The launch of the new Vans Vault collaboration with Julian Klincewicz was accompanied by ‘Pure Michigan’, an immersive exhibition celebrating the spirit of the summer, in the Spazio Maiocchi in Milan. Vans Vault invited us to join the event and we took the chance to sit down with the artist/ photographer/ skateboarder/ musician/ director who in the past worked with the likes of Kanye West, Beyoncé, and many more to discuss the collection, his inspiration, and future projects.
With a multi-dimensional approach, this new collection takes direct inspiration from idyllic pieces of Julian’s childhood world and is a celebration of the summer spirit. His adventures and the spirit of childhood & community are the central points of reference for his third collaboration with Vault by Vans.
Allike: So, this is your third collaboration with Vans. How did it come to that and how did it feel to work with Vans again?
Julian Klincewicz: I have always had a bit of a relationship with Vans; when I was a little kid growing up, I knew the Vans reps who would come to the skate shop to show you the new collection. So, I always knew people at Vans. And in San Diego, one of my friends owned a shoe store and he was able to do a collaboration with Vans Vault with his store. And that’s really how I got the relationship with Vans Vault, through my friend; he did his shoe and then I kinda helped him with the collection and met the team and sort of had a relationship with some of the people there. And basically, I went to a meeting at Vans to look at the new collection for my friend’s store and they had this model the “Bold Ni” - I saw it and I was like 'I love this shoe! I can’t wait to wear it!'. And they asked me 'Do you want to do a colorway?' and for me, that literally would be a dream come true. And so, it kind of serendipitously happened through that, and then very shortly after Slam Jam had approached me to do the Vans European collection; I think those two things reinforced each other. Vans Europe was like 'Hey, we’re working with this kid Julian' and Vans North America was like 'Oh, we’re also working with Julian' – and that kind of solidified that. So then once we’ve wrapped up those collections, we’ve just had the relationship, and Vans was like 'Why don’t we do another one in 2022?'. So, it’s been a very natural process.
Allike: The campaign for the collection quite stands out compared to your other work and has a very specific feeling to it. What was the idea behind that?
Julian Klincewicz: Originally, my idea was I wanted to shoot a bunch of kids I grew up with in Michigan. But the weather wouldn’t allow it at the time, so we had to shoot in California. So, I was like “Ok, I’m going to shoot some of my friends”. And we worked with this really cool casting agent Alexis Gross to cast people that felt very authentic. The whole spirit of the collection is very accessible. I wanted it to feel just very authentic and like what my childhood was, which was very beautiful, and everyone was just living and experiencing. Synching with the photos, I tried to compose them and make them have a specific feeling and iconography but also there’s a certain level of almost basicness to them to make them feel very accessible and very genuine.
Allike: The collection takes inspiration from your childhood summers. How did you come up with that idea?
Julian Klincewicz: My childhood summers always had a special place, but I never imagined doing a big project on it. But when we started talking about this collaboration, they said they wanted to do a Spring/Summer collection. And so, I was thinking about what does that actually mean to me? Because the thing that’s hard with product and especially with big brands is, they just need to make so much stuff. So, I was really trying to think about ‘How can I make something that actually is really special and genuine to me and not just another summer collection?’ So, I just started thinking about what is my relationship to summer, what do I have to say? And I have this super cool opportunity to get to make shoes - which is literally a dream to me. So, I just started thinking more and more about what is special about summer and I just kept coming back to these summers in Michigan and so I was like, let me just follow the thread and see where it goes. And then it turned into this.
Allike: Speaking of ‘this’: This is a very nice installation, by the way.
Julian Klincewicz: Yeah, the Vans Europe team specifically has been amazing to work with. They brought on a really cool Set designer to help concept the space, where I just was like ‘It’s about summer, it would be cool to have sand and this tree’. And I do these silk flags and that’s also where the inspiration for the shoes came, and they had this idea how to do it, to take it to a new place. So this whole installation has been a very collaborative process. Really fun.
Allike: Since the collection is based on your childhood memories, would you say that nowadays, people don’t really take time to reflect about their past so much but instead it’s always about ‘What’s next?’?
Julian Klincewicz: I think, the past two years with Covid really for everyone has been this difficult and isolating experience and I think that led to a lot of self-reflection. And I think that experience is actually really special because it is so universal. I think everybody had to stop and slow down and sort of re-figure out what do they care about, what do they wanna do? And for me, a lot of that process was just thinking about making things that feel intentional. And I think revisiting your past is a way to remember these special moments, these special people and really to get back in touch with different parts of yourself. I think life right now moves so quickly. I mean I’m speaking from my own experience, but you know, I do so much work, I’m shooting fashion campaigns, working on videos, and doing music and so much stuff that sometimes it’s hard to slow down and just take it in. And so with this collection, it’s a really good opportunity to slow down and think about these special moments and remember when I was a kid and how free that was and how time was just endless.
Allike: And this feeling is exactly what you get looking at the pictures.
Julian Klincewicz: Thank you! That means a lot. I think also the past two years slowing down so much, has also really made me focus on what do I have to say as an artist? And I think the role of the artist is really to reflect experiences back in a way that allows people to understand and connect with them and remember their own experiences to form new ideas. My favorite phrase in the world is “In the deeply personal is the deeply universal.”, which means that when you really get to the genuine parts of you and really are like ‘what’s so personal and meaningful to you?’. If you can convey that in a way, other people will connect with it and form their own version and remember their version of that. You know, everyone has had special summer experiences, whether it’s your first kiss or going to summer camp or hanging out on the beach with your family, or being bored in the car. It’s like getting to revisit those deeply personal experiences is also a way to remind other people to remember their experiences and that it’s kind of all about connection.
Allike: Do you have a favorite piece from the collection?
Julian Klincewicz: My favorite, favorite are the brown shoes. For whatever reason, they’re just exactly what I want to wear. When Vans launched the website, I got an e-mail notification of one of the stores that was carrying the collection, and I just happened to be subscribed to the store, and I opened it and I saw my stuff and I was like ‘Oh, this is actually cool! It looks cool.’ You know, if you work on your stuff, you really want it to be cool but you always fall a little bit short. You always think it’s one thing and then you see it and you think ‘it could have been better’. But for whatever reason, seeing the brown shoes, I was just thinking ‘that’s exactly it; that’s exactly what I thought it would be and what I hoped it would be’. And when I got to see them in real life, it just is exactly what I hoped from it. So, for me, those are kind of the pinnacle.
Allike: So, are you a shoe lover in general?
Julian Klincewicz: Yeah! I mean, my first love was Skateboarding. And when I was a little kid, I used to just draw shoes and I wanted to be a Skate shoe designer. When I was twelve, thirteen, fourteen, I would just sit in my bedroom and draw shoes. And then, you know, you go through life and you kind of forget. I always thought shoes were just cool, they say so much about your identity, they make you feel a certain way. You know, the most genuine part of sneaker culture is that kind of sense of identity and community. And I think it’s really easy for that to get lost with how much stuff there is, you know, there’s like twenty drops a day. And so, when I got that e-mail and saw my stuff I was like ‘Oh my god; I literally made my childhood dream come true.’ I got to design a shoe that is on a website that people can buy. It's just literally a dream come true.
So, in that sense all of the collection is like that, when I see it, I am just, you know, stoked. I also still can’t believe they let me do it. I mean, if I look at my resume it’s quite fancy and has all the cloudy names and celebrities and whatever. But the way that I feel is very much ‘I’m a skater, and I make art’ and just very normal. So, the fact they let me do all this is just fucking amazing. I can’t believe it. Very humbling. Having my name on a shoe is insane.
Allike: Having this collection in the books, are there any future projects in the making?
Julian Klincewicz: Yeah, I just started talking to Vans to maybe do another collection for the end of next year. I think it’ll be a kid’s collection, which I think will be super fun. It just seems so cool to design kids' shoes, that feels sick. And I also have a couple of personal projects. I went out to Hawaii last year and shot a bunch of Surf photos. So, I’m working on a photography book of Surf photos. And a couple of fashion campaigns. And then really a lot of music. Over the past four years, I’ve very slowly been writing songs and I want to try and make a full album and shoot a short film for that album. Those are kind of the next things I’m working on.
Allike: That sounds exciting. We’re looking forward to seeing the outcome of that and want to say thank you so much for your time!
Julian Klincewicz: Thank you! You’re very welcome.
Below, you can find some impressions from the launch event. You can also shop the collection now at our shop.