Converse’s All Stars programme is an engine for youth opportunity

The footwear giant is expanding its All Stars mentorship programme across the globe to guide young creatives in their careers.

It’s never been more difficult for young creatives to follow their chosen career paths. The pandemic hasn’t made an already tumultuous path any smoother, with limited budgets, fewer paid opportunities, and a rise in competition now common across every profession. It’s not all bad news however, as brands like Converse are working to get new talent noticed. The footwear company has just launched a campaign titled All Stars – named after its signature shoe – that will see its current mentorship programme updated and expanded.

CMO Jesse Stollak describes All Stars as ‘an engine for youth opportunity’ that’s designed to position young voices front and centre. ‘We know there’s massive inequalities in access to careers with creativity,’ she explains. ‘If we create new pipelines of experience, we can give creatives across all mediums opportunities to accelerate and amplify the impact they are trying to make for themselves and for their communities.’

Converse has in fact been heavily involved in expanding its grassroots global platform for over two years, sourcing 3,000 emerging frontrunners in a vast range of fields from sports to culture since 2018. During this period, the ­initiative has traversed 27 countries across the globe, from Lima to Los Angeles, as part of the brand’s goal to facilitate a capacity-building ecosystem that helps youths to thrive in art.

The brand’s latest campaign aims to democratise and add greater transparency to the programme. Inviting a maximum of 250 creatives to join over the next few months, each member will be given the chance to participate in upcoming All Star Series events which offer one-of-a-kind workshops, conversations, and performances facilitated by Converse’s expansive creative curriculum. It’s previously featured an impressive variety of top-tier talent including Virgil Abloh, Lay Zhang, Tobe Nwigwe, and Issa Rae.

To ensure that ideas behind the campaign extend beyond this autumn, a million-dollar accelerator programme will selectively fast-track thirteen ‘captains’ determined to represent the power of inclusive, diverse, and sustainable creative action.

‘We are investing this money to assist with the career progress of those working in areas where the world desperately needs leadership and higher standards,’ says Stollak. ‘At its core, All Stars uses commission and funding to provide access to real-world advice, build confidence and get valuable feedback on ideas.’

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“I want to see my life and the lives of my family and friends acknowledged, respected, and represented for what it is—a life that matters and is capable of joy,” says Ify White-Thorpe, a creative writer, social justice advocate and the current vice president for the Harvard student body.⁣⁠⠀ ⁣⁠⠀ For Ify, advocating for social justice is a “no days off” type of job. Whether it be through creative writing, political advocacy, or changing K-12 curriculum to incorporate Black history, she is committed to creating a more equitable society. With her creative writing, it’s important for her to highlight the diversity of the Black experience, something often omitted in the media representation of Blackness. ⁣⁠⠀ ⁣⁠⠀ “Knowledge did not start with you, and it cannot end with you. Always be willing to learn, teach others, and move forward. You can’t change the past, but you can absolutely determine the future.”⁣⁠⠀ ⁣⁠⠀ Check out our stories to get to know @ifewt, learn more about her commitment to progress, and see how she is partnering with Converse on this journey. #ConverseAllStars

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In order to get involved, aspiring participants must first submit a proposal to Converse that communicates their unique visions for a better world. Once the wheels are turning, 2021’s class of Captains will be granted a year’s worth of funding to bring these ideas to fruition. They will be directly responsible for maintaining the programme’s grassroots ethos, whether that means selecting future All Stars, ‘advising on experiences the community would best benefit from,’ or providing insight on Converse’s work itself.

This isn’t the first time a brand has adopted a grassroots approach to create organic growth through young consumers. We recently explored how companies like Adidas are beginning to optimise ‘dark social’ spaces online, using micro-influencers to spread brand awareness in positive ways to appeal to Gen Z.

Converse’s expanded All Stars mentorship programme is actively optimistic for the next generation of creatives and it leaves me feeling hopeful. If we continue to support and amplify young voices our future has the potential to be quite a bit brighter than our present. And our feet will still be looking fresh too, which is just as important.

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