by Jennifer Whitehead Brand Republic 18-Mar-08, 09:00
LONDON – Sneaker brand Converse is courting more controversy over its use of dead celebrities to promote its shoes, by releasing a limited-edition boot with a design incorporating writing from Kurt Cobain’s diary.
Converse released news of the Kurt Cobain trainers to the fan website nirvanaclub.com. The website says: “To honour Cobain, in May, Converse will debut their Kurt Cobain collection of shoes featuring artwork and scribbles borrowed from Cobain’s personal notebooks. It will mark a central part of the yearlong 100th Anniversary ‘Welcome to the Converse Century’ celebration.”
Converse, which was bought by Nike in 2003, is using a raft of celebrities for the anniversary campaign. Among the living stars are rockers Joan Jett and Karen O, the journalist Jefferson Hack and rapper Common.
It is also using many dead celebrities including writer and journalist Hunter S Thompson and Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, who both committed suicide, and Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, who died of a heroin overdose while on bail charged stabbing his girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death. He also, famously, could not play the bass.
The campaign has been received with some ire in the blogosphere, with punk fans enraged at the commercial endorsement and others calling such campaigns tasteless.
Images of Cobain and Vicious have previously been used in a poster campaign for Dr Martens, but because they were also dead when that campaign ran it is impossible to know which shoe brand they actually want their fans to buy and wear. After the Dr Martens campaign ran into controversy, brand owner Airwair apologised and said it had parted ways with the agency behind the campaign, Saatchi & Saatchi.
Converse shoes were originally designed for playing basketball, but have since become part of the hipster uniform. The company suffered from the trend in the 1980s and 1990s for more “hi-tech” trainers designed by the likes of Nike and Adidas, and filed for bankruptcy in 2001. It was bought by private investors who set about transforming the company before selling it on to Nike.