How do you preserve historical visual culture in an endless sea of new imagery? How can you interest newer generations in older design? Italian designer Gianluca Gimini believes the solution is footwear. Yes, you read that right: Gimini's project Sneakered is an effort to preserve and promote Italian designs by transposing vintage product packaging onto contemporary shoes.
Nike Roshe Run sneakers become Pino Silvestre Roshe Runs, a male-targeted shampoo and perfume in a pinecone shaped bottle. Nike Uptempos become PIP Uptempos, a brand of licorice designed to mask smoker's breath. A plethora of other shoe designs by the likes of Maison Margiela, Lacoste, and Adidas gain Tassani citrus soda, Cynar artichoke liquor, and Cielo Alto hair spray editions, precisely detailed to the point of looking like official, high quality commissions from these brands, which they surprisingly are not.
In fact, the shoes themselves don't actually exist, due to a plethora of potential copyright infringement issues that could arise from both the appropriated product designs and shoe models. But although they exist solely in a 2D plane, Gimini (who is a product design and communications professor) has been successful in his attempt to connect younger audiences with vintage design through his project.
"I have found that sneakers are a much stronger point of contact with my younger students than most other topics. I get the feeling that my students are much more involved because they have a personal interest in the subject matter we are discussing," Gimini tells Creators. "This gives me the opportunity to talk in class about these brands' product and communication strategies."
But beyond his class, the designer hopes to conserve these fragments of visual culture as they start to fade away: "It's undoubtedly about preserving a cultural memory in a nostalgic and patriotic way. I am a son of the 80s and consumerism, and the TV ads of my childhood are clearly bearing fruit," explains Gimini. "I am also a millennial who graduated from university in 2008, the year in which the economic crisis began to hit Europe hard, and I've seen 25% of Italian companies close down or be sold to foreign investors over the past 10 years."
However, the designs utilized in Sneakered aren't exclusively from companies that are going under. The project has a highly personal aspect to it, with Gimini looking to preserve and perpetuate memories of his own youth, and by proxy, his generation's youth in Italy. Each shoe adaptation comes with a small excerpt by the designer explaining both the cultural and personal significance of each product, an element of contextual information that elevates Sneakered from a fun but mildly frivolous project to a poignant exploration of collective cultural exploration through footwear.