This is the first time Vans is releasing a collection for Black History Month, which comes with four customizable, limited edition sneakers and a $40,000 donation to the Black Art Futures Fund, supporting community-based Black arts organizations across the country. While each of the emerging artists tapped for the project — Rewina Beshue, Chris Martin, Sydney G. James, and Tony Whlgn — are close friends and collaborators of the brand, these shoes are their first originals, and they are proud to share them with the public. These four artists focus on a variety of mediums (Chris is also a tattoo artist, for example, whose symbols are connected to the history of the South), but they all aim to amplify the voices of their communities throughout their work.
The artists created their custom patterns with free rein in their home studios individually. “We wanted [them] to have the freedom of expressing themselves without a brief so they could say something personal and meaningful,” Matthew Even, Creative Director at Vans said. Now, shoppers are able to choose their favorite print and apply it to whichever shoe silhouette they choose. Throughout the month, each artist’s story will be unveiled at vans.com/blackhistorymonth, though the work to support the Black community does not end with the month of February.
“As a brand founded in the belief that we are a people company, supporting our communities has always lived at the core of everything we do. Racial inequality in the US is fueled by systemic racism and we all have the responsibility to dismantle these systems of oppression. We commit to take action for the long haul because Black Lives Matter,” Even told POPSUGAR, confirming that through Vans’s “Foot the Bill” initiative, small, Black-owned businesses will continue to be spotlighted on the site. Ahead, we spoke to all four shoe designers, who explained a bit more about the inspiration behind their work and shared close-ups of their graphics.