Here’s What Happened At BRICKS & schuh’s Upcycling Workshop with Helen Kirkum

At the schuh HQ, fashion designer Helen Kirkum shared her upcycling techniques using recycled materials to create footwear model designs for the future.

SponsoredIn partnership with schuh

PHOTOGRAPHY Hidhir Badaruddin

On Wednesday, schuh HQ 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.

Helen Kirkum

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.

In line with BRICKS and Schuh’s goals to widen accessibility across the creative industry, the two joined forces to host Helen’s Sneaker Sculpture workshop with twelve BRICKS community members from across the industry, including fashion commentators Benji Parks and Chani Ra, content creators Jess Law, Maxine Williams and Bailie Jones, sustainability and disability & inclusion advisors Darwin Alford and Arooj Aftab, and business owners Women In Sneakers and Vintage Threads, to name a few.

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.

Arooj Aftab & Jess Law
Tori & Prada West

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

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