Last month, Vans announced their latest Vault collab: a trippy but modern take on vintage skate culture by cult luxury streetwear brand, Aries. Featuring weed leaf motifs, tie-dye and tiger print, the drop is a colorful, deadstock-inspired ode to slacker style… And it’s giving us a much-needed contact high.
Vans launched their Vault By Vans sub-label in 2003 to bring customers a fresh take on their fav classic styles. Through the years, Vault has become an outlet for the skate brand to dive deep into its ethos of self-expression, creating a platform for both emerging and iconic talent to share their take on the brand’s signature sneakers. Vault has had a revolving and ever-evolving list of eclectic collaborators ever since — from Marc Jacobs to Stray Rats to The North Face — so it’s no surprise they were Aries’ first partner when it came to brand collabs.
The brainchild of Central Saint Martins grad Sofia Prantera, the sustainable streetwear brand has made a name for itself over the last decade thanks to its made-to-order pieces that blend streetwear with a punk rock DIY style. Inspired by rave culture, vintage skateboarding and the best freaks, geeks and stylish weirdos from recent history, the brand honors the outsider spirit with an update that’s made for all… Even the planet! Since launching, Prantera has perfected a unique – and sustainable — production process that proves streetwear can look good without being bad for the environment. Basically, Aries the perfect manifestation of their “No Problemo” lifestyle: good clothes and good vibes.
Of course, Vans has always been all about good vibes and going your own way… which makes these two a match made in psych music festival heaven. And the collab really speaks to Vans’ focus on self-expression —a Vans Custom Scenes poster from the ’80s that Prantera used to ogle when she was working at Slam City Skates in London inspired the line’s cut-and-paste vibe. Talk about fate, man… Woah!
Featuring six shoes and a curated drop of apparel items (think: artsy tops and a jacquard beanie that make us want to wake’ n bake STAT), the Vault x Aries capsule is just the kind of posi reminder we all need right now. It’s a nod to the best parts of the past and a reminder that tomorrow can still be bright and colorful. Just don’t get bummed by missing out on the limited supply!
We were lucky enough to score some samples and took ’em for a trip around LA with our newest muses, Beanie and Valentine. Things only got sweeter when we had a chance to chat with Prantera about the collection.
Below, the designer tells us more about the collab.
Sofia Prantera: Being both independent brands we have a lot of affinity, and because of the graphic elements, it seemed like a very natural match. The collaborative process was very smooth and enjoyable — Vans knows who they are as a brand and are not scared of taking risks… In fact, they enjoy being controversial and are very open to exploring different narratives and veering from a more obvious path.
Are collaborations something you have always been interested in?
Collaborating and working harmoniously with others to achieve common goals is at the core of our brand ethos! Not just collaborating with other brands, but with our manufacturers and within our team.
Vans really does seem like the perfect pick for your first collab. I mean, Aries is inspired by ’80s and ’90s skate culture, which is practically synonymous with Vans. How does this collaboration mine Vans’ legacy and history of being the ultimate skate brand as inspiration for the modern designs?
We wanted a certain vintage sensibility to permeate the feel of this collaboration, but we also were very keen not to be too retro. Because of the layered history of skateboarding, it’s too easy to reference past decades and be nostalgic, and we were very conscious of wanting to create something new which built on the past but didn’t replicate it. The process for the design and the images, which for every Aries collaboration are always closely tied, started with looking at old skate mags I had collected during my time at Slam City Skates — Transworld, Thrasher, Big Brother, Rad, and an old Vans Custom Scenes poster from 1984 that allowed the customer to customize their own pair of Vans. Skateboarding at that time was very much about DIY culture, driven by individualism, controversy, and a post-punk ‘fuck everything’ attitude that was as infectious then as it is outdated now; but it’s the freedom and lack of rules that we wanted to capture in this collaboration.
“It’s too easy to reference past decades and be nostalgic — we were very conscious of wanting to create something new, which built on the past but didn’t replicate it.”
How did all of this translate into the collection?
Leather colors are purposely mismatched, slogans and logos are used randomly, there’s no color palette, no rules — just a cacophony of references applied randomly on a case-by-case basis. The product has a vintage deadstock feel because it is made following the same processes of that time — screen printing, American manufacturing, hand-dyed with an “each piece is unique” feel. What we wanted to capture from that era is the naivety and rawness of the process: hands-on, not mass-produced, full of mistakes, driven by a need for self-expression and wanting to find new ways to make a living more congruous and in harmony with a slacker albeit successful lifestyle.
What about the campaign?
The film and images were created in a similar way — taken by a group of friends with no script, production or rules. It was spontaneous, analog, recorded on old videotapes and film… The resulting footage was then edited into a narrative and digitally altered to create graphic and surreal special effects.
Haha, that was definitely the aim! Although we have to be careful, as a lot of that ‘demented’ culture, which was so defining for my generation, is very ‘cancellable’ nowadays.
Demented is such a great word! I was going to ask you what three words you’d choose to describe the collab – and that would have to be one of them! So, what about the other two?
Remade and anarchic.
“What we wanted to capture from that era is the naivety and rawness of the process: hands-on, not mass-produced, full of mistakes, driven by a need for self-expression and wanting to find new ways to make a living more congruous and in harmony with a slacker albeit successful lifestyle.”
There really are so many great pieces in the collection, but we’re especially stoked about your version of the OG Authentic. What made it a perfect canvas for these colors and patterns?
This year is the year of the OG authentic! But, for me, it’s all about the suede Chukka and the Sk8-Mid, which have always been my favorite silhouettes.
That’s right! You’re a longtime Vans stan, ever since you worked at Slam City Skates in London… Did your time working there inspire you to start Aries? Or what is your origin story?
I started Aries in 2009… After selling [my old brand] Silas in 2007, I had found myself without a creative vehicle. I tried consulting, which was a complete failure due to my single-track mind, and so I started Aries from where I had left off before.
How did you develop some of the unique processes that have come to define the brand?
The colorful dye techniques and raw unsophisticated graphics, which have become a brand staple, were born to deal with production minimums. We started by creating a line of custom shaped denim and jersey blanks in Italy, sewn with ready-to-dye threads, and from there experimented with dyeing and printing in-house — something we still do a lot — but the techniques were born from a need to differentiate styles and create a range, and the production differences and errors that resulted became a signature and are still very much part of the brand aesthetic today.
Those production techniques ensure sustainability. Is that important to you as a brand?
Our production techniques allow us to produce to order, even when minimums are high without waste or cancellations, which puts us in a unique position within the streetwear market. By manufacturing in Italy and Europe, we are also very aware of who makes our clothes, and we have cultivated very long and rewarding relationships with our manufacturers.
“We are also very aware of who makes our clothes, and we have cultivated very long and rewarding relationships with our manufacturers.”
Post-BLM and the pandemic, we are also actively working with less privileged young people and are in the process of setting up scholarships intended for students who wouldn’t normally be able to do work experience. Work experience is essential to get into creative fields, but it’s very difficult for most people to access it.
Access has also been important to you in the sense that Aries primarily focuses on womenswear, or at least a womenswear-first perspective, which is still so rare in streetwear — so many brands often ignore or forget women in that realm. Why was it important for you to make clothing for women and femmes, especially in this community?
I really don’t think there is a substantial difference between womenswear and menswear in streetwear anymore, but what Aries produces is especially appealing to both because we try to speak to our public independently of gender. The real difficulty is in communicating to the bigger audience that these perceived differences are imposed by culture and that a t-shirt or a sweatshirt can be the same garment for men and women. It’s just a size difference, not the cut. We are constantly contacted by people asking us if the tees are suitable for men, even people we know — the gender divide is still very real, and it’s frustrating.
So, besides trying to close it… What else is next for Aries?
Just going our own way.
The Vault by Vans x Aries collaboration is currently available at Vault by Vans retail locations. For more information and where to purchase, please visit The Drop List, a calendar of Vans’ most exclusive product drops.
💛 photography James J Robinson | fashion Trudy Nelson | hair Darine Sengseevong | makeup Karina Moore 💛