Vans Vault x Takashi Murakami | An Interview with Takashi Murakami
Vans Vault announced another stellar artist collaboration during Paris Fashion Week at Hotel du Grand Veneur (Galerie Perrotin’s second Parisian location), this time with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. While some were chasing the latest SS16 looks launching around the city, Perrotin celebrated their represented artist and his Vans collection with champagne, oysters and catering by Pierre Sang Boyer, music by Ghostpoet and a whole array of guests from various cultural fields (art, design and the business of fashion).
Anime-inspired, the work of Murakami is instantly recognisable. Transformed onto a wearable canvas, 30 unique works of art were created. Working with the classic Vans Slip-On, additional items such as a range for toddlers, skateboard decks and even surfboards are found in the collection, all celebrating Murakami’s recurring motifs the smiling flower and skull pattern. Even Murakami’s dog Pom makes an illustrated guest appearance. It was by Murakami’s own request to include surfboards into the collection, through Mills’ passion for surf and artisan connections. Murakami explains it best unashamedly, ‘I am just a geek, I love watching surfing, skateboarding and extreme sports. Geek people love that, because we cannot do it, this is the imagination”.
Earlier in the day Murakami addressed a Press Conference for the collection, together with Steve Mills Vice President of Global Design at Vans, hosted by Parisian Michael Dupouy of All Gone. With his answers refreshingly honest, members of the press had a first look into Murakami’s original and colour character before ascending on their own interview time with the artist.
For over 15 years, Murakami has been wearing Vans almost every day, specifically a white Slip-On. Personally owning over 60 pieces of the shoes, Murakami states he washes them after one week of wearing. We bring up the notion of Slip-On’s being more wearable for the asian market (where you slip your shoes on and off before entering the home or studio), Murakami answers: “Steve has said that the Vans market is kind of the biggest [in this area], not more than China, so maybe this reason. So yes! I had never thought about that”.
One would think a mainstream collaboration was not far off, but for Murakami his collaboration with Vans happened organically, stating: “As someone who wears Vans Slip-Ons nearly every day, the brand is as familiar to me as my own skin. It was a pleasure to take part in a project where I can be this relaxed and freely creative.” It’s true – Mills confirms that they ensure the artists they collaborate with are given total creative freedom, and it is this approach that allows Vans Vault to outshine any other collaborative footwear.
We ask if collaborating with a (mainstream) lifestyle brand can have any affect on his stature in the art market, by reputation or how he may be perceived moving forward, Murakami answers “The general people understand a collaboration with a contemporary artist and the good thing is everybody knows the name. Bad thing is, the art market. For example, when I collaborated with Louis Vuitton auction prices went down for 2 years. In the contemporary art scene, people are unrespectable with this collaboration stuff. I don’t know right now, but maybe the big boom is done, and now this collaboration stuff cannot make an effect on the art market. Don’t you think? I am making this for the Vans collaboration, so it doesn’t affect the art market. If I was to lose the branding, it would affect directly to my market. If this is a big success, it will move my market. It’s the same.”
If anything the collaboration will introduce a younger audience to Murakami’s work, “I agree, this is a good thing” he explains, continuing “maybe kids – when they are getting older – can one day buy an artwork wearing their Vans shoes. An affect something like this, hopefully in the future”.
Finding out that Murakami also has a cafe in Tokyo in addition to his KaiKaiKiKi Gallery, we wonder if there is anything the artist has left unrealized. With yet another stellar collaboration under his belt, almost accessible to all unlike some of his paintings, his pace isn’t slowing down.
Few artists are as widely known for their unmatchable hard-working ethic as Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, and even fewer are known for their never-ending positivity and energy. It’s no secret Takashi Murakami works harder than the majority of New York, Tokyo and London’s creatives put together, and it is also no secret he has a big team of workers assisting him with executing his vision. With a studio outside of Tokyo eight times the size of Perrotin’s courtyard (according to our other interviewee and Vans VP of Global Design Steve Mills), Murakami spends every moment completing his overwhelming amount of work, be it commissions, collaborations or general works. His name has turned into a brand and it’s a good thing, seeing his colourful graphics translate worldwide.
Interview and Text Monique Kawecki (J+M)
Images Canoe PR
Thanks to Canoe PR, Black Sparrows Production, VANS UK
The Vans Vault x Takashi Murakami collection is now available to purchase at the following stores (with highlighted stores also stockists of Ala Champ Magazine):
North America Blends, Opening Ceremony, Dover Street Market New York, Bows and Arrows, Kicks HI, Undefeated, Bodega, Sole Classics, Pilgrim, Wish, Nice Kicks, St. Alfred, Vans DQM General, Kith, Hot Rod, The Darkside Initiative, Barneys, Conveyor, The Webster, OTH (Off The Hook), Gravity Pope, J2, Normal & Rooney.
Europe Dover Street Market, Colette, Firmament, FOTT, Societe Anonyme, Veteran, Otero Y Gala, Baskets, Yme, C-Store, Storm, Sneakers N Stuff & Tres Bien.
Asia IT, Exit, Juice, Crossover, Limited Edition, Unik, Deal, Wuhan & Vans Lab.