone’s own signature shoe – the Converse AS-1 Pro – is set to release on May 2.

On the night of April 25, skateboarders and fans alike gathered at the Guggenheim museum to premiere the documentary film and celebrate the collaboration. The party also featured a special art installation designed by the architect and athlete herself. An ode to Sablone’s first skateable design work, The Lady In The Square, a non-traditional skatepark in Värnhemstorget, a public square in Malmö, Sweden, the installation in the Guggenheim forms a face if you look at it from above, all the way up the ramps she made history skating. 

Flaunt attended said party and was lucky to speak to Sablone about her iconic shoe, the installation, and working with Converse.  

How did the idea of creating a face that you can skateboard on come about? 

As I was describing my design process, and how there are these things that you keep coming back to. The face was the first skateable sculpture I built and I think skateboarding places certain demands on the design, in order to be a certain amount of skateable. But outside of that, I was reaching for a concept that could be any shape, and I just kept returning to this idea of a face. I couldn’t decide if I loved it or hated it, but I just kept coming back to it. And it gave me a lot of structure to work within, cause I had to adhere enough to resemble something, but within that, I could do anything. Conceptually, the idea of this lady in the square, that presence, especially, in skateboarding, that’s very male-dominated. Her being there felt like it told a story that I really liked. 

How do you feel getting this recognition in a very much male-dominated sport?

There are definitely more and more non-male skaters now, but I think that I am from a time where I know what that was like. Now I know that is beginning to change a lot, but it is still male-dominated, there is still not enough representation happening. So for me, coming from that spot, I feel so lucky to be here. I definitely have a longer skate career, I am definitely not young, but I still have a lot more to give, and to be able to do that and also get recognition it’s something that I appreciate that much more, knowing that I didn’t get to see this growing up. And knowing that by having it, more people will see it, and expect to someday get it. For it to be a possibility. Looking back, in retrospect, the presence of other female skaters was very important to see for me while growing up. 

Did you skate competitively through school?

I started doing competitions between undergrad and grad school. Because I got out of undergrad and had no money and I didn’t want a real job yet. I’ve always been skating but it has taken off various forms. Sometimes I was filming videos and doing contests, and sometimes I was just skating alone and for fun. But it was always a constant. 

One thing you said during the panel was that, while skating, a lot of what you do is look for places that can become ramps. Do you think that thinking that way influenced you wanting to become a designer? 

I think it’s a chicken or the egg thing. I don’t know if skateboarding cultivated that in me, or if that desire to create something that wasn’t there and break some rules was something that I already had in me and was looking for an outlet for, and I found it in skateboarding, and also found it in design. But there is definitely a connection between the two. As a designer, you are trying to come up with something original, and for a specific space, but you have to be able to imagine something that isn’t there. As a skateboarder you are taking the pieces that exist around you but reimagining something entirely different there. Both those processes are very similar. Skateboarding is also highly specific, the way you have to move, you have to plan ten steps ahead. It’s kind of a choreography - there’s this crack, and then I have to swerve around that, and jump here. It’s different than drawing something on paper, but that level of specificity and attention to detail is in both worlds. There’s definitely an overlap there. 

You have been working with Converse for a while now, how has that experience been? 

It’s been a few years now that I have worked with Converse, and the team manager is one of my best friends. For years before I started skating for them, he would ask me to skate for them, and when it finally happened, having him there as a friend was a special thing. But now, throughout the trips we take, we’ve become a family of sorts. I love the Converse skate program, and the fact that through Converse I’ve been able to do all this. Not only are they giving me a shoe but they are letting me design it. And didn’t try to change it. I actually like the shoe. And even the space here, it was going to be something completely different, and I pushed and they let me. They really have been willing to work with me and make so much happen for me. I am really grateful. 

Tell us about the actual shoe. 

There are two sides to it. Obviously, in skateboarding your shoe is a tool, it’s the point of contact between you and the board, so there are all these functional requirements. I wanted it to be a certain amount of grippy and I wanted the toe to be a certain amount of round versus pointy. And you spend a lot of time looking down at your shoe while you are skating, so if you don’t like what you are looking down at, you don’t feel comfortable and cool. So there’s function and aesthetics. And in terms of the aesthetics, I wanted something that was versatile. It’s influenced by 90s skate, which is the era I grew up skating in, and I am really nostalgic about, and love all the skating that came out of that time. And then the 80s/90s basketball shoes. To me, it was like how can I marry the things I like about each, so that one expression of the shoe - a certain colorway - feels like the classic 90s skate shoe, but then in another colorway - a white leather - feels more clean and like basketball. The shoe can have these different looks, and it really is something you don’t want to take off your shoe after you are done skating. You can wear it around. And I’ve been wearing it around. 

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Converse, Alexis Sablone, Guggenheim Museum, Jeremy Elkin, Constanza Falco Raez