5 Minutes with John Colonna of Converse
Converse Essentials Collection, we sat down with Global Head of Apparel John Colonna to find out a bit more about the textile aspect of the brand, and take a closer look at how this recent collection was developed from start to finish. If you could introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role at Converse and your involvement in the apparel side of the brand. Name is John Colonna and my role is the GM/VP of Apparel and Accessories for Converse. I manage a team across the Product Management, Design, Development and Commercial functions of product. In the past I've worked at brands such as Levi's, Nike, Rusty and Burton. Where did the initial concept to create the Essentials collection come from? As the brand begins to evolve and drive a stronger connection with our consumer, it was obvious we had to reset our consumer experience in regards to apparel. The concept was quite simple, build high quality, well crafted product that will resonate with our consumer today and get better over time. Similar to the Chuck Taylor, the product is great from point of purchase throughout the life experiences of our consumer. We started off with fleece since this the soul of sportswear and very important for our direction moving forward. Do you find yourself working in a fairly organic/closed off manor when working on concepts for collections, or is apparel quite trend driven? It's actually a combination of both with focus on trend. We are a brand born in sport and adopted by the streets. Our consumers demand new and we deliver this through a combination of well crafted sportswear classics and relevant street styles to express our brands look. Could you explain to us a bit about the technical details behind some of the pieces. The product was obsessed... and obsessed again. The French Terry fabric was developed to deliver comfort from the start. As the product gets more wear, the consumer will experience how this product breaks-in, not breaks-down, over time. The fabric has been design to fade naturally within the color range with no shrinkage or change in fit. The fit and construction was created to work for a consumer who is on the move all day and all night. The 4 needles construction provides quality, comfort and a premium aesthetic. We use a high tensile strength polyester thread for increased quality. This also becomes an identifier for us as this thread does not fade overtime and maintains its strength. Trims have been elevated from the use of double headed YKK zippers on the full-zip to the rubber coated aglet's and eyelet's on our hoodies. Our hoods have a great fit and are one piece double layered French Terry for premium comfort and quality. As we continue to evolve this line, we continue to obsess all details of this product to ensure we keep up with the demands of our consumer. Do you have much of an archive to take inspiration from when working on new clothing? The footwear side is obviously very deep, but we’ve never really been privy to this other aspect of the brand. Surprisingly yes, Converse has been making Apparel and Accessories from the beginning. We had made some really solid product ranging from sportswear to technical outerwear in the past. We have an archivist, Sam Smallidge, that the design team works with on a seasonal basis from graphics concepts to product insights. There’s also a Fragment Design variation on the Essentials collection, were you fortunate enough to work alongside Hiroshi Fujiwara on this project? What’s he like to work with as a creative? I have been very fortunate to work with Hiroshi on projects in the past with both Burton and Nike. He's really amazing to collaborate with and we've always used him as a sounding board over the years. Hiroshi has a great eye, knows what he likes, what's right for the consumer and how to interpret that for the brand he is working with. He really helped build confidence in this program for myself and the team. When we met with him a year ago to discuss Converse and share some projects we were working on, he was happy with the Essentials Collection being built for the brand. He said the product was good, well crafted and has a great story. He asked how the consumer would be able to understand this from the beginning, as it's sometimes difficult to communicate the process. That's when Hiroshi came up with the concept to tell the "Better With Time" story through this collaboration. We were very happy with the execution and are looking forward to some future projects we've got planned in. What’s the general turnaround time from concept, to pattern, to production, to release when developing a collection like this? Are you having to work quite a way in advance? On a project like this, yes. This was something that truly brought all of our teams together to dial this in. Starting with a vision, to alignment of development and operations support, to design and execution of the product and the consumer experience. This is a new day for us. The beginning of something we plan to stand behind and build from. Are there design aspects or details from footwear that you find yourself carrying over into apparel design? They’re two very different products, but both need to compliment each other when being worn together. Small details were brought in such as the rubber coated eyelet's and aglet's to create a subtle connection. The real connection with footwear comes from our storytelling and how we define our look. We’ve seen a bit of a revival of the apparel side of Converse recently, can we expect to see a lot more product coming through in the future? Any interesting projects coming up that you won’t get in trouble for talking about?! Ha! We now have a very solid team in place so you can expect us to start making more noise. Moving forward you'll begin to see a stronger connection between product from Converse and a strong point of view on style. Our consumer is asking for more, our partners in the market place have been great supporters. The team and I are really excited about the future for Converse. The Converse Essentials Collection is available online now.