Geoff McFetridge is once again teaming up with longtime collaborator Vault by Vans for a new holiday collection for 2021. Based in Los Angeles, McFetridge is one of the most celebrated artists of our generation, having mastered the visual aesthetic ’70s and ’80s and translating it into a design language he can call his own.
McFetridge’s work spans painting, illustration, graphic design, installation, industrial design, film and textiles – mediums from which his latest collaboration Vault draws inspiration. The collection sees a range of McFetridge disciplines applied across five iconic Vans silhouettes: 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 sometimes distorted into repeating designs and patterns – 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. “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 style or my personal tastes and my personal history.” Take for example the OG Authentic LX, which features a series of illustrations of McFetridge’s everyday essentials: a stained t-shirt he usually paints in, his decades-old tote bags, his favorite pants and, of course, , a pair of Vans he got into Japan as a child.
We spoke to McFetridge to better understand his work and the inspiration behind the collection, which drops December 2 at select Vault by Vans retailers.
Read on to get a window into its design process, and for more info and where to buy, visit The Drop List – a calendar of Vans’ most exclusive products.
Describe your artistic style and the scope of your work for those who may not be familiar with it.
I consider my work to be graphic, but I try to be dimensional in subject matter. One way to describe my studio is a design practice that operates like an art studio. I try to maintain a very varied production and connectivity between brands and artistic projects.
Tell us about your relationship with Vans and your approach to creating artwork for shoes.
As a skateboarder, I have a close personal history with Vans. I’ve 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 the same way you might approach creating a piece of art.
For example, the first place I saw Vans was at sailing school when I was a kid in the late 80s. One of the instructors was wearing checkered Slip-Ons and my little skateboarder mind been blown away. Sailing therefore became the starting point for certain aspects of the collection. This piece of personal history got me thinking about other themes I could work with. A viewer is unlikely to understand anything of this backstory, but it is an example of a process I use to create new work.
Your Checkerboard Day collab featured designs of your iconic 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 story. So the logos and branding are based on memories of skate shops or ski shops and the feeling of experiencing the culture growing up. However, the textures and the fabrics are directly drawn from the current materials of my workshop.
I love connecting to the freedom given to me with projects like this. No one asks for coercion, so materials and approaches can come from anywhere. The collection doesn’t have an overall theme, but the work IS meant to add to something, like when I’m developing a painting exhibition for a gallery.
Specific Footwear Themes: I hate having paint on every white T-shirt I wear, so I scanned all the shirts with subtle smudges of paint. Another shoe is based on the material of five old clothes I wear, each piece of clothing has its own story. 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 shape us as people. This same subject is scribbled on the outside of another shoe.
Another shoe shows a man bouncing on a point like a trampoline. The frames reveal that at the bottom of the bounce, the dot becomes a heart shape. This guy discovered that through experience we can connect with internal aspects of ourselves. In his case, love.
Through this work, I experiment with the possibility that experiments with images and objects can have the same effect. It’s kind of a Montessori or Waldorf approach to a collaboration…through tactile experience, color and shape, we connect 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 whites. Mainly Slip-Ons or Eras. I love the process of taking them from crisp to raw. Like all my clothes, I try to keep them clean at first and not torn. But entropy kicks in – eventually all shoes and clothes become clothes I paint or skate in.