Vans has deep roots in skate and music, but over the past 50 years, it’s developed an equally impressive arsenal of hot-selling collaborations.
From The Beatles Yellow Submarine collection to Marc Jacobs to Hello Kitty, the California-based brand has worked with dozens of artists and retailers. Despite Vans’ robust list of collaborators, the company is highly selective about who gets to put their own stamp on a classic.
“Anyone can take a graphic and slam it on a shoe,” said Dave Solomon, VP of footwear and equipment at Vans. “But if you’re able to tweak the graphics and bring them closer to the Vans brand, that’s when it gets fun.”
The key to successful partnerships, he said, is to blend aesthetics, have ongoing communication and develop a line that resonates with both brands and their respective consumers.
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“It’s about the connection between the two brands, it’s about authenticity,” said Solomon. “When they’re two authentic brands that stay true to their history and heritage, then they tend to make great collaborations.”
Here, FN ranks 10 of the most memorable Vans collabs.
1.Vans Half Cab (1992)
Skate legend Steve Caballero launched his first signature shoe with Vans in 1989. In 1992, the original high-top style for Caballero was revised to the Half Cab after he saw skaters cutting their sneakers and using duct tape to secure them.
2.Vans Era (1976)
A standby sneaker in the Vans lineup, the Era came to life through a collab with skateboard star Tony Alva when he asked designers to add extra ankle padding to the Authentic.
3.Vans x Disney (1980s)
The two iconic California firms (both were once in Anaheim) teamed up thanks to their geographical proximity. In the 1980s, Vans designed exclusive styles for Disneyland park visitors. The shoes were launched for consumers in 2015.
4.Vans x Motörhead (1999)
Iconic hard-rock band Motörhead was the first music-based shoe for Vans, and cemented the label’s place in rock-and-rebel culture across the globe. Originally limited to Vans’ friends and family, the sneakers were released to the public in 2005.
5.Vans x Murakami (2015)
Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami has a cubby in his studio filled with white Vans slip-ons. His limited-run collab featuring six styles was among the hottest sneaker releases in 2015, with consumers waiting in line for hours at retailers.
6.Vans x Marc Jacobs (2005)
The collection marked a first for Vans: a foray into the fashion world, introducing the brand to a new high-end audience. It was the first premium-priced sneaker collection for Vans.
7.Vans x Kenzo (2012)
Kenzo creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, founders of Opening Ceremony, were longtime Vans fans and were anxious to collaborate. The collection was among the buzziest, featuring Kenzo’s signature standout prints on 29 styles over four seasons.
8.Vans x Peanuts (1983)
Charlie Brown debuted on Vans styles available only at Camp Snoopy at Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park in Southern California. The sneakers were released again in 2014.
9.Vans x Pendleton (1970s)
Back in the 1970s, Vans made sneakers for the Pendleton Woolen Mills store at Disneyland, cementing their early collaborations. Today, the companies have released two collections through the Vault by Vans program, the first in 2010.
10.Vans x Star Wars (2013)
The Force was strong with this collaboration, which has been one of the most in-demand for the company. It also is one of the best known for blending Vans’ signature aesthetics with those of Lucasfilm’s characters. There were 16 shoes in the original collection.