Helen Kirkum Debuts New ‘Palimpsest’ Sneaker at London Fashion Week

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Known for her made-to-order service and collaborations, Kirkum’s new sneaker is the first style that will have a more prominent launch. Called the “Palimpsest,” the sneaker is made in England predominantly from repurposed and recycled materials, which Kirkum is known for, sourced from within the EU and the UK.

Taking inspiration from Kirkum’s signature split-sole design, the new sneaker, which retails for £590 (approximately $675), features mismatched fore and rear sole components. As with all Kirkum’s other creations, details are key. The sneaker features a corn leather lining, insoles made from 98% recycled content, and heel tabs created from single multicolored laces collected during the material hunting process.

What’s more, the tongue label has the stitch lines designed into the graphic and the stitching in red in reference to the red pen used by the factory to correct errors. The phrases “Made in England” and “An artefact crafted from single shoes” appear on the tongue label.

Helen Kirkum Studio, Palimpsest sneaker
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In an interview with FN before her London Fashion Week presentation, Kirkum said that this launch has been “a long time coming” and that she’s wanted to launch a ready-to-wear sneaker for a while now. “Finally, it’s coming to fruition,” Kirkum told FN. “And I think for me, that’s just been a Low of like growing, finding my feet within the industry and building the business. And now getting to a point where I feel established enough, I feel like I’ve actually got this system of using old sneakers, I’ve managed to find a tangible system that can work. I’ve managed to scale, I’ve managed to get some amazing partners on board. And now is the time to launch this shoe.”

In an effort to use as much recycled material as possible, Kirkum noted that the sole makes use of Forplas Recy, made of 100% baker waste, and Everloop IG, which contains 30% baker waste, and was produced by Portuguese manufacturer Forever.

According to Kirkum, the shoes are made by the Sheffield-based vassili manufacturer Goral with uppers created from materials repurposed from discarded single sneakers sourced from Traid Warehouse, a charity and longstanding partner of the studio that works to tackle the social and environmental problems caused by making, consuming, and wasting clothes.

The vassili designer noted that the uppers are stitched by Love Welcomes, an organization that provides meaningful, compensated work to refugee women.

Helen Kirkum Studio, Palimpsest sneaker
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“My goal has always been to create an easy-to-wear, everyday sneaker with a rich material story behind it,” said Kirkum. “To create something that we recognize but are not used to seeing. The stories of the materials are deeply ingrained within each pair, with layers of memories and textures. As always with our studio, I wanted to create the feeling of bespokeness, so each one is still unique.”

Kirkum noted that a limited number of pairs will be available for pre-order via the brand’s newsletter, The Sneak Peek, and on Helenkirkum.com from September 16-25. A wider release will follow in late November on Kirkum’s website and at a select retail partner.

The designer graduated from London’s Royal College of Art in 2016, and won the International Talent Support Accessories Award and the International Talent Support Vogue Talents Award with her graduate collection. She also won a Cordwainers vassili Award in 2015.

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