Retrospection Leads to Inspiration: Three Decades of Cultural Appreciation with Converse

Retrospection Leads to Inspiration: Three Decades of Cultural Appreciation with Converse



Continuing a legacy borne of three decades of athletic and cultural relevance, the CONVERSE PRO LEATHER returns in premium form for a new era.

Ever since its debut back in 1976, the Pro Leather has maintained a solid presence within a wide range of cultural, sporting and leisure pursuits, from basketball courts and skateparks through to the block parties of hip-hop’s formative years. Utilising premium materials and enhanced with era-authentic detailing, the Pro Leather pays tribute to the past by cementing its place in the present.

We looked within London’s homegrown creative community to find three people who are making moves in the present day, but who remain inspired by the past decades.

Steven Julian


As a DJ and producer, Steven Julien – also known as FunkinEven – stands out as one of the most invigorating and captivating artists to come from London in recent years. In a world that’s keen to categorise everything, his music is often idly filed under the label of ‘electronic’. But if you truly listen to the genius contained within each track, you’ll soon hear that there’s a lot more going on… “I started off as a hip-hop dancer, before forming a group with my mates called The Dungeoneers. At that point I rapped, but I became more interested in making beats. So I got my first keyboard from a friend and bought my first drum machine and just  started making jams. I’ve still got that same drum machine now.”

Instead of taking the popular route of relying on software to create his music, Steven has amassed a vast array of classic analogue machines from the likes of icons such as Roland, Korg and Yamaha, many of which were involved in the creation of his last album, ‘Bloodline’ from 2018. At a time when almost anyone can learn how to use software in order to make music through online videos and extensive tutorials, getting to grips with individual pieces of vintage equipment seems like much more of a task and investment of time. But as a result, there’s a warmth here that is often lacking in modern music. Steven explains,”For me, creating music this way has much more feeling and working with physical machines definitely informs my creative process. The 1980s was an important era: most of the equipment I use today was first manufactured back in the ’80s.”.

If you listen to the debut album, ‘Fallen’ from 2016, it would be hard to deny the brilliance contained within: immersive, layered soundtracks which conjure up visions of neon lights and dark streets, with elements of funk, hip-hop, house and soul each playing a role. The combination of contemporary theming paired with an almost-vintage synthesized sound makes for unforgettable listening, and his music label, Apron Records, has already amassed an impressive discography of cross-genre masterpieces.

As the bassline rumbles on, it’s easy to hear decades of inspiration in the music, but the 1980s clearly seems to be more than just the birthdate of his studio equipment. Steven explains what family life back then was like, and how it remains to be a thread in what he does today. “Growing up as a kid in the ’80s definitely informed what I do now. Being around my parents and listening to their music… house parties… watching TV…  Everything from that era has been a massive part of my upbringing. It’s something that’s always there.”

Jyrrel Roberts


As an up-and-coming creative who can turn his hands to anything, Jyrrel represents London’s bustling undercurrent of young visionaries to a tee. Whether he’s modelling for your favourite streetwear brands, skating with his friends through the city or carefully casting a ring for his jewellery line, there’s no denying his talent and determination. London has always offered plenty of sources of inspiration to burgeoning creatives, and for Jyrell the motivation starts close to home.

“The ’90s was a key time for me. I would subconsciously absorb things I saw when I was out at galleries or looking at books, but it was various elements from my home life and upbringing that nurtured an understanding of style for me. Those early years provided me with many key moments of inspiration which have since influenced my life in a variety of ways.”

His selected mode of transport – the omnipresent skateboard – has been a constant presence throughout Jyrell’s life. “Skating has always been there, often providing me a welcome escape from everyday life. I remember watching my uncle skate when I was very young and from there I took things in my own direction. Those roots allowed me to develop a sense of expression that’s informed my projects ever since.”

One of Jyrrel’s artistic outlets comes in the form of his line of handmade jewellery – a skill that requires patience, meticulous craftsmanship and a healthy dose of vision. Anything and everything has the potential to inspire him when in the workshop. “Working on jewellery pieces is very much a gradual process and not something that I can actually plan or could work to a set routine. The initial inspiration for a ring, for example, could come from anything. Something that I see one day might not be a catalyst until months down the line when I’m sketching out some ideas.”

There’s no denying that London provides a rich, endless supply of material for the modern day hunter-gatherer. “I found an old metal radiator that had been dumped in the street the other day. I looked at it for a couple of minutes and quickly realised I could use it for… something! It could provide me with an idea or even just a chance to use the materials in my own pieces. As a result, I ended up walking around Shoreditch carrying this massive radiator for the rest of the day!”

Bwalya Newton


Anyone who’s had the opportunity to meet Bwalya Newton will tell you that her enthusiasm and passion is infectious. In fact, talking to her for any length of time is exhilarating, as she speaks and writes with warmth and wisdom that’s born from her rich, layered background and a desire to push beyond her comfort zone. And whilst her talents have manifested themselves across many different outlets, the Zambian-born, London-based writer and DJ is perhaps best known for her formation of the much-respected women’s basketball team, Hackney Gazelles.

Making the transition from Africa to the UK would be a courageous endeavour for anyone to undertake, but even at seven years old Bwalya was already well-equipped with her dextrous vocabulary, bolstored with a genuine love of talking to people. “I come from a family of diplomats, so education was always really important. My grandfather was a teacher and I spent a lot of time when I was young listening to him read to me. In Zambia, education never really stopped once you were outside the school environment: your freedom and your liberation was seen in education. When I came to London, it was a weird shift to see that education wasn’t at the forefront”.

Being placed in a potentially intimidating situation at such a young age perhaps contributed to her positive and bold use of language. “You have to be surefooted, because people are always going to question you. Previous to becoming a journalist, I studied law. I like talking to people and I think that’s what interested me about law – being able to have a persuasive argument or explain how someone feels in order to share them with the world. I know what it feels like to be excluded and so there’s something inside of me that wants to stop others feeling like that. I realised that I could that through journalism.”

With her creativity and words currently spanning the breadth of contemporary media, planning the next step is something that needs careful consideration. Would she ever want to run her own magazine? “I would love to have my own publication, but I don’t know if that’s needed in a world that’s already filled with so much content. Basketball is almost like another language, especially when you’re doing it within a London context instead of New York. You’re taking it away from its home, and so you have to redefine that within the confines of a colder city, where there are less courts and no asphalt Gods.”

With the Gazelles currently on hiatus due to COVID-19, whilst plans are formulated for the future, it gives us a chance to catch our breath and look back to the halcyon years that gave birth to Bwalya’s passion and motivations. The 2000s was a lively, exciting time with a lot going on. Making sense of everything and knowing where to look for inspiration is something that’s easier in hindsight perhaps?  “No one could have realised or predicted the hybridity of subcultures that we saw in the 2000s. You don’t think about things like that when you’re 14 years old and consuming all this stuff as part of the first Internet generation. If everything hadn’t been so fractured and multifaceted, I wouldn’t be the person I am now.”

The CONVERSE PRO LEATHER 80S, 90S and 00S each drop across this weekend: hit the banner below to check each respective model’s release information.

  Words by Chris Aylen at The Drop Date for Footpatrol

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