A Zulu princess and LSD kittens: Meet Vans’ legion of female collaborators
Sarah Andelman brings four artists into the Vault by Vans fold with a one-off collaboration for International Women’s Day
Was there ever any reason to visit Paris before Colette? And has there been a reason to return since it shuttered? Of course, the Eiffel Tower might argue that point, much like fashion week or pubescent couples desperate to squeeze a novelty padlock onto the Pont des Arts, but for two decades the shapeshifting concept store on Rue Saint Honoré was a honeypot for cognoscenti across art, fashion, and music. With its walls rumoured to hold over 20,000 different pieces, creative director Sarah Andelman and her mother (Colette Roussaux) established a new blueprint for retail, whereby the experience of shopping for clothes became a legitimate cultural pursuit, paving the way for Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony, and countless other bricks and mortar concepts.
Andelman’s instinct for recognising must-have items and emerging designers went beyond Capturing The Zeitgeist – more often than not, she would be the one setting the very thing’s agenda. Long before Gucciaga was a sparkle in LVMH’s eye, it was Andelman encouraging “hacking” with her now-infamous t-shirt collaborations, which she’d house in a constantly evolving showcase. On any given week Colette would be transformed into a gallery, a water bar (serving more than 100 brands), or an immersive, soundscape installation. And now, Andelman has cast her unerring eye in the direction of another cultural lodestone, Vans, curating a capsule of footwear and clothing made in partnership with four fledgling creatives – Julia Chiang, Sindiso Khumalo, Fumiko Imano, and Soko.
A celebration of International Women’s Day by way of LSD kittens and Zulu princesses, this project marks the second time that Andelman has worked with the brand, but she’s “always been a Vans lover” really. A New York artist, a Japanese artist, a South African fashion designer, and a Parisian musician, this collaboration is the result of the many years Andelman spent scouring the planet for its brightest young talents. “I met these women in different cities, in different years, all under different contexts but they all share a passion for what they do, and they’re all amazing in dealing with their work and personal life,” she says. “I hope their collections reflect their philosophies and will be appreciated by women of all ages.” Below, Chiang, Khumalo, Imano, and Soko discuss their approach to collaboration, skateboard culture, and finding a mentor in Sarah Andelman.
FUMIKO IMANO, ARTIST
“In 2005, Sarah became the first person in the world to buy my self-published books for Colette. I love how she respects artists. For this project, for example, she pushed me to use my own self-portraits, which I found challenging given that I had originally planned to cover the pieces in animal drawings – I just thought that would be the safest option. The idea for my designs (a hi-top shoe and t-shirt) came from a previous solo exhibition I held, Somehow Somewhere Sometimes at Some Place for Some Reason at the Kosaku Kanechika gallery in Tokyo in 2020, which displayed all the self-portraits I had taken while travelling the world. At the beginning of the project I had planned to make black and white Xerox-style sneakers but I ended up producing these really colourful shoes, made with neon yellow trims, because we all need to be a little more cheerful.”
JULIA CHIANG, MULTI-DISCIPLINARY ARTIST
“I was a fan of Vans while growing up in suburban New Jersey and was drawn to skateboard culture, so when Sarah invited me to be a part of this project I knew I wanted to connect with the energy I used to, and still do feel. I thought of all the things I love that I associate with Vans – sea, sand, and street and tried to create items that would function in all those different spots. I imagined sneaker soles sinking into the sand and walking over hot asphalt, the t-shirt changing tones after being worn in the sun, and a hat that moves through different landscapes. I love how this will give me the chance to connect with people who never knew my work before. Through these pieces, I was able to imagine my paintings interacting with people in a completely new way. I can’t wait to see them in public! I’ve had Vans since I started buying shoes, it’s so fun to imagine that these might become somebody else’s first pair. I’m so thankful to be connected with the other women Sarah brought together through this project.”
“Vans sent me a few options when I was designing these shoes but I knew I wanted velcro platforms. They said ‘no problem!’ and just made it happen. I love bold colours so it’s quite playful and sunny, but it’s also raw and vulnerable. For this project, I wanted a fun shoe, something that reminds you to embrace your inner child, and I’ve always used my cat (Felix) across my merch so it only felt natural to bring him back from cat heaven and give him yet another life. I just love a good all over print and it makes me so happy to see my cat everywhere! It almost felt like doing a high school art project – only I actually get to see it come to life in the real world now. It’s such a great feeling and I love that we get to celebrate people from really different backgrounds. I’ve been wearing Vans ever since I was a teenager, they’re my go-to! I’m a checkerboard addict, I always have a pair of slip-ons in my backpack everywhere I go. They’re filthy to be honest… I need a new pair.”
SINDISO KHUMALO, FASHION DESIGNER
“I’m interested in telling the stories of women of colour throughout history and so it was important to have these pieces speak to that. The print that features across my shoes is bespoke to our label and it resembles my mother on my Zulu wedding – I call it the “Zulu Princess”. It symbolises heritage and having that on a skater shoe felt like a nice juxtaposition. We’re celebrating international women’s day so it really hit the brief – my mother was a political activist against the apartheid, so being able to highlight her in the collection was beautiful and deeply personal. We tend to exist in our own little bubbles as creatives, but these kinds of collaborations allow for a cross-pollination of ideas and story telling. My work is an ongoing conversation about women, activism, and history. It has meant the world to be able to collaborate with such an iconic brand – I still have a pair of classic Vans that I used to wear while studying at university in Cape Town.”
The Vault by Vans collection curated by Sarah Andelman will be on-sale at select Vault by Vans dealers and Vans.eu beginning March 4.