Vans, van Gogh and Artistic Integrity

[spacer height=”20px”] A friend of mine recently shared a post about a collaboration between Vans and the Vincent van Gogh museum. Instead of discussing the details of the collaboration, let’s rather look at the result…


I personally like the yellow sneakers, but that is about it. I love Vincent van Gogh’s work, but I don’t care much for Vans as a brand. I feel like every self respecting creative wants their van Gogh hand painted on the back pockets of some vintage jeans you know (or woven into their socks)… which has been done too many times to consider Vans’ mass printing innovative. The way I see it, they’re simply jumping on the bandwagon and making a great artist mainstream. I’m not mad at them for that. I love Vincent and I want him celebrated the world over.

Here’s what a few others had to say about the collaboration:

“They didn’t even try to interpret it in a different way, this just straight up Vincent’s work on a clothing brand. I feel like if you’re going to take an artist’s work, can you at least have the decency and to create something off it in a respectful manner. Pay homage, but it just feels like its ripping off their work and making profit. No adding details or translating it into something new-nyana?”
– Bathandwa Nkambule

“Imagine sophomores wearing this to college for the love of just Vans, it would be akin to the proverbial of a jewel on a swine’s snout”
Sicelo Sibeko

“I say let art be celebrated no matter the shape or form. This makes art more accessible to people who wouldn’t otherwise be in the know.”
– Gugulethu Jika

Vincent van Gogh is a much loved and respected artist; having his work printed on a Vans t-shirt (as offensive as this might seem to some) only succeeds in popularising his timeless work. If this is what Vans hoped to achieve then mission accomplished. However, a brand has to make a profit right? So the goal could be to tap into a new market of artists and creatives, in which case… well… I don’t know if this will be successful.

The reason is simple: this has been done (and done much better) by many others. Artists and designers have been featuring Vincent van Gogh for years. My favourite interpretation has to be Rodarte’s Spring 2012 collection. This for me, is the perfect balance between integrity, innovation and inspiration.

The real question here is what truly counts as integrity and respect when a big retail brand features an artist’s work on its garments. Should there be some creative way in which a brand pays homage to an artist? This actually reminds me of the controversial topic of cultural appropriation in the fashion industry. How do brands lend from, and celebrate artists (and cultures I suppose) in a respectful and effective way? What are your thoughts? Go ahead and drop a comment below ⬇

Yours in ✍🏾



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