Gonzo icon Ralph Steadman creates designs for Vans that aim to raise awareness of endangered species

Seminal illustrator Ralph Steadman – a lifelong collaborator of Hunter S Thomson and Gozo journalism pioneer—has partnered with Vault by Vans to create a range of shoes for the WildAid charity to raise awareness of endangered species.

Vans’ Sk8-Hi and Classic Slip-On shoes have been designed to feature illustrations from “Gonzovationists” Ralph Steadman and writer-filmmaker Ceri Levy’s books, Extinct Boids, Nextinction, and Critical Critters.

The images boast Steadman’s characteristic take on cartoons, with paint splatters and skewed takes on representation. “We’ve always maintained that you’ve got to make people laugh in order to engage them,” says Levy. “If we just tell people, 'you’re all dreadful bastards, you’ve screwed it all up, and now look what’s going to happen,' people go, 'yeah, whatever'. But if you make them laugh, you’ve got a chance."

The pair’s “Gonzovationist” work strives to work towards the protection, preservation, management, or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources to include forests, earth and water.

Vans partnered with environmental charity WildAid, which works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products and to increase local support for conservation efforts, on the Steadman project. Illustrations will be on show as part of an exhibition at Vault by Vans Pop-Up store on the Lower East Side in New York City that aims to inspire people to donate to the cause, and Vans will also be giving $10,000 towards WildAid’s work.

“We hope these vivid depictions of the world’s most imperilled species can help inspire the change we need to save them,” said WildAid CEO Peter Knights. To celebrate the Vault by Vans x Ralph Steadman collection, Vans will feature Steadman’s artwork alongside donation installations at the new Vault by Vans Pop-Up store, located on the Lower East Side in New York City.

Steadman’s work will also appear on skate decks and other apparel, as well as eight footwear styles. “Keeping environmental protection in mind, the products were designed with the most sustainable materials available including organic cotton, FSC certified wood skateboard decks and packaging made from 100% recycled content,” says Vans.

Among the shoe designs in the collection are the lion-adorned OG Sk8-Hi shoe; the OG Sk8-Hi LX featuring the Grevy’s Zebra; The OG Style 138 LX featuring the Fin Whale; The OG Classic Slip-On LX’s featuring the Garden Bumblebee or Bluefin Tuna.

Animals featured on the tee shirt designs are the Orangutan and Western European Hedgehog, which have declined in the UK from a population of 30 million in the 1950s to less than a million. Other t-shirt designs bear the Amur Leopard and Grey Nurse Shark.

The Monarch Butterfly, Largetooth Sawfish and Black Rhino can be seen on Vans skate decks.

“Included in the Vans x Ralph Steadman collection is a checkerboard splatter style resembling splattered blood across an oceanic backdrop–an unmistakable interpretation of the world’s endangered sea creatures,” says the brand.

The Vault by Vans x Ralph Steadman collection is available now.