Vault by Vans x L’Art De L’Automobile: the mechanics of a successful collaboration
Take a first look at Arthur Kar's second collaboration with Vans.
i-D meets with Arthur Kar, founder of L’Art de L’Automobile, to discuss storytelling, the art of creating a lifestyle brand, why driving will never go out of style, and for a first look at his second collaboration with Vans.
Claire Thomson-Jonville: This is your second collaboration with Vans, can you take me back to what Vans represents to you as a lifestyle brand? Obviously, growing up with skate culture and your close collaborators at the garage being skaters… What does it mean to you to do this collaboration? Arthur Kar: Personally, I don’t really wear Vans because of skating, I’ve been wearing Vans for a long time because they’re easy to wear and they always look timeless. The new collab we’re gonna drop is the Old School which is the model we also wear a lot. It’s very simple and at the same time stylish, so we wanted to play with aspects of the car in the design.
CTJ: The design of the shoe was inspired by dragster racing. Can you discuss a little bit about that culture? Is it the point of departure for the design and how did you determine the design approach ? AK: The point of departure of the design is the exhaust system and the flames coming up on the sides. On every sports car, you have an exhaust system which can also spit some fire it depends on the power of the engine, so that’s what we wanted to translate to the shoe. That kind of feeling you had when you were a kid and you would buy a pair of Sneakers at the store and in your mind you think you run faster with the shoes but actually you don’t run faster than anybody. It’s just in your mind. I wanted to do the same with these shoes: that the kids who wear them feel like they can move faster. I also wanted to create a story telling that makes most sense for me: I love dragsters, I grew up going to dragster races with my dad. I don’t think it’s an interesting race per se because they only go in a straight line. Actually, the most beautiful part of the race to me is the departure, how the car starts. Usually it spits big flames and also the tyre folds into a shape which you don’t see on any type of other tyre. I also like the shape of dragsters cause they look really weird, they’re very unexpected cars. Like very thin, or very fat, or very big, and they’re very, very fast. They’re the biggest engine in the game. Some of them even have helicopters or firejet engines. So I was like, I’m going to bring that with my Vans collab. Today with instagram, you see a lot of people posting their car exhaust systems and I think that’s kind of corny and that’s kind of really cheap especially in those sports car brands that people like to post about. As you know, our brand is more related to real storytelling and things make sense. We’re doing the hoodie and pants in three different colours. One crewneck and two t-shirts, one cap and socks that goes with the entire collection if you want to wear your Vans in one total look outfit.
CTJ: Just like a white t-shirt or the perfect blue jeans, obviously sneakers are classics. When you’re working on a shoe, and specifically a Vans shoe, and you’re thinking about the ingredients that you want to incorporate to create an “iconic shoe”, would you say that you’re more visionary, like do you have an idea already in your mind before you start of what you want it to look like, or is it a step-by-step process? AK: We always have an idea. All the shoes that we’re doing and that are gonna come out in the next five years, we already have the idea of all of them. Because they’re all related to a story we had in our history of our brand or my relationship with shoes and clothes.
CTJ: With l’Art, you’ve obviously worked on multiple collaborations. I’m just curious about, how do you determine if the moment’s right for a particular brand at a particular time, is it an organic process where you seek it out? Obviously you’ve got a lot of people wanting to collaborate with you, can you explain a little bit your approach to collaboration ? AK: We have a lot of people who want to collaborate, there are lots of brands we like and we work with, but a lot of brands we don’t, not because we don’t want, but because it doesn’t make sense for us. We only collaborate with brands that make sense. Porsche we did, because I have a long story with them, Carhartt has a long history with Adrien from the team, we have a lot of offers and some are on-going collaborations, but we’re not going to do a lot too. All of them have to have a story and all of them happen with logic because it’s part of our lives, it’s part of our day to day.
**CTJ: Could you describe the creative process with Vans and how it differs from other partnerships, what’s the process with them? Are they super hands off, do they let you do what you want ?
**AK: We told them the shoes we wanted to do, they gave us the shoe template and they let us have free creative expression.
**CTJ: And is that quite usual?
**AK: Depends with who but kind of, yeah.
**CTJ: When you’re designing a shoe, or anything, for that matter, do you have somebody specific in mind? Are you designing for yourself or is it more a mood in general?
**AK: We’re designing for ourselves. We treat our brand the same way we treat our cars. We ride our cars because that car means something to us, we want everything to make sense. That it’s authentic to us. For example, Ive been working on a new sweatshirt shape and I’ve been wearing it myself for the past three days and when I’m ready I’m gonna do the modifications that make me feel the most comfortable and then I’m gonna drop it. Instead of some people who buy already existing forms of clothes and they print their own style or their own logo and they modify it their own way, we build our own shapes with our own template, we try things on and if we feel comfortable enough, then we proceed to move forward. We treat this the same way we would an artwork. We don’t consider ourselves artists, we’re not, but if we have to paint an artwork on a wall, it’s gonna be what we have in our mind. Not what the people want to see.
**CTJ: How would you describe your own personal style? You, Arthur?
**AK: Depends on my mood, and depends on the city I’m in. Usually it’s kind of the same. I like to wear from the bottom to the top the same brand.
**CTJ: Like full looks?
**AK: Full looks, yeah.
CTJ: And what car you’re driving, is that ever a consideration? AK: No! No, I don’t match my car with my clothes. It’s not for me.
CTJ : When we’ve spoken in the past, we talked about drawing inspiration from lifestyle culture. What are the lessons that you’ve taken from the iconic brands that influenced you in the past?And how are you applying those lessons to your own lifestyle philosophy today? AK: I mean all these brands, and all these people we talk about, from Carhartt people because I know their studio and I know the people who are making them well to Jordan - all these brands and all these people we look up to, they all have one point in common, it’s that they’re all perfectionists. They all do something because it means something to them and they want to do it the best way possible. That’s what I learned with time, from the brands I worked with like Porsche to the automobile companies, from the real fashion brands I consider as real brands, and real designers, that’s what I learned from them. To have that personality naturally but to have that personality without having shame in your own product. One more time, I like that Rick Rubin’s post “are you making art for you or are you making art for the commerce?”. So, it’s the same. Some people who don’t have any personality and they just drop products which I respect totally. Even I buy some of these products sometimes. But then there are some people who do things from a real sincere place. What I like about that is, a lot of people will not understand and a lot of people on the other side will be into it. It’s two different approaches. So that’s what I’ve learned, it’s being myself the most possible. That’s why the more the days pass, the more I’m myself.
**CTJ: In Paris, specifically, the culture you’ve created around cars which is usually quite elite and exclusive - especially with the kinds of cars that you’re talking about. What’s your philosophy around l’Art, and creating the lifestyle around it? Can you talk about the culture in France, specifically?
**AK: People think there’s nobody who loves cars here in France but there are actually a lot of people who love cars. Not as much as in the UK or Germany, or Los Angeles, but we have a lot of passionate people. I take this as a passion first, and I’m doing naturally what I like. In Paris or wherever I am. Because I just use these cars the way I want to use it them according to my vision. If the world doesn’t want to have cars with gas and they want to have electric cars, that’s OK! But that’s not gonna make me change my love of driving a car - for me driving to get your bread, going to get your smoothie, going to have dinner with your girlfriend, whatever the car you have, it’s the same feeling because you’re spending time in a car; It’s better than being in an Uber, or with a driver who drives you around. You know you’re not with your own music, you’re not experiencing stuff. It’s not about the shape of the car or the brand of the car. It’s more about the moment we live in ours. And that’s why it’s more important to me and that’s why I don’t think cars will disappear. That’s not possible. Not in ten years not in two hundred years. I think cars will always be here especially with the time. The other day they were showing cars that are gonna be flying and all this stuff - I think that’s great. But cars with four wheels on the road, will never disappear. They will be more and more exclusive and more and more interesting because it’s something between freedom, between history, between feelings you can only have in that moment. So that’s what I live for and I do naturally my way.
Find out more info at vans.eu/vault-by-vans-kar
Images courtesy of Vans