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Advisory Board Crystals’ Debut Vans Collaboration Isn’t For Everyone – And That’s Okay

By Jovani Hernandez

Founded in 2015, Advisory Board Crystals is young relative to some of its collaborators – which include Swarovski (1895), Longchamp (1948), and Moncler (1952). Yet, the Los Angeles-based brand has already carved its own lane within the world of apparel. With the help of Vans, another partner with over 50 years of history, Advisory Board Crystals has brought its penchant for gemstones, advocacy for self-expression, and knack for “Thinking Critically” to the sneaker space.
According to co-founders Heather Haber and Remington Guest, Abc.’s (as the brand is often stylized) inaugural project with Vans took four years to realize. “This shoe [the EVDNT EXT ULTI] was actually quite technical and complicated,” shared Guest on Tuesday in an exclusive video call with Sneaker News. “We had a lot of factory audits for this [project] because…a lot of the things are new for Vans.”

  • Haber & Guest (2020) Abc.

  • Barbie x Vans Vans

  • JJJJound x Vans JJJJound

  • Sesame Street x Vans Vans

  • Abc. x Vans Abc.

In comparison, Vans’ recent work with Barbie, JJJJound, and Sesame Street fall in line with modern collaborations; many link-ups between brands seem more focused on co-branding, special packaging, and higher price tags than with delivering a refreshingly new product to consumers. Work undoubtedly went into last month’s Barbie collection, but adding pink canvas and a Stackform sole unit to the Authentic is territory much more familiar to the “Off the Wall” brand than producing authenticity holograms on its products, a signature of Advisory Board Crystals.
“We work with a company called Certilogo – they work with Stone Island and other luxury brands because they’re based in Italy,” said Guest. “We got Vans to work with them on a custom tongue label. These are the first Vans ever to have a serial number on them, not numbered in terms of how many pairs there are, but like an authenticity serial number that will be with them forever, not that anyone could ever recreate these. Ever, even close. So it’s kind of a moot point, but it’s a win for us.”
Although global isolation guidelines and logistical delays extended the timeframe on which Abc. worked on its Vans EVDNT EXT ULTI, Haber and Guest’s meticulousness would’ve naturally gone beyond the two rounds of samples typical of a footwear collaboration: “We really pay attention to every little aspect and every little detail, which is why this shoe essentially took four years to see the light of day,” said Guest. “[I]f a component didn’t work, we weren’t going to let it not work.”

  • Authenticity hologram Abc.

  • Special shoe box Abc.

  • Vans EVDNT EXT ULTI Abc.

  • Vans EVDNT EXT ULTI Abc.

  • Vans EVDNT EXT ULTI Abc.

  • Vans EVDNT EXT ULTI Abc.

  • Designed in Los Angeles Abc.

  • Translucent Abc.

  • Reworked “Turtle” logo Abc.

Haber and Guest went back-and-forth with the legal team at VF Corporation – Vans’ parent company – to get everything from the recycled shoe box to the co-branding exactly to their liking. Because they reoriented Vans’ classic brown packaging, Abc.’s co-founders had to shift sizing charts and other legal information to another position, no small feat for any collaborator, especially a first-timer. Other arduous but fruitful endeavors on the inaugural Abc. x Vans project include the arched lacing system (the amount of lace needed for Haber and Guest’s preferred arch varied between shoe sizes) and translucency of the outsole. These and other efforts may go widely under-appreciated by the end consumer, but they were necessary to tell Abc.’s story “the right way.”
“That was the goal,” said Guest. “Every component of this shoe was like a full mission. I feel like…this was like 10 collaborations [in one].”
The inline Vans EVDNT UltimateWaffle debuted June 2021, but has flown (skated?) under-the-radar. Abc.’s take on the shoe boasts a clear connection to Vans’ Ultimate offering, but it’s been widely mistaken as an original, signature model. Vans will likely capitalize on the Advisory Board Crystals collaboration to reenergize the shoe’s standard version, which is currently “Out of Stock” on the brand’s webstore.
Haber and Guest’s love of gemstones has informed Abc., and their EVDNT EXT ULTI is no different. The creatives set out to make an abstract representation of a fire opal, a studio favorite. Both Haber and Guest enjoy juxtaposing the natural with the man-made, “manufacturing nature.” The fire opal, then, manifests on the debut Abc. x Vans project via glistening Swarovski eyelets, contrasting suede paneling, and layering throughout.

  • Abc. x Vans Abc.

  • Abc. x Vans Abc.

  • Abc. x Vans Abc.

  • Abc. x Vans Abc.

  • Abc. x Vans Abc.

  • Abc. x Vans Abc.

  • A.b.c.V.a.n.s Embroidered Fleece Abc.

  • “Humble Beginnings” Long-sleeve Tee Abc.

  • Costa Mesa Velvet Shorts Abc.

  • Abc. x Vans Socks Abc.

  • Gemstones & Ephemera Side Bag Abc.

  • Jazz Stripe Abc.

Advisory Board Crystal’s EVDNT EXT ULTI is part of a wider collection. The collection includes a range of high-quality garments manufactured entirely by Abc. and lives under the “Miracle Conditions” banner. According to an official press release from the Los Angeles label, “the exploration of the intersection of miracle conditions and the pseudoscientific effect on human consciousness” was at the core of its first collaborative project with Vans. Fire opals, like all other crystals, provide a guiding light that can take one’s mind to unexplored planes. And what happens in this near-superconscious state?: Reality can be questioned in a way seldom done when under the spell of the status quo. Abc. is wholly preoccupied with non-conforming, anti, divergent thinking, which is why its projects are more than products – they’re internal and external conversation-starters.
The philosophy behind Haber and Guest’s work could be dismissed as pseudo-intellectualism, but it aligns perfectly with Vans’ counterculture legacy. Both creatives, however, understand that not everyone will engage with their work in the exact same capacity. Like with traditional art, spectators can participate however in-depth or superficially as they choose – or perhaps as comes naturally. Haber and Guest are fully aware that the first Abc. x Vans shoe is tougher to digest than other collaborations on established silhouettes; to fully appreciate the EVDNT EXT ULTI and its busy design, “you have to have a design mind, in a way,” according to Guest.
A quick glance social media demonstrates that there are enough people with “design minds” to consider Abc.’s first shoe a success, but detractors exist too. Haber and Guest are used to this group, citing the difficulty of capturing the essence of their highly-nuanced and intricately-designed products in social photography as partly responsible for any divide. “We get messages all the time from customers who buy from us [about] how blown away they are when they receive something,” wrote Guest on Wednesday morning via iMessage. “This shoe is no different and is VERY hard to capture in an image. Its essence does not come across the way it does on foot in person / in hand.” Accompanying apparel and accessories are afflicted by the same curse, but the level of craftsmanship present across Abc. x Vans hoodies, socks, and workwear is much more evident. (When else has a “Vans”-branded garment been manufactured in Italy, made from Japanese French Terry, or photographed alongside a Rolls Royce?)

  • 7th Street & 2nd Avenue (NYC) Abc.

  • On the Wall Abc.

  • A different rollout Abc.

  • Sign up Abc.

Advisory Board Crystal’s next shoe – a reworked Vans Sk8-Hi – won’t necessarily require (nor invoke) the same type of cerebral exercise as its EVDNT EXT ULTI. “It’s a way more basic sneaker, so I think the appeal will be generally broader.” The Sk8-Hi by Abc. is scheduled to launch in the fall, with teaser photos promised in the brand’s next lookbook.
Some of the “Miracle Conditions” collection sold out immediately upon release earlier today. The headlining shoes launched via raffle with Abc. manually analyzing all entries, according to a post on its Instagram account. Pairs have already made their way onto the after-market with several sizes listed over $500 USD – that’s a return of at least 185% (the pair retailed for $175 USD).
“We made a shoe for us, for our brand, and for our consumer,” Guest told Sneaker News. “We’re happy with that…maybe [the naysayers will] miss it when it’s gone.”