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London Artist Converts Discarded Reeboks Into Upcycled Sneakers

As footwear brands work to create shoes with recycled yarns and ground-up foam that look and perform like any other shoe, one designer is making her name leaning into the re-constructed, upcycled aesthetic.

Helen Kirkum is a London-based artist who handcrafts bespoke shoes from discarded sneakers and deadstock materials. She first collaborated with Reebok in 2019 as part of its Advanced Concepts program. Using disused samples of its Pump Fury, Runner 96, Opus 3D and Ventilator, she created 25 pairs of Sole Fury sneakers.

Now, two years later, she’s reuniting with Reebok to drop a similar, 20-piece capsule using the leftover materials from that initial collection. The Helen Kirkum x Reebok Advanced Concepts Zig, available exclusively in size 9 for 350 pounds ($493), will debut Thursday on the designer’s website.

Helen Kirkum used old Reebok sneakers to create a 20-pair run of upcycled Zig sneakers
Helen Kirkum used old Reebok sneakers to create a 20-pair run of upcycled Zig sneakers. Josh Greet

“The sneakers are a story not only through Reebok silhouettes but also of our journey so far with Reebok, and a history of our collaboration,” Kirkum said in a statement. “They carry memories of the previous collaboration whilst inviting you in to be a part of the next one, celebrating wearing and making in a playful way.”

Inspired by the Zig’s skeletal-like sole, Kirkum reimagined the upper as a cage, overlaying and overlapping materials so the lining was left exposed in parts, Reebok said. Each pair is unique, handcrafted by Kirkum in London with the pieces available and mounted on the sole at Reebok’s headquarters in Boston.

Helen Kirkum used old Reebok sneakers to create a 20-pair run of upcycled Zig sneakers
Helen Kirkum x Reebok Advanced Concepts Zig Josh Greet

A limited-edition catalogue created with London agency The Midnight Club accompanies each pair, as well as a hand-written note from Kirkum sharing personal insight into the making of that particular pair.

The collection arrives three months after a fellow Advanced Concepts alumnus debuted its own take on the Zig silhouette. Like Kirkum, the Korean fashion brand Kanghyuk used leftover material—in its case, old airbags—from its 2019 Sole Fury collection.

Earlier this month, Nike introduced its first performance shoe to be made of at least 25 percent recycled content by weight. Dubbed Cosmic Unity, the basketball sneaker updated the brand’s Crater Foam midsole, previously only seen in Nike’s lifestyle product. The new design employed smaller, confetti-size pieces of Nike Grind—recycled materials made from manufacturing scrap, unsellable products and worn-out sneakers—as well as a different molding process that further compressed the material.