Vans x Mami Wata: A Collaboration in Need of No Introduction
The fun thing about being a writer is that in the time it takes to tap a trackpad, one can see one’s own naiveté, ignorance, and lack of cultural awareness in unambiguous, black-and-white pixels.
Last Spring, I foolishly described Cape Town-born clothing brand Mami Wata as a “Trojan horse of cultural expression.” But after nearly a year of seeing its playfully disruptive patterns and siren-like insignia regularly pop up both digitally and IRL, I’ve had the overdue epiphany that the African water deity is neither covert nor coy about her mission or message.
Drawing inspiration from African surf culture – which has been documented as early as the 17th century – and the power and positivity of surfing, the brand boldly conveys the colorful lore of its home seas without the need for sugarcoating or carved wooden costuming.
For this reason, I feel called to rescind the egregious comparison and honor the out-loud expression for what it is.
Finding a complementary pairing with Vans, the cross-continental brand has announced its latest head-to-toe collaboration with the iconic SoCal mainstay that is Vans.
Referencing remarkable moments in pan-African cultural history – from disco-era events like the infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” to the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (Festac) and more, bold details tease out both significant and subtle events, objects, and idiosyncrasies of the broad and diverse subcultures of the African nation.
Micro-check motifs pay homage to hand-woven fabrics while playful iconography reflects each brand’s interpretation of the past and future of surf culture through the lens of the motherland.
An additional, forward-thinking component of the collab focuses on eco-friendly construction. Implementing stringent material guidelines, including responsibly sourced leathers, at least 30% of the Vans x Mami Wata range is made from regenerative, renewable, and recycled materials.
Together, the two voices harmoniously drive forward the narrative of Africa’s significant role in the centuries-long story of surfing through thoughtful, artful offerings that vibrantly reflect the ethos of each.
Vans Surf x Mami Wata is available February 16, 2023, at Vans Surf retail locations and Vans.com.
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