Angie Dita and the Vans Knu Skool for Hypebeast's Sole Mates
The longtime Vans footwear designer chats about the retro silhouette, her shoe archive and more.
It’s been an exhilarating twelve years at Vans for Angie Dita. With a background in graphic and product design, Dita began her career at HELLZ BELLZ where she collaborated with Vans, prompting an interest in designing footwear. Shortly thereafter, she ended up with the skate brand in April of 2011. Since then, she has continued to push Vans forward as she’s grown into her current role as global lifestyle footwear director.
Over the past decade, Dita has connected with powerhouse partners to usher in celebrated collaborations and has gained an innate sense of what consumers want, both today and in the future. Dita selected the recently-revived Knu Skool for her Sole Mates interview, and breaks down the shoe while also chatting about her expansive shoe archive, favorite project at the brand to have worked on and more.
What prompted your initial interest in footwear?
Growing up, I was surrounded by creatives. My grandma was a seamstress, my aunt a fashion designer, uncle an industrial designer and so on. Engaging with them all growing up, aesthetics were often on my mind and led to me trying to find my own place in the family. In my teenage years, I realized that sneakers are important tools for identity and self-expression after spending time in both the United States and Hong Kong. Between the two places I realized how sneakers can be interpreted differently in different environments. However, it wasn’t until working at HELLZ BELLZ as a designer that a collaboration connected all of the dots for me. Designing shoes with Vans as a partner created a moment of awe where I saw myself wanting to bring my expertise and passion to sneakers.
The Knu Skool has made a notable resurgence this year. What was the team’s approach to revisiting the silhouette?
It’s important for our team to be constantly considering trends and when talks of ‘90s styles making a return popped up, we just so happened to have been working on the model already. So, when the post-pandemic trends started to develop, the team was ready to strike.
“By bringing in a collaborator, a new perspective is offered and the results can be outrageous and very fun.”
Which colorway is your favorite?
For daily wear, the black suede with contrast stitching colorway is understated – emphasizing the silhouette’s build and offering a sense of heritage. However, I also archive a lot of shoes, especially our collaborations. By bringing in a collaborator, a new perspective is offered and the results can be outrageous and very fun.
Pivoting back to the Knu Skool, what are your favorite elements of the shoe?
What resonates with me is despite the fact that it is a heritage silhouette, it feels particularly relevant to the style of today. The puffy tongue and collar combine with the Sidestripe to create an almost-surreal styling that serves as an unrestrained canvas that you don’t have to overthink to wear.
If you designed your own Knu Skool collab, what would it look like?
If I was to throw my own spin on it, I’d focus on the tongue in particular, adding something like a zip detail to it. At the same time, I’d hone in on the outsole and toy with stacking cupsoles to create a mash-up, DIY construction that, as a graphic designer who loves collages, would resonate with me. One thing I’d look to balance though is keeping elements such as the Sidestripe in its typical form to maintain a sense of familiarity with the design.
“A key point of [archiving] for me is studying construction techniques and how these shoes stand the test of time, especially with our footwear because it’s made to develop character with wear.”
Can you tell me a bit more about your shoe archive?
Within the first few years of joining Vans, I had around 100 pairs archived. Some of this takes place at work and other pieces are kept at home. Initially, when traveling abroad to places like Japan, I would seek out vintage models and unique releases that tell stories. At this point, I’ve consolidated it to at least 10 bins of archival pieces though, collecting both Vans history and creations from designers I admire. A key point of this process for me is studying construction techniques and how these shoes stand the test of time, especially with our footwear because it’s made to develop character with wear. On top of all this, it’s always fun for me to archive pairs I’ve worked on – whether it be milestones or learning moments.
As someone at the forefront of trends and innovation, where do you draw inspiration from?
At Vans, we’ve established genuine connections with communities that offer important insights to us. One of the great things about working here is that it’s not about digesting trend reports, rather, we get to do what we want from our own perspective.
What has been your favorite project to work on thus far?
If I’m going with my gut, the Vivienne Westwood collaboration stands out to me the most. A big goal of mine upon joining Vans was to make this project a reality. Looking at the spirit of rebellion and individuality that both brands champion, I saw a beautiful story that we could tell together. A big moment in this process for me was having them choose the Sk8-Hi to wear the pattern of Vivienne Westwood’s Pirate Boots. As designers, being able to work with the pattern was amazing to us and by utilizing the platform version of the Sk8-Hi, it became even more expressive. At the end of the day, we were able to create something that could not have been done unless we worked together.
Lastly, what do sneakers mean to you?
Sneakers are tools that unlock a level of self-confidence and allow me to express who I am to the world. They serve as a unique piece of understanding one another that offers much-appreciated perspective. They allow me to be comfortable with my identity and part of why I have so many sneakers is because every day calls for a different pair.