With its huge tunnels, dim mysterious lighting and rustic brick décor; entering the House of Vans was similar to that dream we all had as a child where we ran through that brick wall into Platform 9 ¾ (Don’t front like we didn’t all want to be Harry Potter!). This hidden skater’s and biker’s paradise is truly the latest and hippest hidden gem in London. Tucked away under London’s famous Waterloo Station, the venue contains a photo and product exhibition, a restaurant, a bar and an indoor skatepark- there’s a little something for everyone, whether you want to skate your heart out or have a hearty meal.
Established in 1966, Vans took the Californian skating scene by storm with its brand of skater friendly footwear. The ‘California Love’ soon spread and Vans’ unique design of sticky soled and vibrant coloured shoes quickly became the shoe of choice for skateboarders across the nation. House of Vans London depicts how Vans has evolved into a worldwide phenomenon becoming synonymous with the word ‘skater’. The venue perfectly captures this ever-evolving culture under one roof; showcasing art, music, fashion and a cool place to show off your skating and BMX skills.
As soon as I stepped inside the venue I was greeted by the friendly and funny staff at the reception, where I signed a waiver to get close to the action (Vans ‘ain’t got time’ for lawsuits). The walk up the metal steps that lead to the skatepark was accompanied by the sound of whizzing bikes and excited chatter. I stepped onto the ramp and immediately; I was transported to California where I shielded my eyes from the sun, as I watch the local skaters’ tricks in awe. The exciting mixture of young and old, experienced and less experienced, accents and fashion made for an interesting visit and insight into the world of Vans and their loyal consumers.
The photo and product exhibition takes you on a trip down memory lane (as well as a great history lesson) with photos and Vans apparel chronicling the rise and journey of the brand. My favourite photo was a black and white image of NWA rap legend Easy-E circa the 90’s, surrounded by an excited gaggle of skaters. I loved how this picture illustrates the beginnings of the crossover between Hip Hop and skate culture. Furthermore, it embodies the unity that the Vans brand has always promoted amongst skateboarders from all walks of life.
Conveniently located adjacent to the skatepark is a restaurant serving the best in southern styled American grub. Its location within the venue as well as its casual dining makes it easy for a skater to grab a quick drink or a visitor to just chill and soak up the atmosphere. For research purposes only (obviously! hehe), I decided to sample a bit of everything on the menu. My fave dish was defo the scrummy chicken and waffles!
Last but not least I tagged the Vans graffiti wall to let them know that 211 had been in the vicinity. Overall it was a great visit and I won’t forget we woz ‘ere. See you guys again soon!