WORDS BY JOSEPH FURNESS
Vans are for everyone: they’re accessible, socially acceptable, versatile and durable, and there’s not a man nor woman on this planet who doesn’t look fly in a pair. And, whilst it’s easy to go to your local mall and pick up a pair, you may want to consider getting your hands on a pair of Vans collaboration sneakers: kicks created in partnership with popular brands, boutiques, artists and designers.
From Vans x Supreme to Vans x Damien Hirst, we’ve taken the time to walk through the eight best Vans collaborations.
Not only is the Vans x Supreme collaboration one of the longest-running Vans collaborations, but it’s also one of the longest-running sneaker collaborations ever. It dates all the way back to 1996!
Back in the mid-90s, Supreme was nothing more than an independent New York-based skatewear store, ergo, a collaboration with the California shoe brand was a huge deal for the streetwear brand at the time. For their first collaborative drop, Supreme reinterpreted Vans’ classic Old Skool silhouette by adding a BOGO tab to the lace panel and bringing new patterns and color combinations to the upper. As one might imagine, the kicks were an absolute hit.
Across the years, the two brands have collaborated on various limited-edition sneakers, but, to us, one stands out from the rest: the Vans x Supreme Sk8-Hi Pro ‘Skull Pile’. By adding a green-hued macabre print – inspired by Juicy J’s look in Three 6 Mafia’s ‘Stay Fly’ video – to the sidewalls of the iconic skate silhouette, the sneaker becomes a must-have for your October rotation.
The Vans x Kenzo collaboration encapsulates the Japanese and Parisian heritage of the latter brand and the Americana essence of the former to produce an idiosyncratic collection of sneakers.
2012 marked the first time the two brands merged their aesthetics together. By no coincidence, Opening Ceremony founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon were appointed as the creative directors of Kenzo one year prior. The Vans x Kenzo collaboration was one of the first steps the duo took to push the boundaries of the Parisian brand and associate the label with the streetwear scene.
One of the most popular kicks born from the collaboration is the Kenzo x Vans Vault OG Old Skool LX ‘Floral Red’. For this shoe, Kenzo plastered the entire sneaker model with a red, pink and green floral pattern to create a statement look.
One of the most exciting brands right now is Rhude: a luxury streetwear brand founded by Filipino-born American designer, Rhuigi Villaseñor. Just before the brand became big news, Vans collaborated with the LA-based label on a series of shoes. It seems as if the Vans collaboration team has their finger on the pulse.
In 2019, the first set of Vans x Rhude sneakers dropped. The pack refreshed Van’s archived Bold NI silhouette by printing a sixties-era California licence plate pattern on the midsole, adorning the sole with a checkerboard pattern and choosing colorways inspired by vintage cars – the Ferrari 275, Mercedes 280 SL and Porche Carrera, to be specific.
The kick we’re keen to highlight from the Vans x Rhude collaboration is the Vans Vault x Rhude Acer Ni Sp sneaker adorned with a playful pattern. The sneaker captures the zeitgeist of 2020 by embracing the colorful bandana print trend that was popular at the time.
Since 2016, Vans has been teaming up with Jerry Lorenzo and the rest of the Fear of God team to release refreshing takes on staple Vans silhouettes.
The first Vans x Fear of God drop provided sneakerheads with the kind of designs one may expect from a collaboration between the two brands – an Era and Sk8 High uplifted by earthy shades and conspicuous Fear of God branding.
But, after the success of the first drop, things got a little more unexpected – it may be sensible to presume the brand dared Lorenzo to be more experimental with his designs. The Vans x Fear of God Slip-On 47 V DX is characterized by its block colors and velcro strap embellished with metallic Fear of God branding.
In case you’re not familiar with cult brand WTAPS – a name, pronounced ‘double taps’, inspired by the armed forces in which W is shorthand for double – it may be handy to know it’s a cult Japanese brand founded by multifaceted talent, Tetsu Nishiyama. WTAPS is renowned for combining Americana, militarian and industrial workwear influences in a way that perennially pays homage to the founder’s Japanese heritage.
In 2006, Vans’ syndicate line partnered with WTAPS to produce new takes on the Vans Authentic silhouette. The final product is distinguishable from other versions of the shoe thanks to the monochromatic WTAPS logo pattern that adorns the shoe. In addition to this release, the two brands co-created a divisive version of the timeless Slip-On silhouette adorned with pentagrams, a crossbones pattern and references to the WTAPS brand.
In 2020, Vans teamed up with WTAPS once again to adorn a Sk8-Hi sneaker with the 00s crossbones pattern. The nostalgic pattern enriches the black high-top sneaker to create a look that’s sure to catch the eyes of in-the-know passersby.
Over the past eleven years, KITH – founded by American designer, Ronnie Fieg – has grown from two NYC-based boutiques into an international chain. What’s the recipe for Fieg’s success? An eye for design and apprehension for what his target audience desires.
In the past few years, Vans and KITH have teamed up a handful of times; and, in our opinion, the most notable collaboration between the West Coast shoe label and the East Coast-established boutique brand is the ten-piece drop of 2021.
Designed to celebrate KITH’s 10th anniversary, the ten Vans Slip Ons are jazzed up with different graphics and patterns. For instance, one pair features a magical unicorn amid white clouds and another (pictured above) is designed with a super approachable navy paisley pattern.
The secret to New York-based designer Sandy Liang’s approach to design is to evoke happy childhood memories. Fortunately, Vans gives the designer creative freedom to explore her own experience of growing up during the 1990s.
In 2020, Sandy Liang partnered with Vans to dream up a five-piece sneaker collection brimming with 90s youth culture references – from pink velour to butterfly motifs to furry animal print textiles.
Just one year later, the Vans x Sandy Liang collaboration returned with a footwear and apparel collection that pays homage to the long-running kid's television show, Spongebob Squarepants. Out of the two Sk8-His, it’s the pair that salutes the exotic title cards of the animated series that we’d integrate into our style.
Whether you've just discovered Damien Hirst via Drake's recently-released Certified Lover Boy project, or you've followed the artist's work for years, you're invited to take pleasure in appreciating the Vans x Damien Hirst x Palms collection.
The 2019 Vans x Damien Hirst x Palms collaboration consists of three Vans Sk8-His, and three Vans Slip Ons adorned with three of the artist’s signature designs. Pairs were exclusively available to purchase on 6th December 2019 at the Vault by Vans store in NYC and the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
The highlight of the Vans x Damien Hirst collaboration is, undoubtedly, the two sneakers inspired by Hirst’s esteemed Spot painting series. Just look at the Vans x Damien Hirst Sk8-Hi Reissue – it’s an absolute masterpiece!