From Louis Vuitton’s much-hyped collaboration with Supreme to the Thrasher tees spotted on virtually every off-duty model, there’s no doubt that skateboard culture has infiltrated high fashion. One brand that’s long had a foot in both worlds is Vans, a 52-year-old company that’s been an inspiration to both skaters and designers such as Phoebe Philo since its early days of selling made-to-order shoes out of a storefront in Anaheim, Calif.
Earlier this month, the brand brought its House of Vans (HOV) pop-up store to Calgary for the first time. Vans has held pop-ups in two different Toronto locations in the past, and has four permanent HOV locations in the United States, the United Kingdom and Asia. Located in the Big Four Building on the city’s famous Calgary Stampede grounds, this iteration of HOV was fully immersive, with a focus on supporting Calgary’s creative community. Guests took skateboarding lessons (with some specifically designed for women and girls), viewed a curated selection of local art and attended concerts from local bands, as well as U.S.-based headliners Sheer Mag and DIIV, all with free admission. There was also a community market of local vendors offering clothing, food and beverages, home décor, artwork, vinyl records and even tattoos.
“The idea behind House of Vans is actually the physical space where we activate our brand. We have music, art, action sports, street culture – all under one roof,” explains Alex Auchu, marketing manager at Vans Canada. “What we’re all about is really fuelling the creative, whether it’s skate or whether it’s art. We’re inspired by it.”
With everything going on at the Big Four Building, one notable absence was any Vans product for sale. The brand doesn’t measure the success of HOV through sales, but rather considers it a long-term investment in forging a connection with its community. “If the skate industry is healthy, then our brand is healthy,” says Auchu.
Annie Guglia is a Montreal-based X Games professional athlete who travelled to Calgary to take part in the HOV events. As part of Vans’s Get On Board program, which offers dedicated workshops and lessons for women, the 27-year-old considers herself a role model for the next generation of skaters, especially girls. Over the weekend she spent as much time as possible at the skate park to demonstrate that women have a place in the sport. “A lot of girls are into the fashion of skateboarding, like the typical Thrasher hoodie, and they want to try to skate but they’re just too shy to actually learn it,” says Guglia. “And that’s what I like. I like to get them on boards so they can actually skateboard and enjoy it.”
That intersection of sport, street-inspired fashion and creative expression is what continues to give skating its cool factor decades after it was founded. “It’s a subculture,” says Auchu. “And I don’t think it will ever lose its cool because it’s such a creative thing to do.”
Caitlin Agnew traveled to Calgary as a guest of Vans. The company did not review or approve this story prior to publication.
Two hot collaborations are launching this week. On April 19, Uniqlo will release its second collection with London-based fashion brand JW Anderson. Inspired by Britain’s Brighton Beach, the unisex collection celebrates the location’s 1950s heyday. And on April 20, Lacoste will launch its partnership with Supreme, a collection inspired by archival Lacoste pieces from the 1980s and ’90s, available in Canada online through lacoste.com.
Holt Renfrew has partnered with #KnotOnMyPlanet, a charitable campaign in support of the Elephant Crisis Fund, and ethical Canadian brand Kotn to create an exclusive collection of T-shirts. Featuring an illustration by artist Melody Hansen, the T-shirts are available now with 100 per cent of profits to be donated to the Elephant Crisis Fund. For more information, visit holtrenfrew.com.
Fashion Revolution Week (FRW) is taking place around the world April 23 to 29. Held annually on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, FRW aims to engage consumers online and at community events to challenge people and organizations to change the way clothes are sourced, produced and consumed. For more information visit fashionrevolution.org/canada.