Beatrice Domond and Her Vans Zahba Mid for Hypebeast's Sole Mates

The pro skater and longtime Vans team member discusses what goes into a good skate shoe, her biggest footwear inspirations and more.

Footwear 
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July in New York City can be uncomfortably hot, and it’s far from balmy in Bushwick, Brooklyn when Beatrice Domond arrives at Vans Skate Space 198 for her Sole Mates interview. Though the clock has just ticked past 10 AM — typically an early call time for a pro skater, but “Bea,” as her friends know her, is a self-described morning person — the sun is out in full force and the Brooklyn asphalt is on the verge of sizzling like a bodega grill. However, neither the heat nor the time seem to bother Beatrice, who projects a cocktail of curiosity, confidence and cordiality as she gets ready to talk about her latest sneaker with Vans: the Zahba Mid.

The Zahba Mid is, as its name implies, a new mid-cut version of the Zahba, and Beatrice was the team member the brand tapped to help introduce it. Debuting a new model in today’s heavily-saturated footwear market is no small task, but it’s one that Beatrice is up to, as her on-board exploits (see Awake and CANDYLAND) and off-board style (sponsorships from Supreme and Fucking Awesome, plus a burgeoning modeling career) make her the perfect spokesperson for the new style. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s a skate history fanatic and a sneaker lover with special takes on the AVE Pro 2 and Style 53 already under her belt. “I’ve always dressed from the feet up,” she mentions moments after walking through the door.

In conversation with Hypebeast, Beatrice Domond discusses her sneaker history, what she looks for in a skate shoe, the evolution of her design process over the course of her partnership with Vans and how you can identify different types of skaters by their footwear choices.

What got you into sneakers?

Skating played a part of course, but my dad was the main inspiration. He was always into shoes and that rubbed off on me. Growing up we’d go to Ross or Marshalls and I’d go straight to the men’s shoe section to see what they had. Now that I’m more immersed in fashion and know how things work, I’m aware that Ross and Marshalls sell overstock or defective sneakers, but back then I just liked checking shoes out. Where they were from wasn’t important, I was just fascinated by them. Then, when I got more into skating, sneakers became super important from a practical and a sartorial sense: how they felt, how they looked, how my pants touched them. That’s when my knowledge started to expand.

“If you’re a real skater, Vans are the pinnacle shoe because skateboarding is always their #1 priority.”

Did you grow up wearing Vans?

When you get into skating, Vans are the shoes to have. My family would take me to [footwear retailer] Rack Room Shoes for back-to-school shopping because they always had sales, and I’d always ask for Vans because they were proper skate shoes but I could still wear them to school. As I started getting older, I tried a few other brands out but I always kept coming back to Vans. As far as I see it, if you’re a real skater Vans is the pinnacle because skateboarding is always [the brand's] #1 priority.

When you left Florida and moved to New York to skate full time, did you notice a different approach to footwear in the Big Apple? If so, did that change your perspective on footwear as a whole?

For sure. Even when I still lived in Florida, I felt like I was on my New York sh*t [laughs]. I’d always be watching videos and reading about what was going on in places like New York and Paris, so much so that it became my reality. When I finally got up to New York, I realized pretty quickly that footwear is important because your shoes are like your car here. In Florida, someone will be driving a Porsche, in New York that same person would probably be walking around in Prada or Margiela shoes. Either way, the message is the same: “that person’s got it.”

Who were you looking up to from a sneaker perspective when you were coming up?

Dill. Definitely Jason Dill. He’s obviously on the adidas team now, but he did a ton with Vans — before that he even worked with DVS and Vita, and he’s created something memorable every stop of the way.

It seems like he was one of the first guys, intentionally or otherwise, to bridge that gap between skateboarding and high-end fashion, and do it in a really tasteful way nonetheless.

Totally. He’d have a Prada influence in his designs, or put crazy sh*t like snakeskin and metallic silver on his shoes, but always in a way that felt considered. Even in the early ’00s, he’d do less by doing more. It was like some Raf Simons type sh*t.

With that being said, how do you feel about high fashion’s current fascination with skate shoe-inspired silhouettes?

I don’t like ‘em. I think the skate community is flattered by them to some degree, but these fashion houses are just doing what we already did then slapping their logo on it. No shade to them, I respect any and all designs, but every one of those shoes is just a re-interpretation of a classic skate model. It’s funny to see fashion appropriating sport.

Moving on to your shoes now, I was looking through your Twitter earlier this week, and …

Oh, God [laughs]. That’s the alter ego Beatrice on there.

There’s a tweet from March 15, 2021, at 12:41 AM that says “HAHAHAHAHAHAH my apologies I just woke up in the middle of my sleep and realize I have two shoes on vans hahahahaha wtf hahahahahahaha.” Now that this Zahba Mid has released, you have three shoes. Does it feel more surreal each time?

It’s always such a crazy opportunity. You grow up skating and you’re at the bottom of the pyramid. If you’re lucky, you get to watch yourself slowly progress. If you’re really dedicated and really lucky, the companies you idolized growing up become your partners. I’m still so stoked on all of it. I couldn’t go back to 14-year-old Beatrice now and act like “yeah, I skate for a living now, it’s whatever” on some cool sh*t — being a pro skater is f*cking sick! I’m so grateful and I’ll never, ever get tired of it.

“I used to be in my room drawing sh*t [like these shoes] late into the night, and now I’ll wake up and see my name next to the Vans logo on my own shoes … it’s a magical experience.”

Is the kind of excitement you get from designing a third colorway different than the kind of excitement you’d get from doing it the first time?

When you’re on the top of that pyramid I mentioned, everyone wants your spot, and the longer you stay at the top of the pyramid the more arrows get sent up your way. That makes the second or third win a bit more bittersweet, but if you can block that out the feeling is exactly the same. I used to be in my room drawing sh*t like this late into the night, and now I’ll wake up and see my name next to the Vans logo on my shoes. I manifested that, and it’s a magical experience. I’m super romantic about skateboarding, if you couldn’t tell.

What does it feel like to debut a brand-new silhouette? This is the first time the Zahba Mid has come to market.

It almost feels like a signature model. I had a ton of involvement with the process of getting the new silhouette just right.

What were some of the biggest takeaways from your first two colorways, and how did you apply them to this one?

Since I’ve already spent a lot of time working with the Vans design team, we’re super familiar with each other’s processes. I stay up late, wake up early and have five placements of Capricorn, so I’ll be doing things like sending [the design team] a reference photo at 2 AM. That’s easier for me to do now as I’m not shy about working on the shoes anymore. The first time around, I was like “I don’t want to bother these people, so I’m just gonna be grateful for this opportunity.” Now that I’ve already completed the processes and know the team appreciates my work ethic, I can be full terror Beatrice: always making suggestions, giving feedback, contemplating design tweaks. For example, we had originally thought about making the sole marbled before realizing that the rubber we used doesn’t hold that texture well. I feel more comfortable experimenting before the actual samples come back, having variety, being confident in my ability to create.

It seems like there are some similarities between going through that process and nailing a trick for the first time: once you’ve done it, you know you can do it again and that makes you more comfortable.

That’s pretty much it.

What do you look for in a skate shoe? Is there a specific element that you prioritize over all others?

Board feel is definitely number one. After that, my shoe’s toe cap can’t be too pointy or too square. That’s why this shoe’s toe has such a nice oval shape. If it’s too sharp it just looks crazy, but if it’s too square it doesn’t have that nice flick you need. Looks-wise, I want a colorway that you can wear with anything and not be jammed up. When someone has an all-red shoe, I’m like “dude, you get, like, two outfits with that! What can you wear with it?”

Do you differentiate between your skate shoes and your chillers, or are you more of a one-pair-for-both type of person?

One pair for both, but I know a lot of skaters like to keep them separate — that’s why we did a Style 52 as well, so it could be the chiller, the go-out option. A lot of people have actually been sending me photos of them rocking the Style 52 to weddings, so it’s cool to think that I’m a wedding shoe designer too [laughs].

Do you think you can tell a lot about a skater by the shoes that they’re wearing?

Yes. If they have high-tops on they’re pretty gnarly, if they’re wearing the Old Skool they’re probably really smooth and skate a lot of tranny, if they’re wearing the Authentic they’re probably really stylish and have really good feebles. What’s cool about the Zahba Mid is that it can work for a lot of different types of skaters: smooth cruisers or someone on [the Vans Skateboarding] team like Austin Kanfoush, who’s a hesh, Anti-Hero type skater that could skate a super crusty spot in these.

So what’s your favorite Vans model beyond your own?

Either the Authentic, Era, or Slip-On. I have long, flat feet so any of those are perfect for me. It makes sense with how I skate too: I feel like I tre flip better in something like a Slip-On.

Why are sneakers important to you?

You have to put them on every day. You can’t leave the house without them. Especially if you’re a skater. You’ve got to have a good pair on. And I don’t wear sandals. Do you?

In the house.

Thank God. Having your toes out on the streets of New York would be crazy [laughs].

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