Shoe Story

By Taylor Spill

When we think of different fabrics or materials to create something new, we might think of a handmade patchwork blanket. Every “patch” on the blanket made by a loved one was chosen for a reason. Although the pieces may be mismatched, they come together to create a colourful, vivacious patchwork blanket. Similarly, Helen Kirkum’s vision was to create a unique pair of trainers out of different pieces. Not only is Kirkum’s approach to creating shoes sustainable and leads to one-of-a-kind decorative patterns, but they are also a wearable and colorful addition to any outfit. Find out more in Shoe Story …

Helen Kirkum’s passion for trainers’ reconstruction began during her time at Northampton University. This is where she pursued an undergraduate degree in footwear design. During this time, she became interested in repurposing old trainers. She started by asking her friends if she could use their old shoes. Many of her friends were reluctant to let their old shoes go, due to the memories attached.

Eventually, Kirkum found the perfect solution to her lack of old shoes: the Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development (TRAID) warehouse. This Wembley-based organization helps to eliminate clothing waste and improve the conditions of the textile industry.

She took her interest and pursued an MA at the Royal College of Art. Her focus was creating shoes with old materials. Although she was not a strong artist, Kirkum eventually found the perfect technique to create her reconstructed footwear.

Take a shoe prototype, stick things together, and have patience. That is the process that Kirkum used. These trainers came to life through lots of effort, trial, and error. The result: an eclectic, yet visually appealing pair of shoes. A little while after she obtained her MA, she went on and founded Helen Kirkum Studios in 2019.

Focusing on the individual experience of the trainer, Helen Kirkum Studios creates unique and stylistic shoes using deadstock and recyclable materials. The brand focuses on three aspects in particular. Planet (substantiality), Play (spontaneous creativity), and Process (honouring the work that goes into the shoe).

Helen Kirkum Studios has already made an impact in its short time. The brand was one of the influences that made the hacked and deconstructed aesthetic popular. The aesthetic became popular both in the sustainable footwear movement, and the general footwear community. And in its growing popularity, she collaborated with a variety of shoe brands such as Nike, ASICS, Adidas, and Timberland.

What makes Kirkum’s spin on footwear so unique is the fact that from the beginning (collecting old trainers) to the end (selling the reconstructed trainer), there is a story in every shoe and every piece. Each piece of a Helen Kirkum creation once had a different function. They come together to tell the shoe story: from once upon a time to the end. And it is something that is visually unique, full of contrasting bits and pieces.

Perhaps one neon orange part of the shoe once belonged to a professional athlete, while another denim blue piece was from a favourite pair of shoes that a young child outgrew. The rubber sole belongs to a budding musician. The pale yellow shoelaces of an adolescent’s first name-brand trainers. Whatever the case is, our imagination can run wild at the sight of each unique shoe.

Kirkum’s vision of a shoe’s story was widely popular in the sneaker world and landed two distinct collaborative projects with ASICS. Trainers created using deadstock and consumer waste (such as recycled soles, repurposed laces, and torn-apart uppers) was created for the first collaboration. 

Naked Copenhagen (CPH), a website specializing in selling women’s footwear, sold the shoes from this collaboration on their website. The proceeds went to Right to Play, an international charity organization focusing on children’s mental health by encouraging the use of physical activity/sport as a healthy coping skill. Right To Play fit both the message of ASICS (A Sound Mind in a Sound Body) as well as Kirkum’s interest in the story of the individual and emotions associated with the shoe.

Helen Kirkum’s second collaboration with ASICS aimed to aid a similar organization, Young Minds, a British organization to ensure young children have the resources to take care of their mental health. It also coincided with Kirkum’s own project “Crafts for Minds” benefitting children’s mental health organizations. 

Footpatrol (a website specializing in selling shoes from sought-out releases) organized this collaboration to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Kirkum designed 20 different shoes with ASICS off-cuts, just like before, while also including a piece of the shoes from the previous collaboration on the ASICS logo.

The 20 shoes were raffled off at the Footpatrol Garage sale event. Each newfound owner of Helen Kirkum’s work gets to experience the fruits of her labour and imagine the story behind their pair of shoes. As well as they get to stand out with shoes resembling that patchwork art, with different colourful pieces.

Overall, Helen Kirkum is a unique take on both sustainability, as well as individuality. Each shoe combines the stories of many into one pair of shoes. Our shoes are something personal to us and stitching every part of us together is much like a patchwork blanket. These stories are manifested into a one-of-a-kind visual display, like a work of art.

To learn more about the Footpatrol x HELEN KIRKUM x ASICS collaboration click HERE

To check out HELEN KIRKUM click HERE or check out

If you enjoyed Shoe Story why not check out The New Era of Green Fashion

.Cent Magazine, London. Be Inspired; Get Involved.

Verified by MonsterInsights