On Wednesday,schuhHQ opened its doors to the BRICKS team and community members for an uplifting footwear upcycling workshop with the renowned London-based design team from Helen Kirkum Studio.
Helen Kirkum is a London-based artist and designer who is widely considered a pioneer of the hacked and deconstructed aesthetic within the sneaker industry and in the vanguard of the sustainable footwear movement. Each pair of sneakers she makes is unique, weaving together the memories of the components that make it and allowing the owner to own something inherently personal and one-of-a-kind.
Helen Kirkum Studio celebrates the processes of wearing and making in all of its designs, utilising recycled and dead stock materials to create artisanal & authentic pieces. She champions design through making, celebrating the nuances of the handmade and the systems of production.
Always on the pulse of positive and forward-thinking progress in the footwear scene, fashion footwear retailer schuh launched the Sell Your Soles initiative in 2019, a scheme that allows customers to trade in their unwanted pairs of shoes in-store, supporting a circular economy in an effort to make the footwear industry more sustainable. The scheme works in collaboration with Recyclatex, the UK’s largest textile recycling company, to discard unworn shoes responsibly and ensure that approximately 98% of all donated shoes are reused. With the money raised through donating to Recyclatex, schuh works with dedicated charity partner, World Land Trust, to support its Plant A Tree programme. Since the scheme’s inception, schuh has donated 181 tonnes of end-of-life footwear to Recyclatex, which in turn has allowed the World Land Trust to plant over 19,297 trees via the programme.
For the workshop, the attendees were first invited to participate in a drawing exercise that eased any creative anxiety ahead of the sculpture workshop, drawing shoes with their non-dominant hand, with a continuous line and with their eyes closed.
“I always start by drawing first,” Helen told attendees during the workshop. “When we create shoes at the studio, we are collaging all of our materials together. We’re creating an organic collage and that’s what we can achieve with the sneaker sculptures too.”
Attendees spent the remainder of the workshop building a cardboard shoe structure to apply their collage made from scrap materials, donated schuh shoeboxes and BRICKS magazines. The shoes, pictured below, are sculptures that can be used as a recycled ornament at home, and serve as inspiration for creating your very own upcycled sneaker design.
The workshop supports BRICKS’ aim to champion emerging creatives within fashion and arts culture while publishing content that motivates and inspires its forward-thinking readers. BRICKS founder Tori West first began the magazine during her final year of university after realising fewer editorial opportunities for emerging queer and working-class creatives outside of London.
“I had such a great time at this workshop,” says Tori. “It was so good to have so many of our community in one room together having conscious conversations about the future of fashion and how we can all play a part in the industry’s sustainable future, especially while working on something practical and creative. Workshops like Helen’s remind us all that we all have the skills and tools necessary to be an active participant in the sustainability movement.”
You can purchase an at-home version of Helen’s workshop here and you can learn more about schuh’s Sell Your Soles initiative here.
Enjoyed this story? Help keep independent queer-led publishing alive and unlock the BRICKS WORLD Learner Platform, full of resources for emerging and aspiring creatives sent to you every week via newsletter. Start your 30-day free trial now.