Awake NY is launching its next footwear collaboration with Vans for Foot Locker.
While founder and designer Angelo Baque has partnered with Asics and Merrell for Awake NY, but this collaboration marks Awake NY’s first partnership with Vans. Baque designed three colorways of the Classic Sk8 Hi launching on Oct. 15, 20 and 22 for $90, and featuring designs like Batik swatches, a digitally printed checkerboard pattern, edge-painted side strips, suede toe boxes and white vulcanized midsoles.
Baque said he and Vans have a relationship from his days at Supreme, and during those 10 years with the streetwear brand, he noticed Vans connection with New York City.
“I’ve always liked Vans and in the last four or five years the brand has been a part of the New York City landscape, especially the Sk8 Hi sneakers,” Baque said. “The brand transcended skate into music and has been able to break through this need to be a skater to become a lifestyle brand. It’s a brand that kids here in New York gravitate toward.”
This collaboration is the start of a 16-month partnership between Awake NY and Foot Locker and they plan to release two more Vans projects. In addition to this launch, Awake NY and Foot Locker will make donations to Washington Heights-based Fresh Youth Initiatives supporting low-income immigrant and first-generation children in Northern Manhattan and Children of Promise, NYC.
“It’s not the first time I’m working with Children of Promise,” Baque said. The designer teamed with Nike and Timberland through his community-driven platform Social Studies established with photographer Shaniqwa Jarvis and Something Special Studios, and donated extra shoes from the collaborations to children with Children of Promise.
“The organization works with children of incarcerated parents,” Baque explained. “These kids have either had donated or hand-me-down shoes, but we had extra shoes from Nike and Timberland. I went in my car and delivered all of these shoes from Social Studies.”
Baque has made sure his collaborations and product launches support communities, whether it’s the youth, families, or even lawyers. He used the phrase “conscious capitalism” to explain his mission with the brand to support those fighting against and working against injustices while running a business.
Awake NY dropped New York Yankees and New York Mets caps with New Era with the proceeds from sales supporting Queens-based nonprofit New Immigrant Community Empowerment and Bronx-based nonprofit The Point CDC, and raised funds for Building Black Bedstuy through sales of a graphic T-shirt.
In June 2020, Awake NY sold logo hoodies and hats and donated 60 percent of sales to Black Lives Matter protesters. This year, the brand teamed with Griselda rapper Westside Gunn for his organization Flygod for Families in Buffalo, N.Y., giving backpacks and shoes for kids for back to school and for a creative paint-and-sip event where children painted and sipped lemonade (Gunn also fronts the Awake NY x Vans collaboration campaign).
This new partnership with Foot Locker is an extension of the brand’s ongoing philanthropic efforts.
“There is always a give-back with every project we do,” Baque said. “It’s really important to be consistent when working with these organizations. It’s about showing face and meeting the kids and for them to see themselves.”
He added that this year has been “a lot of hard work” for the brand, but was prepped by such a difficult year in 2020.
“We all had to acclimate and improvise and I’m glad we’re still here and continue to do the work, survive last year and continue for this year and not lose our brand ethos and DNA,” he added.
As Baque looks to 2022, he shared the brand will launch collaborations with Carhartt and Lacoste, and is eyeing retail.
“We’re looking at our first store for 2022,” he said. “What I envision aside from a retail space is having a community center that we can have to be able to bow-tie this narrative of working with kids. Offer Photoshop lessons, have artists that we work with to talk about how they’ve made it, including Shaniqwa [Jarvis], Chris Gibbs, Tremaine Emory. What matters most would be to open our first brick-and-mortar.”
Baque sees retail as an opportunity to give kids a place to hang out, which he believes does not exist at the moment. “We’re filling a gap that is empty,” he said. “Where can that local kid go to hang out? I want to have reference issues in the store, be transparent about what inspires the collection, to speak to kids in front of the store. In the tradition of New York City stores I grew up going to, that energy doesn’t exist right now.”