Martine Ali’s jewellery knows no bounds. Infused with energy, subversion and a clear attention to detail, the jewellery designer and creative has been making waves in the scene for quite some time now – a notion that undoubtedly helped when Converse came calling for a new project.
Collaborating with designers of all disciplines, the iconic footwear brand has linked up with Martine Ali to rework the Chuck 70 De Luxe Wedge. We see Ali’s signature chain motifs carry through to the shoe design, as well as reworked colourways, heights and textures from the collab.
We caught up with Ali to talk through all things Chuck De Luxe, her creative process, and what she wants people to take away from the project.
Take us through your journey – how did you get started in jewelry design?
Journey began in New York for sure, but I always knew I wanted to live in New York and be a designer from when I was a really little kid. I had a babysitter who kept me busy with craft projects, and once we got into making jewelry it was a wrap. I found my calling, and my mom put me in business selling my beaded necklaces to her friends and women in the neighborhood. We used to have trunk shows at our dining room table and grown women would literally argue over my one-of-a-kind necklaces.
I moved to NYC for college and got an internship at DKNY. Soon enough I was designing jewelry for their runway shows at New York Fashion Week, and then eventually left to work on my own brand.
Starting any own brand was really about creating my own space in the industry. I have a small team now that has been both chosen family and a gang of muses. I like to look at design as an artistic practice. Our lives really do inform the art and the art informs life. We are making pieces that we want to wear and that function for us.
What’s your creative process like – how do you get from conception to construction?
I lean very heavily into my lifestyle and experience. Details that are in plain sight become inspiration, and things that go unnoticed around me become materials. I’m very heavily influenced by things in my physical reality so that is where I start. It’s almost like a curation of all these little bits and bobs and I’m crafting them onto a specific story for a particular design. Much of this work is an exploration, and through this process I try to embrace where this takes me.
What does disruption mean to you?
It means to have the awareness and desire to chart your own course. It’s important to question what’s before us and decide if that is in fact the right way for us to go. We are living in a time where we all actually have so much power to redefine these constructs we are faced with. To be disruptive really means to be empowered.
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you, or your work?
I think people are surprised by how goofy and light I am. My work tends to have this subversive edge so I think, personally, I surprise people. Also, I’m petite, people always comment on my height often. Big person big ideas…tiny body.
Talk us through your link up with Converse – how do your brands align, and what drew you to this project?
I connected with Converse because I wanted to make a sneaker heel and we met in the middle with a wedge. I’m very drawn to them as a brand because their DNA is so solid and you know Converse when you see it. It means something, and this is very important to me and my brand. I want people to feel all these things when they see my work.
What does self-expression mean to you?
Self-expression is about exploration, it’s about wearing your mood on your sleeve, or on your feet. It’s also about having fun.
What’s one thing you want people to take away from this project?
I want people to wear something weird with these shoes, or maybe wear something extremely formal and give it that unexpected twist with the wedge. I want them to feel free to explore themselves.
Who are some of your cultural icons?
Anyone or anything on MTV between 1995-2005. Gwen Stefani, the cast of Clueless, Pam Anderson, TLC, DMX, Sisqo with his long belly chain. That was truly the holy grail for me of all iconography.
What’s your favorite aspect of the Converse Chuck 70 De Luxe Wedge? Why?
It has to be the detachable gaiter. It’s like a day to night, this look to that look piece that gives you so many wearing options.
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