We were invited out to New York this weekend by Converse for the launch of Sage Elsesser’s new One Star CC. We touched base with Sage the day after his shoe release party to put together this exclusive interview and he invited us out to his home in Brooklyn. We visited a local store to pick up some patties then headed on up to the roof…
Did you have a good time last night?
Yeah it was pretty cool. It felt like a good outcome and all of my friends were there.
It must be a trip now that you and all of your friends have shoes and boards out there. Does it ever feel surreal?
Definitely, over just like four years it feels like all of my friends and I have a board and shoes. Especially because we all grew up skating together so it’s like our dream. Literally a dream come true situation.
What is the story behind your shoe, how did it come about?
It really started when i saw that they have their own Converse in Japan, the logo was still that old box logo. I think Converse is owned by somebody different out there. They do vintage One Stars and they still sell them and I thought that was really cool. You go into a regular shoe store and you can still get a vintage looking One Star. Then I found those other ones in a shop for like $500. I was like “What’s the deal with these?” They were dead stock shoes and you couldn’t even really wear them, they’d probably fall apart. I just took a few photos and sent them to Adam at Converse. Then I guess a few months went by and I found a pair in the archive because I didn’t buy them, they were too expensive. From there we did our little re-construction of it.
What struck you about them first of all?
I was always really jealous of people who skated for adidas because I thought it would be cool to wear something like a Stan Smith, a really basic simple shoe. It feels like a Chuck Taylor is that shoe but it’s not for me. I felt like Converse didn’t really have that shoe. Almost every company has that shoe right now, that sleek kind of tennis shoe. I thought that was really important especially for Converse, such a classic company. It makes sense to do a shoe from the seventies.
Would a regular One Star have been a choice for you?
Probably not because of the shape. The things we worked on specifically with this shoe was making something narrow. Something that when you look down looks like a loafer that doesn’t blow out.
What bands inspired the artwork tongue and the insole. Was it Depeche Mode on the tongue?
Yeah yeah and the rose I had on my last shoe so I kind of saw it as my symbol. Then with Dylan passing and that being his emblem I thought it worked out perfectly.
Where does the imagery on the insole come from?
It’s from a Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack record that I really like. It’s got all these handprints on the front cover. I just took a little section that I liked.
Can you recommend a band, a film and a book that will enrich everyones life?
Band? I would say listening to Nina Simone for sure. Her band, all of their live sets are heavy heavy shit. Movie? Probably La Haine, that’s a heavy one I feel that people should see because it covers all bases. Book? Probably ‘The Prophet’. Kahlil Gibran’s poems, it has little art pieces within the book which are pretty cool.
Who did you look up to when you first started out?
When I first started skating I think I just looked up to the black Pros. That’s who I had to look up to. There were certain other skateboarders who were good. I was talking to someone else about this, if you were playing Tony Hawk and you were black then you picked Kareem Campbell, that’s just how it was. Seeing people like Antwuan in Baker 3, I’m young you know so TK. I grew up on the Ice cream video so Kevin Booker. I used to watch that part every day in the Ice Cream video. I would say though when it became serious Dill was my biggest inspiration. He was really hard on us but it was like you’re Dill, you know what’s up. He really showed me the way. Whether it was my board set up, he told me I needed 149 trucks, you don’t need to be riding these small trucks. Little things like that. He taught me little things, how to tie your shoes.
How is it having Dill as a boss as it were?
It’s not like having a boss. He’s like my mentor. We have a really special relationship. Everyone kind of has a relationship with Dill but we have a really profound connection.
Do you remember the first time you saw skateboarding in real life?
Yeah, I didn’t see it happening I just saw a photo of a kid on a skateboard and i was like, I want that. Then I saw a demo. Element came to this camp I was at in the Summer time. There were a a load of ramps in the back and Colin Provost was there and he was really young and I thought that was really cool because he was a kid. So I started skating for real because I was like, I can actually do something with this.
Was it easy growing up as a skateboarder or did you get shit for it?
It was like my pass because the area I grew up in is a weird middle ground. It’s not necessarily the hood but it’s not the safest place. It’s just really the middle ground. There’s a place called Midtown in a place I grew up in Mid-City. I used to go and skate around there, I’d skate this place called World On Wheels which was like a hood spot, a roller rink. There always used to be crazy shit going on, people getting shot but it was like my pass, Im a skateboarder you know. I never got shitted on, like that’s a white boys sport. They were always supportive, everybody. That’s the good thing about LA, people are cool like that.
Have you finished studying now or are you continuing?
Yeah i’m still going. I’m in the first semester still
You’re studying fine art?
If you hadn’t started skateboarding where do you think life would find you?
Probably playing sports you know. Playing soccer or basketball. I think I could have gone to college for it if I had stuck with it for sure.
You moved from LA to New York for school. What was the first thing about this city you fell in love with?
I guess the coolest thing was how small it is and how easy it is to get around. It was just different to LA. It’s the closest thing to Europe in the states. I always think about Paris, Alain Street has that median strip that goes all the way down. It’s so Parisian you know.
Do you think of New York as home?
For sure, definitely down the line I will see it as home. I’ve only lived here for six years. LA is home regardless because I’m born and raised. New York is a lot different for sure. I’ve had many homes here and have definitely lived here and experienced different things and grown a lot. I went through my whole teenage years out here so it’s a special place for sure.
I don’t want to talk about this too much but Trump being elected. Has it impacted your life in any way? Can you see any positives coming from it, that it has galvanised people into becoming more politically aware and active?
It just goes to show where we are as humans and it’s fucked. It’s kind of frustrating to see that it takes something like this for people to wake up because shit has been fucked up. There is so much more going on in the world. I just think that hopefully he will get impeached and have to deal with it because it’s bullshit.
Who are your favourite people to shoot photos with and film with and why?
I like to film with pretty much everyone I film with. Bill, Logan, Johnny, Cody Green sometimes in LA, Benny who films for FA and Hockey. Photographers I would have to say I really like to skate with Ben Colen, Jared Sherbert. I just like skating mainly with photographers who are like my friends. It’s always cool because it doesn’t feel weird. They kind of know who you are so they won’t put a flash in a certain place, they just know you so it’s easy.
What’s the best and worst thing about skateboarding in New York?
The best thing would have to be just the feeling of skating around here, it’s one of a kind. The worst thing would have to be the weather, it’s fucked during the winter.
Where’s a destination you haven’t visited you would like to?
I would like to go to Switzerland because my grandfather is Swiss on my dad’s side and I have a citizenship there so I would like to visit and see what the deal is out there, I heard it’s pretty cool.
Who is your go to skate crew nowadays?
Same crew, FA, Supreme. I’ve actually been skating with whoever wants to skate at the moment. People I enjoy skating with who are just having fun. I’ve been doing that a lot, just going to skate parks with people, not trying to like practise, just we’re having fun.
What’s the go to skate spot?
Probably just LES, that’s the easiest one or Tompkins but weather fucks things up. I haven’t been to the new one around the corner.
What’s the weirdest thing you have seen out here on the streets?
Oh man, I’ve seen some weird shit. The thing is, it’s not necessarily that it’s weird but I have seen a few overdoses. I’ve seen crazed homeless people with open wounds, that kind of stuff. That’s the most common but it definitely sticks with you, it’s gnarly.
What can we expect next from FA, have you guys been filming?
We’re filming a Supreme video but hopefully an FA will be in the works because that is what I really want to see and be a part of.
Do you and the FA team get a lot of opportunities to skate together?
Yeah I skate with Dill so it’s fun, we’ll skate flat ground or something. AVE is always out in the streets, when you go out with him you’re fucking doing it you know. He’s also fun though, sometimes you can just skate a curb with him. Gino I have skated with two times but he’s Gino, the elusive Gino. He does what Gino does.
When you think of London who do you think of?
When I think of London I think of my dad, my grandma, my brother. I have roots out there on my dads side, they kind of settled there. I think of all my other friends I have out there from Supreme like Jagger and those guys.
Will you be visiting us soon?
Hopefully, I would love to get back out there. When it’s nice out there, when the sun is out a little bit.
Any last words?
Keep on rocking in the free world…
Two days after Sage’s One Star CC release and they have almost sold out. We are set to receive new One Star CC’s in March. Until then you can shop for Converse HERE
Portrait and interview by Jacob Sawyer