Geoff McFetridge once again joins forces with longtime footwear collaborator Vault by Vans on a new holiday collection for 2021. Based in Los Angeles, McFetridge is one of the most celebrated working artists of our generation, having mastered the visual aesthetics of the ‘70s and ‘80s and translating it into a design language that he can uniquely call his own.
McFetridge’s oeuvre spans painting, illustration, graphic design, installations, industrial design, film, and textiles — mediums from which his latest Vault collab draws upon. The collection sees a range of McFetridge’s disciplines applied across five iconic Vans silhouettes: the OG Authentic LX, OG Old Skool LX, OG Classic Slip-On, OG Sk8-Hi Lx, and OG Lampin LX. A hallmark of his work is rooted in sparse compositions, bold color palettes, and simple human figures occasionally contorted into repeating patterns and motifs — as seen on the multicolored Old Skool LX.
Each shoe in the collection represents a different facet of McFetridge’s storied career, whether through his art or his own lived experiences. “The shoes are an exploration of a wide variety of materials and processes,” he tells us. “I wanted the collection to reflect aspects of my studio, my personal style or taste, and my personal history.” Take for example the OG Authentic LX, which features a series of illustrations of McFetridge's everyday essentials: a stained tee he usually paints in, his decades-old tote bags, his favorite pants, and, of course, a pair of Vans he got in Japan as a kid.
We spoke to McFetridge to get a deeper understanding of his work and the inspiration behind the collection, which drops December 2nd at select Vault by Vans retailers.
Read on for a window into his design process, and for more information and where to purchase, visit The Drop List — a calendar of Vans’ most exclusive product drops.
Describe your artistic style and breadth of work for those who might not be familiar with it.
I think of my work as graphic but attempting to be dimensional in subject matter. A way to describe my studio is a design practice that operates as an art studio. I try to maintain a really varied output and connectedness between brands and art projects.
Talk to us about your relationship with Vans and your approach to creating artwork for footwear.
As a skater, I have a close personal history with Vans. I have done a number of projects over the years but this collection is really a deep dive into my relationship with the brand, and brands in general. My thinking with projects like this is that they can be approached in the same way you might approach creating a piece of art.
For example, the first place I ever saw Vans was at sailing school as a kid in the late ’80s. One of the counselors was wearing checkered Slip-Ons and my little skater mind was blown. So sailing became a starting point for some aspects of the collection. That bit of personal history led to thinking of other themes that I could work with. A viewer is unlikely to understand any of this backstory, but it’s an example of process that I use to create new work.
Your Checkerboard Day collab featured drawings of your signature human figures, tell us about the design inspiration for each shoe in this collection.
The shoes are an exploration of a wide variety of materials and processes. I wanted the collection to reflect aspects of my studio, my personal style or taste, and my personal history. So the logos and branding are based on memories of skate shops, or ski shops and the feeling of discovering culture growing up. Yet the textures and fabrics are taken directly from current materials in my studio.
I like to connect to the freedom I am given with projects like this. Nobody is asking for constraint, so materials and approaches can come from anywhere. The collection has no overall theme, yet the work IS meant to add up to something, like when I develop a painting show for a gallery.
Specific themes in the shoes: I hate that I get paint on every white T-shirt I wear, so I scanned all the shirts with subtle paint spots. Another shoe is based on material from five old pieces of clothing I wear, each piece of clothing has its own history. Another shoe is covered in simple graphics interpreted as patches. These “ollie patch” images relate to how I believe physical experience, aesthetic, and meditative experiences form us as people. This same subject matter is doodled on the outside of another shoe.
Another shoe shows a man bouncing on a dot like a trampoline. The frames reveal that at the bottom of the bounce the dot becomes a heart shape. This guy has discovered that through experience, we can connect with internal aspects of ourselves. In his case, love.
Through this work, I’m experimenting with the possibility that experiences with images and objects could have the same effect. It’s a sort of Montessori or Waldorf approach to a collab… through tactile experience, color, and form we make connections and learn… and complete our day.
Outside of your own collaborations, you’re often seen rocking Vans while creating art; talk about some of your favorite pairs.
I wear a lot of white ones. Mainly Slip-Ons or Eras. I love the process of wearing them from crisp to gross. Like all my clothes I try to keep them clean at first and unripped. But entropy intervenes — eventually all shoes and clothes become clothes I either paint or skate in.