“As a storyteller, I believe sneakers are the perfect canvas to communicate a message because we all wear some kind of footwear. Ray Polanco Jr.’s words, which he shares with Footwear News, perfectly capture his latest contribution pa’ la cultura.
In 2018, Polanco Jr. teamed up with Converse to create a shoe that celebrated the Dominican Republic in a not so clear-cut way. Rather than splash the flag atop the sneaker’s upper, he chose to highlight the plátano with a simple green on gold design.
Now, he’s collaborating with the brand again to make a shoe he calls, “a cultural coloring book for your feet.” In order to bring a much more intricate and uniquely appealing design to life, he tapped artist Eric Narváez, who drew tattoo-like illustrations of Dominican culture staples like plátanos and rolos from the hair salon in black ink over a white canvas. The Dominican social media influencer and creative consultant hopes to make this a collaborative experience with those who cop the sneakers. With blank graphics, it’s intended to serve as a canvas for you to fill in with your preferred palette and experiences. Each individual shoe is different in its layout, thus making them all the more special.
This should be well received by the public, but not all shoe collabs go as smoothly. Just a few months ago, Nike was forced to issue an apology for, and cancel the release of, its Puerto Rico-inspired Air Force 1s, which featured an Indigenous Panamanian design. In working directly with Latinxs for designs of this nature, brands can avoid offending communities and empower people within the group they are trying to highlight (and make money from) while they’re at it.
The Puro Platano 2 shoe will make its way to the Converse website and select locations on September 19.
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what a feeling… meet my new @converse the “puro plátano 2” — a cultural coloring book for your feet inspired by my experience growing up dominican in NYC. i want the world to get to know us beyond flag colors, so i designed a visual story of pride. i left the hand-drawn images blank so YOU can collab with me . the reality is us LatinX come in all colors, so i want u to make these ur own. • go cop my Puro Platano 2 or use the graphic & design ur own colorway, it drops 9/19 online at converse.com and in-store on 9/20 at Converse SoHo NYC + Boston LoveJoy. — shout out to uptown, to my family, to Eric Narváez for drawing my ideas, @jveloz, shouts to zhenia & thank u converse for letting a kid from the bronx do his thing #ConverseByYou
September 18 at 3:55 p.m. ET: This post has been updated. An earlier version misspelled Ray Polanco Jr’s name.