The west coast hosted their Vans OTW Collection release party last month, and on Friday night June 18th, it was our turn here in the east. Hosted by Set Free at Ubiq in Philadelphia, the entire event was executed with one hundred percent class from the red carpet to the tuxedo clad servers offering up crab cakes and sushi. Ubiq’s first level was decked out with about thirty pairs of Vans from the celebratory collection, all surrounding an “OTW” ice sculpture in the middle of the room. That’s right, I said ice sculpture! From there it was off to the second level which is a great space with nicely finished wood floors and lots of wall space for all of the artwork. Each artist, Eric Elms, Dimitri Coste, and The Blackouts (Ako and Atiba Jefferson), had their own section or defined wall where their pieces could be enjoyed.
The “refreshment” table in the backroom, to no ones surprise, was a popular destination for guests to start their night. Luckily we arrived early and photoed the product so we were able to enjoy the spread of Vodka, Rum and Heineken as soon as the party started. The main display of the OTW Collection was was also in the backroom, perched atop 5 pedestals lit from the inside with every model (Alomar, Bedford, Larkin, Tustin, and Frazier), in every color. On either side of the collection was Elms’ wall of screen printed posters and tees and The Blackouts photos of Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) and H.R. (Bad Brains). The rest of the images ran almost the entire span of the room showing an array of party time pics and iconic portraiture.
In the adjoining room was the DJ booth and custom “Set Free” Playstation 3 hooked up to a giant flat screen TV. Unexpectedly, at least to me, the PS3 almost seemed to be the highlight of the party in the early part of the night. Every one of the celebrated artists and a crowd of party goers were all surrounding the TV issuing challenges, lighthearted trash talk, and the occasional collective, “ooohhhhh” as someone almost landed a trick on their digital skateboard. Fast forward a couple of hours and many drinks later to a packed out dance floor and people having the time of their lives. Arms above their heads, spilling drinks on your shoes, not knowing nor caring how ridiculous their drunken dance moves may or may not look; in short, it was a party! Even Mos Def came through to hang with the masses. DJ Pete Rock along with guest DJ sets from The Blackouts kept everyone’s feet moving all night and they couldn’t be happier about it.
Journeying to the very front room is where Dimitri Coste’s domain was. Every image he used depicted Elvis Presley with images of Graceland. Unfortunately the custom drum kit that Coste made, also adorning images of “The King”, was not able to be transported to Philadelphia.
All of the artists were super personable throughout the night graciously making their rounds and talking with everyone. At one point The Blackouts disappeared for about 15 minutes only to re-appear with a brown paper bag containing cans of Budweiser. There was an immediate race by a giddy mob to the bag, which slightly puzzled us since there was free Heineken available all night. When a smiling Eric Elms warned us that we might want to step back we realized they were putting the party in high gear by shot gunning the Buds. I’ve always seen the puncture in the can done with a pen or a key, but Dimitri and Atiba jammed their thumbs right through the sides of the aluminum and went to work.
Although it was a party we did manage to get some business talk in with the OTW crew. They were able to enlighten us to the fact that this first release is just the beginning of their partnership with the OTW Collection. All of the artists are currently working on the next round of shoes right now, which are supposed to be released in Spring 2011. There are also 2 models that will not be returning next year. Which ones you ask? Well, we don’t want to ruin all the surprises. When all was said and done, it was an amazing party with amazing art work and the release of a truly exciting collection.