If there’s anyone in Chicago who understands the footwear industry, it’s the crew from longstanding lifestyle outfitter, Saint Alfred. Founded in 2005 — prior to the influx of boutiques to the landscape — Saint Alfred was created with the intention of combining the best brands and designers from around the world into a centralized location for its local sneakerheads and street-style aficionados. Playing a role in the commemoration of the Pro Leather model alongside Converse’s First String program, the brand chose a decidedly warm-weather-friendly iteration of the classic shoe. As any local or visitor to the Windy City knows, Chicago can be brutal when it comes to its frequent and incredibly cold weather. Sourcing military blankets, both executions are treated in an all-over wool upper and juxtaposed with hits of leather throughout to maintain relevance during the trying winters in the Chi. Building open the brick & mortar shop’s decidedly “old world” feel, the shoes also infuse elements of brogue leather accents throughout — a decision that not only augments the shoe’s aesthetic but also reflects the shop’s original ethos. We recently spoke with Saint Alfred General Manager, Frank DiGiovanni about the collaboration in which he shares a bit about the project.
The Saint Alfred for Converse First String Pro Leather will release on December 15, 2012.
Can you introduce yourself and role at Saint Alfred?
My name is Frank DiGiovanni and I have been at Saint Alfred for nearly five years. I am the General Manager/Store Manager of Saint Alfred. I assist with the buying, merchandising, design, concept development and handle day-to-day operations at the store.
What is it about the Pro Leather that you respect?
The Pro Leather is such an iconic silhouette. It is the signature shoe of one of the most exciting basketball players ever. Dr. J changed the dynamics of the way the game was played. The footage of him running a full-court fastbreak and dunking over people or the behind the backboard reverse lay-up was groundbreaking. His innovative play set the stage for the next generation of players to take that competitive mentality, the mix of power and finesse and evolve the nature of the game. Dr. J’s Converse Pro Leather shoe is a part of the foundation of the modern pro model sneaker industry.
How does this differ from any previous footwear projects you’ve done?
Having the opportunity to approach a classic and timeless silhouette was an honor. We wanted to preserve the basic elements of the sneaker, but retool it with functional and technical sensibilities built for us here in Chicago.
What was your theme for the design?
Chicago weather is so unpredictable, but one thing is certain: it always gets cold here. When a person’s foot is cold it affects the rest of their body. We sourced military issue blankets, took cues and applied it to the Pro Leather upper. The wool’s color palette on the two shoes works perfectly for fall/winter.
The brogue sensibilities are a nice touch, how does it all tie in with the sneaker aesthetic?
When the owners of KICKS/HI opened up Saint Alfred in Chicago they wanted the shop to have an “old world” feel. The interior of our shop is adorned with remnants of past industry in the city: salvaged trunks, glass display cases and pulley systems that help us display new/classic products. Applying this old-meets-new mentality to our Pro Leather, we added traditional brogue detail to the leather on the back heel. Brogue leather detail is actually functional and allows water to drain from the shoes if the wearer crosses wet terrains. Ultimately, we just enjoy the timeless footwear detail and applied it to a classic sneaker.