How Vans’ vp of design put the aging brand on every cool kid’s radar

When Vans collaborated with Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami for a line of sneakers and apparel in 2015, the world’s cool kids took notice. The patterns — Murakami’s signature psychedelic designs in a bold rainbow of colors — debuted at a celebration in Downtown Manhattan, at Soho’s Opening Ceremony store. The items, sold globally through boutique partners like Opening Ceremony and Bodega, quickly sold out.

The collaboration was part of the Vans Vault line, a limited sneaker and apparel category at Vans that remakes the classic sneaker lines (Vans’ slip-ons, high tops, lace-ups and more) with premium materials and designer collaborations, and sells them at higher-end price points. In its 10th year, when the Murakami collaboration dropped, Vault had officially established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the exclusive lifestyle footwear lexicon, on par with Adidas’s Originals and Nike’s Lab lines.

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