Two Southern California companies, Costa Mesa-based action sports brand Vans and Vernon-based maker of chef gear Hedley & Bennett, have teamed up to create kitchen kicks that are as fun as they are functional.
The Vans X Hedley & Bennett collaboration, which hits retail Tuesday, includes two Vans footwear silhouettes, the Sk8-Hi ($90) and the Slip-On ($85), as well as an apron, a nod to the latter company’s origins as a maker of high-quality hand-crafted kitchen aprons for L.A.’s restaurant community.
Shoe details include uppers in a navy blue water-repellent canvas that helps hide (and wipe away) spills and stains, a removable cushioned, contoured sock liner and an outsole that reverses Vans’ traditional waffle pattern for maximum traction.
Although the reverse tread pattern isn’t new (Vans used a similar outsole in its 2012 outdoorsy collaboration with Barbour), there is something notable about the shoe bottoms. They’re covered in wide, cheery rainbow stripes that are a nod to the brightly colored, Instagram-worthy wall facing Hedley & Bennett’s South Santa Fe Avenue factory.
“The rainbow stripes on the two shoes match the Pantone [color shades] of our rainbow wall to a T,” said Hedley & Bennett founder and Chief Executive Ellen Bennett. “I always feel like color sort of taps into the Willy Wonka in you. It makes you feel like the little kid we all have inside. … The [navy blue] is kind of low key, but when people put them on, it’ll be a reminder like, ‘Hey, you’re alive today, this is a new day, go take it by … storm.’”
Bennett added that although her brand has its roots in the kitchen (she launched the line in 2012 while working as a cook at Providence restaurant in Hollywood), the shoe collaboration is aimed at members of the larger creative community.
“We designed it for ‘makers,’” she said. “Makers are people that stand all day long. If you’re a carpenter, a woodworker, a painter [or] a potter you’re running around all day. That’s why these have the inserts that provide significantly more support than your typical Vans.” (Fun fact: if you remove the orange sock liners from the shoes and place them side by side, the design forms a large Hedley & Bennett ampersand logo.)
The collaboration marks the first foray into footwear for Hedley & Bennett, which since launching with its signature hard-wearing-but-stylish line of aprons, has added chef coats and work shirts to its merchandise mix as well as partnered with like-minded brands last year to introduce socks with Richer Poorer and T-shirts and jackets with streetwear label the Hundreds. For anyone keeping track, it also marks Vans’ first apron ($85), a handsome-looking number in 8-ounce stretch denim with a light blue-and-white Vans signature checkerboard adorning one of the two lap pockets and part of the neck strap.
And that’s barely the tip of Hedley & Bennett’s collaborative iceberg. This year alone the company has partnered with Colorado adventure brand Topo Designs, tequila maker Don Julio, stationery brand Rifle Paper Co. and most recently Samsung, which just finished outfitting the kitchen of Hedley & Bennett’s 16,000-square-foot headquarters near downtown L.A. with a suite of its Chef Collection appliances.
Bennett said Hedley & Bennett’s goal will be to host book-signings and cooking demonstrations and “to teach people how to cook like professional chefs in their own homes.”
“I’m an avid aficionado of collaborations,” Bennett said about the plethora of partnerships. “I think what it does is bring the best of both tribes to the table. And I am particularly good at collaboration. That’s just the way my head works. And when you think about when this company started, every apron I made was a collaboration [with a chef]. Hey, David Chang, what did you like about the apron? What didn’t you like? Hey, Martha Stewart, what can we do to make this apron better? And you can learn so much about other industries simply by collaborating sincerely.”
Bennett described 2018 as a “crazy year, collaboration-wise” but said there’s still more in the partnership pipeline. “We’ve got a collaboration coming in about three weeks with Parachute Home,” she said. “It’s this super-high-end linen company that’s L.A.-based and female-founded. We’re doing these kitchen towels that are beautiful, effective and non-linty and the most sexy ... potholders you’ve ever seen in your life. Who says that about a potholder?”