Vans & Victoria Justice Pick Winning High School Shoe Designs

A group of California high school students had plenty to celebrate last night. They took home the Vans Custom Culture contest’s $50,000 grand prize for their school’s arts programs and scored an additional $25,000 from co-sponsors Journeys and Truth.

At a special event in New York, Vans, which has been hosting the design contest for six years, crowned Carlsbad High School the winner, based on the artistry of their collection of Vans shoes. The looks were decorated according to four themes — action sports, art, music and local flavor — and featured vivid illustrations of exotic birds, Greek statues, skateboarders and a growling grizzly bear.

Actress Victoria Justice served as one of the special guest judges, along with pro surfer Joel Tudor, musician Bea Miller, celebrity baker Amirah Kassem and artist and author Dallas Clayton.

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Also in attendance were students from the other finalist schools: Circleville High School (Ohio), Foothill High School (Nevada), McCracken County High (Kentucky) and Parker High School (South Dakota). Each took home $4,000 for their arts programs.

Vans Custom Culture
Carlsbad High School’s winning designs for the 2015 Vans Custom Culture contest.
CREDIT: courtesy of Vans

Kevin Bailey, president of Vans and parent company VF Corp.’s Action Sports Coalition, told FN that the competition aligns closely with the athletic label’s creative identity. “The checkerboard shoe came from kids drawing on their Vans in a math class. It’s very organic for the brand,” he said. “And the fact that it both encourages kids to participate in the arts and raises awareness for the underfunding of arts education, this event means the world to us.”

Bailey added that the brand hopes to inspire the next generation of artists — and, possibly, shoemakers. “These are the kids we hope will find a place in our industry and maybe become the next big designer,” he said.

The Custom Culture competition has grown rapidly, from 300 participating schools to roughly 2,500 from all across the country. One reason for that fast growth is co-sponsor Journeys, which signed on four years ago and began promoting the contest in its 1,000-plus store locations.

Jim Estepa, CEO of Journeys Group, told FN, “This is an incredible event. If you think about the fact that Journeys is all about teens, the opportunity to give back [to these schools] is absolutely a top priority.”

Journeys selected a winner for the shoe with the best “local flavor,” while the anti-smoking campaign Truth picked the best skate-deck design. Both of those awards also went to Carlsbad High School.


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