Best known for her powerful memories, know my name—which she wrote following the widely publicized trial of Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted her in 2016—Chanel Miller has also become known for his illustrations, fun travel selfies, and one-on-ones with big-name authors. Now, the writer and artist is expanding her fashionable CV by teaming up with women’s sneaker brand Rykä.
Rykä, which was founded in 1987 by sexual assault survivor Sheri Poe, was the first brand to manufacture sports shoes designed specifically for women’s feet (rather than just downsizing men’s shoes, which used to be the norm). The company prides itself on its meticulous research into the specific shape and muscle composition of the female foot.
Rykä continued to champion the needs of women, saying that women “deserve better shoes, better rights, a better world”. Now, in their campaign with Miller, they’re donating $25,000 of the proceeds to the Courage Museum of Futures Without Violence, a platform committed to ending gender-based violence.
The design itself features Miller’s original artwork (Miller’s art was critically acclaimed and Featured most recently at the Museum of Asian Art in San Francisco) and enhanced with her favorite color, “Cherry Blossom Pink”. In keeping with Miller’s reputation for bravery, the inside of the shoe reads: “Love is where courage is born.” It is a powerful woman’s mantra whose story alone has prompted California law changes and inspired countless survivors of sexual assault to speak out about their experiences.
In anticipation of the release of the aptly named “Courage Shoe” by Miller and Rykä, Marie Claire caught up with Miller to get his take on courage, womenswear and collaboration.
Marie Claire: I would like to know more about your collaboration with Rykä, in your own words, and how it went.
Chanel Miller: Rykä helped me design this shoe detail by detail and encouraged me to express what I wanted. I wanted my illustrated creatures to accompany the wearer. I wanted it accented with my favorite color, cherry blossom pink. Every suggestion has been heard and implemented. I am grateful to Rykä for keeping my voice at the center of the design, because before I would have said “that’s good enough” and now I know how to start my sentences with “I want”. The shoe really makes me feel like it’s for me and it’s empowering.
CM: In what ways does this collection seek to empower its customers?
CM: Whenever I feel overwhelmed, one of my grounding techniques is to plant both feet firmly on the pavement. I love that Rykä’s sneakers serve as a foundation for your body. Even if there is chaos in your mind, you can take a moment to feel solid wherever you are. In life, we tend to focus on big milestones and accomplishments, but I see life as a succession of small, mundane, happy, sad moments. Step by step, it’s the only way to go.
CM: What was it like applying your illustration skills to work in fashion? What was the most exciting part of the collection design process and what was the hardest?
CM: Lions are a symbol of courage. Courage is a term often associated with bravado and puffiness. The lion I created is very sweet and curious. I like that my lion lives on the shoe, accompanying you in your daily tasks. The lion will stay close during stressful times at work. The lion will be proud of you just for gathering the energy to walk around the block to buy eggs. The lion will appreciate the breeze during a light jog. The lion is just grateful to be a part of your daily life, good and bad.
CM: This collaboration is a great example of how fashion can be used to make a difference. What else can the fashion industry do to defend women?
CM: Rykä knew it wasn’t enough to just shrink a man’s athletic shoe and say “it’ll be fine”. You empower people when you give them choice and preference.
CM: You and the Rykä team have been very outspoken about women’s rights and the prevention of sexual assault. What was it like to connect under this common purpose for this project?
CM: Connecting with strong women is the only reason I’m here today, visible and healthy. I’m often asked about ‘resilience’ and sometimes wonder if people feel like it’s self-generated. Whenever I feel exhausted or have trouble finding my way, I turn to the women around me, my mother, my sister, my childhood friends, my editor, my lawyers, my team legal, my therapist. They take care of me and give me time to recharge my batteries. They remind me of who I am and what I have. This job is not to move forward on your own, but to remember that you have a community around you that is there to share your sorrows and your joys. Rykä has built a community that celebrates and centers the experiences of women, so when the opportunity presented itself to partner with them, I took it fully.
CM: Could you tell us more about Futures Without Violence and its Museum of Courage?
CM: When I think of spaces where gender-based violence and sexual assault are discussed, I think of courtrooms that can feel oppressive and intimidating. At the Musée du Courage, these issues will be highlighted in a nourishing, comforting and beautiful environment. It will be a shared experience, bearing witness to these subjects alongside others, which stands in direct contrast to the isolation survivors feel when seeking help on their own. The very existence of the Museum of Courage indicates that these subjects are not meant to be hidden, but something to be borne as a community. We each have a role to play in ending the violence, we just need to tap into the courage we already have.