Repair your old Chucks at Converse’s new Australian concept space

Words by Kate Streader

Renew Labs is encouraging customers to reuse, not replace.

On Earth Day 2021, Converse opened a virtual store on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to fund the removal of approximately 750,000 pieces of plastic from the ocean as part of its ongoing mission to shift to a more sustainable business model.

Dubbed ‘Renew Labs’, the currently-closed virtual store offered a range of limited-edition prototypes created using sustainable materials and low-waste techniques. It was all in the name of making enough money to shut the shop for good and, in effect, eradicate the floating garbage patch.

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Yesterday, in another global first and another leap towards the brand’s goal of a more sustainable and circular future, Converse opened a physical Renew Labs location inside its Smith Street outlet in Fitzroy, Melbourne.

Basically the antithesis of a store, Renew Labs is where customers can go to prolong the life of their well-loved shoes. It encourages people to renew, rethink, reuse and reimagine what’s already in their wardrobe, rather than seeking to replace items that no longer have that new shoe shine.

Think an innovative, modern-day cobbling service dedicated to un-teaching the attitudes that have stemmed from fast fashion and consumerism.

The space

Reflecting the creativity and ecologically-friendly ethos of Renew Labs, the space itself is brimming with innovative designs crafted using zero-waste methods.

From planters made using 100 per cent recycled post-consumer plastic waste, installed by Joshua Space, to a mix-medium feature wall by artist Callum Preston created with recycled and second-hand materials, everything inside the Renew Labs walls has been carefully chosen and consciously crafted.

Even the shoe display shelves are sustainable, developed by Melbourne-based social enterprise Precious Plastic who is pushing for a circular plastic economy through recycling traditionally non-recyclable products.

What they do

Renew Labs is centred around Converse’s Renew range, which recreates classic styles like the Chuck 70 and Chuck Taylor All Star using only recycled materials. Founded on a circular design principle, the idea is to extend the lifespan of each product and prompt customers to consider the ecological footprint of what they buy.

You’ll be able to take your Chucks to the lab where the experts can teach you to properly clean and mend your shoes, as well as breathing new life into old kicks with customisation methods that will result in a one-of-a-kind, spruced-up pair.

Renew Labs will also serve as a designated collection point for any pre-loved sports shoes that are beyond repair, ensuring they are recycled into products such as gym flooring through TreadLightly’s national recycling initiative, rather than spending the next 1000 or so years sitting in landfill.

More than just a store

A space for environmental specialists, game-changing creatives and consciously-minded consumers to come together, Renew Labs will host intimate workshops teaching customers to customise, clean and repair their Chucks.

Prior to opening its doors to the public, Renew Labs welcomed local artist Tamara Leacock for its first workshop focused on working with low-impact dye techniques – a central practice for Tamara’s ethical clothing brand Remuse Designs.

A limited-edition Chuck 70s and apparel collection showcasing Leacock’s custom indigo dye treatment can be found exclusively at Renew Labs.

In an effort to share knowledge and highlight local innovators, Converse will invite a range of forward-thinkers to lead workshops aimed at prolonging the life of your shoes, teaching exciting and ethical customisation techniques and more.

The ethos

It’s no secret that fast fashion is detrimental to the environment – the resources required for mass-production, the waste caused by consumerism and the lasting impact of creating products from unsustainable materials are all major contributors to climate change.

In a continued effort to stamp out both its waste and carbon footprint entirely, Converse is pushing the boundaries in a bid to find better ways of making shoes and extending their lifespan so they last longer in our wardrobes, not the tip.

Renew Labs is an experimental space aimed at trialling new ways of thinking and doing. There are few global brands that want you to treasure your past purchases for as long as possible instead of rolling with a perpetual release cycle, but we are on board with Converse’s mission to shift towards meaningful, mindful shopping that embraces longevity and sustainability.

Find out more about Converse Renew Labs here.

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