We are, all of us, living through a moment of Peak Vans. Over the past few years, the humble skate shoe brand has exploded into hyper-relevance, with their easy-wearing canvas kicks suddenly appearing on the feet of literally everyone you know: your favourite rapper, your 12-year-old niece, your mailman, your lawyer, and, oh yeah, you. While other apparel companies are struggling to keep the lights on, Vans keeps on growing at unprecedented rates. They are officially an empire, a dynasty, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Thankfully for us, our new waffle-soled overlords are benevolent gods. All they want to do is throw us a party.
That’s exactly what they did last weekend in Toronto, with the third-annual House of Vans—an event series that pops up in cities all over the world. For three days, the brand took over the Bentway space under the Gardiner and turned it into an arty, skate-punk carnival: a sprawling skatepark played host to trick competitions and skate clinics; rapper D.R.A.M. and chef/TV host/legend Matty Matheson each took to the stage for performances; and a community market hawked goods from local vendors, artists and food trucks.
One notable thing missing from the proceedings? Vans shoes, for purchase. That was by design. “We wanted to keep the spotlight on up-and-coming creative talent and giving back to the community as much as possible,” explained Alex Auchu, Vans Canada’s marketing manager. That’s more than just slick PR double-speak: this year’s House of Vans was home to initiatives like Get on Board—a celebration of women’s skateboarding that included girls-only skate clinics—and a dunk tank to raise money for the Dillon Ojo Lifeline Foundation, a non-profit named for a late Vans team member that supports athletic programs for underprivileged youth.
All in all, if this is what life under the Vans regime looks like—skateboarding, art, music, community activism, all-around good times—then long may they rule.