Helen Kirkum is a London-based artist and designer internationally renowned for leading the sustainable footwear movement and her devotion to artisanship. The Helen Kirkum Studio proudly revealed its first ready-to-wear sneaker, dubbed Palimpsest, during its London Fashion Week presentation.
Designed in London by the Helen Kirkum team and made by the Sheffield-based footwear manufacturer Goral, Palimpsest is an innovative and exciting launch that follows the studio's made-to-order spirit. With the release, Kirkum continues her endeavor to weave together repurposed materials that create new meaningful narratives in each sneaker.
Palimpsest, defined as "something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form," highly resonated with the designer's endless dedication to giving deadstock many more lives. Using discarded single sneakers sourced from Traid Warehouse, the sneaker uppers are created from repurposed materials and stitched by Love Welcomes – an organization that provides compensated work to refugee women.
Incorporating post-consumer waste, the ready-to-wear sneaker, assembled with repurposed and recycled materials sourced from the E.U. and the U.K., features a Forplas Recy sole made of 100% industrial waste and Everloop IG, which contains 30% industrial waste too. The sneaker also sports a Corn leather lining, insoles made from 98 per cent recycled content, and heel tabs created from single multicolored discarded laces.
Following the designer's deconstruction-reconstruction aesthetic, the tongue label has traditional stitch lines designed into the graphic and red stitching in reference to the red pen used by the factory to correct errors – the phrases "Made in England" and "An artefact crafted from single shoes" can also be read.
"My goal has always been to create an easy-to-wear, everyday sneaker with a rich material story behind it," shared Kirkum in an exclusive press release." To create something that we recognize but are not used to seeing. The stories of the materials are deeply ingrained within each pair, with layers of memories and textures. As always with our studio, I wanted to create the feeling of bespokeness, so each one is still unique."
In an interview with Hypebae during her London Fashion Week presentation, Kirkum mentioned that the studio had wanted to launch a ready-to-wear sneaker for a while and that now they have finally achieved a tangible system to create upcycled sneakers -- the "World is their oyster." The designer continued, "What is very special about every single pair is that each is different, even if they have the same silhouette, the right and left shoe have different special details."
A limited number of pairs, priced at £590 GPB (approximately $680 USD) are now available for pre-order via Helen Kirkum's website until September 25.
In case you missed it, check out Hypebae's guide to the most popular sneakers at NYFW SS23.