A 22-year-old designer’s viral TikTok post has Converse playing defense.
On May 21, Cecilia Monge posted a short video calling out the similarities between designs she sent to Converse in an intern application and the sneakers the brand would then release as part of a National Parks-themed collection of Chuck 70s.
In the week and a half since Monge first posted, the designer’s video has racked up more than 17 million views and 5 million likes. Two follow-up posts have been viewed 2.2 million times and 321,800 times. A Diet Prada Instagram post detailing Monge’s story garnered more than 278,000 likes.
Monge’s original video highlights the similarities between two designs she sent to Converse in 2019 when applying for a design internship and two “National Parks” shoes since released by the Nike-owned brand. “I got really excited about it, [I] really wanted the internship, so I went above and beyond and kind of made a pitch slide deck within my portfolio that I sent them for the application,” she said.
Monge immediately noted the stylistic similarities between her Grand Canyon-inspired design and the red, yellow, grey and orange Chuck 70 colorway released by Converse. Both feature a striped design, as well as several of the same rocky hues. “It is essentially the same,” Monge claimed.
Converse, however, asserts its National Parks concept was conceived before it received Monge’s application. In a comment on Diet Prada’s Instagram post, it said it concepted the striped design—inspired by the map patterns of nor’easter storms—in November 2018 and designed it in April 2019. Given its popularity, Converse said it continued the design this year, with national parks serving as the inspiration for the new styles’ color palettes.
“Converse’s product and design team is made up of nearly 150 individuals across the globe who manage our creative process, season in and season out,” the brand said in a statement. “As a matter of standard legal policy, we do not share unsolicited portfolios of job applicants across the business.”
Monge also noted the similarities between the color palettes she created for another of her shoes and one of the designs in Converse’s National Parks collection. Though hers no longer featured the striped pattern seen in each of Converse’s shoes, it appears to use a strikingly similar arrangement of hues. Additionally, a design outside of the National Parks collection does appear to use the same arrangement of colors as well as a similar wavy, organic pattern.
“The color palette is exactly the same to the one I sent them, down to the order of the colors and the actual hues of the colors,” Monge said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence and it’s kind of just unfortunate when larger companies ‘borrow’ from smaller designers.”
The similarities, it is worth noting, could possibly be explained by a similar inspiration. Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring represents one of the park’s most famous landmarks and its coloring—seen on both Monge’s and Converse’s shoe—is iconic.
Social media users have been broadly supportive of Monge’s cause, with comments like “Do better @converse and PAY UP” and “@converse why are you stealing from young professionals and also not even hiring them?” receiving hundreds of thousands of likes. Smaller numbers have encouraged Monge and others to act against Converse. “Pursue legal action. Consult a lawyer,” read one comment that received 18,400 likes. “Boycott converse,” wrote another user.
Converse is not the only shoe brand to use the country’s national parks as inspiration. After partnering with the National Park Foundation last year to release a Joshua Tree-inspired sneaker for its A-ZX series, Adidas recently revealed it plans to release sneakers inspired by Yellowstone, Glacier and Crater Lake National Parks. Its Yellowstone shoe, it should be noted, features a vastly different color scheme compared to Converse and Monge’s, with brown hues dominating. Oranges, yellows and blues also appear.
Brooks Running released a limited-edition national parks collection in 2017. Its Yellowstone-inspired sneaker also makes use of blues, yellows and orange, but otherwise bears little resemblance to Converse and Monge’s designs.