Inside Sterling Ruby’s future-facing Vans collaboration

The multidisciplinary artist and S.R. Studio. LA. CA founder discusses ‘pushing into the future’ as OTW by Vans’ debut collaborator

Last month, in the run-up to Frieze LA, a giant, skateable monument was installed in Downtown Los Angeles, recreating the steep hills of San Francisco in vivid colour, and forming a stage for the likes of SALEM and Paris Texas. Designed by Playlab Inc, in collaboration with the multidisciplinary artist Sterling Ruby, the installation was there to celebrate a collaboration between Vans and Ruby’s own clothing brand, S.R. Studio. LA. CA.

In its focus on celebrating the communities that push culture forward – from designers and artists, to skaters such as Curren Caples, Rowan Zorilla, and Zion Wright – the installation took cues from the collection itself. “It’s definitely pushing into the future,” Ruby tells Dazed, of the first style in the extended partnership: an all-new sneaker style in monochromatic neon green and orange hues, made from a mash-up of four Vans icons.

In part, the shoes are futuristic themselves, in their silhouette and nods to Ruby’s more experimental work with textiles. However they also represent a new way of doing things for S.R. Studio. LA. CA. “We’ve produced shoes before, but it was very difficult for us,” says Ruby, adding that design options and distribution were very limited. On the other hand, the collaboration with OTW by Vans – a newly-launched platform that counts Ruby as its debut collaborator – is “global” in scope, presenting new and unique possibilities.

“I think the essence of the collaboration is about two individuals, or two entities, coming together to get to a space that we couldn’t get to on our own, but together, we can,” say the artist’s Vans collaborators. “What it sparked is very progressive for us, and it challenged our manufacturing, challenged our design team. That’s where the good stuff comes out.”

The initial result of this coming-together, a style dubbed ‘Clash the Wall’, has been captured by photographer Jack Bool in S.R. Studio. LA. CA.’s studio and atelier in Vernon, California, where much of the design process also took place, and subsequently sold out via OTW by Vans.

Luckily, you can still grab the new style via Dover Street Market and KITH. Plus, more Sterling Ruby x OTW by Vans releases are scheduled in the coming seasons, spanning footwear and apparel, with a second drop due to arrive before the end of 2024.

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