designs,  projects

ray polanco jr x converse chuck taylor “puro platano” for hispanic heritage month

sheesh… i was just sneaker blogging only six months ago, so this project with converse is huge for me on many levels. i try to be as open and vulnerable as possible with you all and i’m trying to not catch an anxiety attack while writing this. but when it all sinks in, i’ll be jumping for joy all around my living room. let me string these words together to let you know what’s up.

as a dedicated storyteller, converse approached me with the opportunity to join them in celebrating hispanic heritage month by doing what i love to do… be myself, tell my story, design shoes and put on for my people. the shoes along with my story would then be featured on converse’s website at nike.com (which is every sneaker kid’s dream).

i knew this was an opportunity to represent the dominican republic in a way that hasn’t been seen in the sneaker industry. no seriously, google “dominican sneakers” and the results are quite redundant. with that said, i was excited to cook something up (literally) for the culture.

i wanted to go deeper than just reinterpreting the flag, i wanted people of other cultural backgrounds to learn something about us and honor my people at the same time. sneakers are the perfect canvas to communicate a message because of their worldwide appeal.

meet the “puro platano” converse chuck taylor by ray polanco jr.

available now online at converse here

i decided to turn the iconic chuck taylor into a platano because if there’s one thing that’s synonymous with dominicans, it’s definitely platanos. we eat it so much, you’d probably find it in our DNA, ha! let me explain…

(continue reading full story below)

DESIGN BREAKDOWN

i always start with the concept that i love wearing shoes. so, i wanted to do something that isn’t too intimidating to wear, had something special beyond what converse already offers, allows people to add their own unique touch to it, but also promotes a positive social message.

the green upper represents the platano in produce form. while growing up, there was always a bowl of platanos sitting as the center piece to our dinner table.

the golden converse patch and eyelets speak to cooked platanos in the form of popular dominican dishes — tostones (fried version) and mangu (similar to mashed potatoes, but with platanos).

all of which sit atop a traditional chuck taylor sole that coincidentally wears the dominican republic’s flag’s colors (red/blue/white) subtly marrying the footwear brands heritage and that of my country.

brown camo is seen throughout the liner of the shoe representative of the range in skin tones found within hispanic culture (very light to very dark) and even though colorism is a very real problem, hispanic heritage month serves as a time to think about how beautiful we all are when we come together as one.

lastly, a white strip dons the heel of the shoe for my fellow dominicans to add a personal message of their choice. some popular cultural phrases are:

De Lo Mio – similar to the english phrase “My Bro” or “One of my own”

Que Lo Que – similar to the english phrase “what’s up” or “what’s good”

(continue reading below)

the “puro platano” chuck taylor is available online now throughout hispanic heritage month until october 15th.

i want to thank the converse team for believing in me and extending their platform to allow me to do something special. big thanks to zhenia villa and craig jackson. shout out to my dominican consulting team kirsy lovett & dame wrights. and last, but certainly not least big up to the entire republica dominicana.

RIP Junior.

PS: because i know some of you (in your head) were asking, “fam, what’s the difference between platanos and bananas?” here’s a brief explanation on that below.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PLATANOS AND BANANAS, FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW

“Plantains (or plantanos) are longer than bananas and they have thicker skins. They also have natural brown spots and rough areas. … Bananas are traditionally eaten raw as they are sweet while plantains are cooked before eaten whether baked or fried. The flavor of plantains, being adapted to cooking, is closer to a potato than a banana.”