Designer Profile: Casen Sullivan

'Chuck'Teryx' by Casen Sullivan. Reworked from a Vintage Arc'teryx Stingray curated by Terrane Shop
Casen Sullivan is one half All-American fable, one half Gen-Z superstar. Born and raised on the outskirts of Boston, the 24 year old grew up watching Tom Brady stockpile Super Bowl rings, Bam Margera stockpile concussions, and Lil B stockpile mixtapes on DatPiff (Casen’s Instagram handle is @thankyoucasegod). Describing himself as “too jock for the skaters” and “too skate for the jocks”, Casen attended Denison University on a football scholarship, earning a B.A in Fine and Studio Arts before returning to Boston as a Digital Designer for Converse. Collaborating on projects with the likes of Rick Ownes, Tyler, The Creator, and Virgil Abloh at his day job, ‘The Case God’ has planted himself at the junction of streetwear and art, reworking modern-Americana into Chuck Taylors.
'Back to School' Chuck 70 from a Patagonia Synchilla
“I’m just like everyone else under 30, skateboarding and Hip-Hop,” Casen remarks, detailing his first encounters with sneakers. ‘My dad brought me home a pair of Fire Red 3’s in elementary school, making me the flyest kid in elementary school. From then on, I always had an eye for sneakers, but P-Rod (Paul Rodriguez) engrained sneakers as an expression into me. Waiting every year for his next shoe, constantly rewatching Me, Myself, and I, P-Rod was like Jordan to me,” he recalls. “Seeing Muska and Wayne stunt the (Supra) Skytops was crazy too, the crossover between music and skating. Plus I was just as good of a skater as Lil Wayne at the time!”

 "Too skate for the jocks, too jock for the skaters"

From then on, sneakers and art became integrated into Casen’s life. Studying fine art, working with graphic design at Converse, and “aggressively trolling sneakerheads on Reddit” brought him a new perspective on sneakers. “I slowly began viewing sneakers as a design challenge,” Casen explains, “The first time I went to a product meeting at Converse, I instantly knew there was a way in which I could expand upon the Chuck.”

Casen’s voice eventually became heard, but not directly by his colleagues. At the start of the quarantine, he began sketching on Chuck Taylors and crafting the iconic ‘DM 4 CUSTOMS’ Air Force 1s, progressively getting more conceptual as time went on. “As I got more into ‘customizing’ sneakers, I began studying works by the likes of Nicole McLaughlin, Mini Swoosh, Brian Downey (@falconbowse), and @dimda_,” he details. “I see what they’re doing as a bridge between high fashion and studio art. Unconventional, but still able to perform their desired function.”

Chuck 70 x General Mills (Unofficial Collaboration)

Who want's some Annie's?

Rapidly, the young designer began developing his personal brand and cracking the Instagram algorithm. With a direct line to Chuck Taylor, Casen began reimagining the shoe, constructing the upper with consumer goods: toys, jackets, gambling paraphernalia, candy wrappers, safety equipment, and mac and cheese boxes. “I like crafting a shoe with items and materials most people wouldn't fathom putting on a shoe,” he explains. “I also like to bring a certain level of familiarity with my conceptual and material choices. Everyone has sipped a Capri Sun, shot a Nerf Gun, scratched a lotto ticket, and mucked a box of Annie’s White Cheddar at 3am. They’re quintessential American experiences.” 

"Art is created to make you feel something. Design is the intent to make you feel a certain type of way"

Though many may consider the works of Casen and his contemporaries a modern, social media centric art movement, Casen maintains a different stance, “What myself and others like me are doing isn’t necessarily art,” he declares. “I view myself as a designer more than an artist. Art is created to make you feel something. Design is the intent to make you feel a certain type of way. It has more purpose. I’m expanding upon the idea and function of a shoe, not giving it any sort of emotion.” 

'Chuck'Teryx' by Casen Sullivan

Whether you view the ‘Chuck’teryx’ as design or art, there is no dancing around the viral nature of the designer’s work. Custom sneakers, furniture, and countless other items sporting the global consumer’s favourite brands have flooded the Instagram explore feed and moodboards in recent years. “Obviously there is an aspect of virality with everything I make, I want my name to get out there!” proclaims Casen. “I want to be recognized for my designs. I want to expand my design career past graphics and into material goods.”

 
Casen in his 'workshop' 

“It’s not about the money either,” the designer states assertively, shifting focus towards the monetization of his work. “I don’t have any intent to sell custom Chuck Taylors at a mass scale. That would be looking too short term. I’m not going to box myself in creating countless variations of a single product. I’ll leave that to Mr. Koons and Kaws,” he laughs.

Chuck 70 from a Vintage North Face Polartech Fleece

“Me not selling my work also creates more demand for it. I have people hitting me up everyday. ‘Yo bro this shit is fresh how can I cop it?’ It’s reassuring to hear that kind feedback, but I’m playing the long game. Ya’ll want me to buy GameStop, but I’m just buying Index Funds,” Casen jokes as he scrolls through Reddit. 

Leather Punch, Converse, and more Converse

As Casen’s lunch date with his girlfriend approaches, he makes note of the bottom line of his work ‘At the end of the day, I’m just having fun. I’m super thankful to be in the position I am professionally. Hopefully these shoes will unlock more doors for me as a designer. If not, I got a bit of IG clout in the process,” he jokes as he brushes his ‘Bloody Gums’. “I’m nowhere near where I want to be yet, but it’s been incredible to see such a positive and organic response. It doesn't feel real sometimes. A kid hit me up today asking if he could work for me like an hour ago. Shit man, the little homie doesn’t know I still live at my parents house!” 

“I want to be recognized for my designs. I want to expand my design career past graphics and into material goods.”

Keep up to date with Casen and his latest work

Instagram

Website

Special thanks to Ty Urlich