pillowHeat x sneakers MAG ¬ under the RADar ¬ paninaro hipsters! ~ the history of vans x wp lavori in corso August 11 2015
following on from our previous discussion in issue 26 about vans early collaborative efforts, we focus now on a vans relationship with an oft-forgotten italian subculture & associated boutique which in many ways deserves the most credit yet which .... despite the unmistakeable alpha industies ma-1 flight jacket & accompanying zundapp ks125 travelled under the radar of radical. we are of course talking about the italian paninaro scene & the boutique responsible for supplying vans to the continent & a generation of 80's pseudo-hipsters is wp lavori.
wp lavori have been hugely influential on modern european fashion & for over 30 years have scouted & selected brands & products from across the globe which reflect their instinctive gravitation towards authenticity, relevance & quality. when you think of italian fashion the obvious perception is the high end world of versace, armini, D&G etc. creative director for wp andrea cane indeed catered to this however at the same time had his finger on the pulse of contemporary youth & street culture which was beyond trend & changes in popularity. ironically one such youth movement to which he indirectly catered to was the paninari & their vehicle of choice was vans deck shoes.
the pet shop boys identify with high end brand armani & versace in their 1986 single 'paninaro' however their 'passion/love/sex/money' mantra best embodies the indulgence of 80's paninari. the paninaro were a fully-fledged subculture born from association with milan's panino cafe, & the sandwhich/burger became a fast food symbol of their globalised consumeristic hedonism. admittedly the original cornerstone of paninaro footwear were timberlands worn with levi's & bomber jackets however the movement evolved to embrace preppy pastels of best company, invicta ruck sacks & vans style #95 from wp lavori in corso.
paninaro kids of the 80s & italo skate rats of the 90's were treated to seemingly endless supply of vans during the glory days after wp lavori cemented a partnership deal granting the boutique near exclusive distribution to italy & the continent. this was a lamdmark international deal for vans which helped faciltate the perception of the soCal brand in europe & pushed global exposure in the early 80s to new levels. this collaboration was way ahead of its time & pioneered large scale brand/retailer ventures which are so commonplace today. vans gave wp their own repeat logo shoes boxes in green & burgandy, their own privately labelled heel tabs & offered maximum freedom to order large scale customs! we talked about vans rich history of individually tailored customisation in issue _ however this was another level of bulk order customs to service the hungry paninari & the continent. the natural progression then came to fruition whereby vans offered wp exclusivity of printed canvas footwear for european distribution of vans designed it italy & made in usa, which is a stock hunters dream!
it was the decade of the 80s in which vans established themselves as the perfect accompaniment to the gnar-driven lines of southern cali skate & bmx however the panini peoples of italy shaped a euro-centric perception of the brand that was worlds apart. admittedly obsessed with americana, mainstream paninari were far from core & instead idolised the tom cruise look from top gun, favoured disney patches on denim & listened to duran duran. periodical animated zines such as 'preppy' & 'wild boys' capture it perfectly whereby the scene almost became a camp caricature of itself. there were however some seriously stylish paninari.... & at least their footwear game was on point! the paninaro style was cuffed denim, with burlington socks & either bright solid or 2-tone colours, often with printed friction scene, often worn laceless. the aforementioned euro-exclusive prints included the snowflake print, bandana & elusive patchwork print however these are understandably rare!
the most ambitious element of the wp x vans collaboration & perhaps one which reflects mostly the incongruity between the american & euro perception of the brand is the line of apparel & accessories. wp lavori acquired their own license to produce in-house clothing which were all made in italy, with local materials & italian craftsmanship. the quality was superb however i must admit the apparel in the most part left much to be desired. instead of staying true to the soCal core of the vans look, wp attempted to european-ise the brand with either conservative refinement of cardigans & collars or otherwise the hideously outlandish. i passed up a tonne of said apparel & accessories over the years in the belief they were fakes however after piecing together the relatively unknown history of this collab i then understood. i still pass up these these examples however they do reflect what went under the radar for good reason yet do deserve documentation. the highlights from the apparel range include the denim details & often the branding/labelling which capture the bastardisation of core cali lingo in amusing ways.
the paninaro scene, arguably conformist to politically-inspired subliminal consumerism may indeed be inhernetly shallow however andrea cane developed an aesthetic for wp which changed how a generation thinks about clothing & design.... & his portrayal of vans was no exception. like the futurism of their classic 80s ads, wp lavori were pioneers of the industry & one would think every modern outdoor fashion boutique was modelled on a wp store from the 80's. its uncanny how the paninaro look resmbles the much maligned modern hipster in brands such as barbour, woolrich & vans all made available in italy by wp. as such, perhaps you agree that paninari are anything but radical & should remain under the radar which such superfluous indulgences of the time as invicta rucksacks, mullets & tom cruise.