In 1990, a painting by Vincent Van Gogh—Portrait of Dr. Gachet“—sold at Christie’s for $82.5 million; in November of last year, bidders almost beat that record when the Dutch artist’s Laboureur dans un champ went for $81.3 million.
Van Gogh’s works have inspired many to track down his pieces to create fashion collections that allow anyone who wants to wear a bit of Van Gogh to do so.
According to a 2018 Glamour report, that’s partly the inspiration behind the collaboration between global footwear brand Vans and the Van Gogh Museum. “It’s our mission to make Van Gogh as accessible to people all over the world as we possibly can,” Axel Ruger, the museum’s director, tells Glamour in Amsterdam. “People from all over the world really love Van Gogh and want a piece of him, as it were. We’re always looking to find new ways [to] make his work [feel] relevant today.” The Museum has undertaken a handful of design partnerships in the past (most recently, one with the luggage company Samsonite), and this one feels like it’s most widely accessible: 16 pieces, ranging from footwear to apparel, priced between $40 and $140.
Vans x Van Gogh Museum is centered around four specific pieces from the artist’s canon—Skull, Sunflowers, Almond Blossom, Self-Portrait as a Painter, Old Vineyard with Peasant Woman—as well as letters he wrote his brother, Theo. All of these “are windows into certain moments of his life,” says Diandre Fuentes, from Vans’ global footwear design team, to Glamour in a 2018 report. “I think, if you look at the collection as a whole, we really tried to translate what we’ve learned from working with the museum to the consumer. For example, we didn’t use Starry Night because it’s the first piece you learn about [by] Van Gogh—we really tried, from the skull to the vineyard, to track the trajectory of his growth as an artist and educate the consumer on that. That’s what sets this collection apart, and making sure we stay true to the paintings in terms of quality, which was really the biggest challenge that we’ve had to overcome.”
The connection between the two isn’t all that random, when you consider that the average age of visitors to the Van Gogh Museum is around 34, according to Ruger, in a 2018 Glamour report, and that Vans has a history of collaborating with artists. Plus, both are iconic brands with a global reach. “The translation of his art into a modern form of expression—sneakers are so much of our culture right now—[it] makes me really happy that we can make that connection,” he adds. The partnership, which will be sold online at Vans and at the Van Gogh Museum’s gift shop, will help keep the artist’s legacy thriving: The museum will be donating all profits from the collaboration to preserving his collection.