This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 9.2.
Many have wondered who’s the namesake behind CC’s Conversions, the manufacturer of creative custom armor pieces known for their brash embrace of pop culture and highly irreverent aesthetic. The company first made a name for itself by freely incorporating trademarked logos and likenesses into their modded armor. It earned fans and copyright lawsuits in equal measure, but fame and ultimately mainstream acceptance grew along with it. Despite this notoriety, the privately-owned company strove to keep its owners anonymous. First out of fear for legal repercussions and later as a ploy to lean into the growing mystery of who was the fabled CC.
Rumors about CC’s identity ranged from plausible to ridiculous. One of the more popular (and generally accepted) stories claimed CC to be the initials of the company’s secretive founder while others swore it to be the name of a designer’s daughter whose doodles atop his armor concepts inspired some of the company’s earliest designs. In 2948, Arbana Brumbaugh, a journalist from the Aremis Post convinced her editors to do a deep dive into the company’s origins, where she easily debunked the most common myths surrounding the company, but ultimately failed to identify the real CC. What began as a simple story turned into an obsession that Brumbaugh chronicled in her bestselling book Seeking CC. Thanks to her diligent and exhaustive investigation, Brumbaugh ultimately discovered that people had been asking the wrong question. Instead of asking “Who’s CC”, the question should’ve been “What is CC?”
The story of CC’s Conversions began in a small shop tucked down an alley in the east side industrial district of Fujin City. When opened in 2943, this shop was simply the public-facing facet as none of the company’s work was done on premises. Instead it operated as a small storefront that opened at odd and inconsistent hours to sell one-off artistic mods done to random armor pieces. CC’s stylish and subversive aesthetic quickly gained a cult following with fans staking out the shop at all hours and lighting up spectrum as soon as the signature CC’s sign switched on. In her investigation years later, Brumbaugh looked into anyone who had rented the storefront prior to CC’s and discovered one of the previous tenants to be a teacher at the Fujin City School for the Arts named Andilar Bree. Though the teacher had since passed, relatives recounted Bree’s close connection to a group of students who in 2941 collaborated on a school showcase called Killer Pop Culture featuring works aesthetically similar to CC’s Conversions earliest known items. Brumbaugh tracked down one of these former students, and after negotiating ground rules, he agreed to an interview.
The man, who called himself ‘Mendo’, explained that a collective of seven students started CC’s Conversions after art school. It was a loose organization where members individually worked on artistic mods of second-hand armor and helmets they salvaged from resale shops or scavyards. Initially the pieces were intended only for themselves to wear, but as requests from friends and acquaintances rolled in, the group soon began selling the armor. The true secret to their modding success was an advanced program created by a member who went by the name ‘Epoch.’ The software would take a scan of an item, like a helmet, and quickly enable the artist to previsualize styles, shapes, logos, and even likenesses pulled from a massive image database to prototype an idealized final product without wasting expensive materials. Epoch called his program Computational Crafting or CC for short. When the collective opened their storefront, it only felt appropriate to name their endeavor in CC’s honor.
Bree, who had been mentoring the students in her free time, offered up the shop as a way to sell their art. The group wanted potential buyers to focus on the pieces themselves rather than on who made them, and made a pact that their individual identities would all remain incognito. The added mystery would only further heighten the shop’s mystique. After opening, individual sales were decent but modest when a rare opportunity came along for the group to significantly scale their operations. A huge lot of RSI helmets was available for purchase after a local armor retailer went out of business. It would take almost all their combined profits to acquire them, but with that much stock they would be able to make hundreds of pieces rather than just the typical dozen or so. In the end, it was Mendo’s suggestion to mod them to look like the iconic cartoon character Rory Nova that convinced the group that the purchase would be worthwhile. It became CC’s Conversions first official line and it sold out fast.
The process proved so popular and profitable that the collective agreed to buy more refurbished or outdated armor wholesale and design lines around it. With this shift in strategy the collective stopped hand modifying armor and shuttered their storefront. Instead, members worked to find discounted armor, mechanize modding production, and find distributors while taking turns with being the artistic design lead. With each new line generating increased attention, the company was no longer an ignorable underground phenomenon. CC’s Conversions had become a success and a flurry of lawsuits over the use of trademarked images followed.
As independent artists, the collective had felt free to draw from any source that inspired them. But once the group began drawing media attention for their work, litigation threatened to overwhelm the new company. In addition, some of the armor manufacturers took issue with the modification and mass resale of their pieces. Thankfully, CC’s Conversions was able to legitimize their operations by settling litigation with generous payments or favorable terms on future licensing deals. This display of good faith convinced other companies to sign official licensing deals with CC’s to cash in on the company’s hip style and cultural cache. The company was also able to successfully argue in court that their work was different enough from the base models that it did not constitute resale but were instead mass produced works of art. During this transition period, the company began producing completely original designs, like the Caudillo helmet and Tevarin inspired Aves armor. The success of their bespoke armor pieces proved that the company could achieve mass appeal on its own artistic merits.
Still, CC’s Conversions remains first and foremost a manufacturer of memorable armor upgrades with a pop culture twist. Their business model still revolves around purchasing discounted armor, adding their own artistic flair and never repeating a design, making their armor popular among collectors. The company recently collaborated with soda maker Fieldsbury for a line of helmets modeled after their mischievous “Dark Bear’’ mascot. They’ve even expanded into producing replicas from hit Spectrum vids, including two gruesome helmets inspired by the Parasite vid-series and one based on serial killer Neville Lott’s frightful look in The Hill Horror.
Though Brumbaugh revealed the mysterious CC to be a computer program, the company has never publicly acknowledged the claim. Names of those involved in the art school collective were publicly shared by former classmates following the release of Brumbaugh Seeking CC, but the company continues to ignore any request to confirm any of them as owners. Instead the company still prefers to keep fans guessing about who really runs the company and what armor to expect next. This stance doesn’t surprise Brumbaugh, who got Mendo to admit in his interview that “naming the thing after CC was a way to make the work about the art and not the artist. It didn’t matter who made it, only if the final product was good. The goal was to take something familiar to everyone and remake it in a way that people never expected. And in many regards, we nailed it.” Today, fans of CC’s Conversions who eagerly await their next limited edition run of their armor would have to agree.