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16 Mar 2022

Features Vans <Platform>Sponsored

Lizzie Armanto on Her Signature Vans 'The Lizzie' Sneaker and a Career Full of Firsts

Lizzie Armanto x Vans 'The Lizzie'

Lizzie Armanto’s career has been one full of firsts: she’s the first woman to be on the cover of Transworld Skateboarding and the first to complete Tony Hawk’s fearsome ‘Loop Of Death’, among other notable achievements. After representing Finland during skateboarding's Olympic debut, the longtime Vans athlete is adding yet another sticker to her helmet with The Lizzie, her inaugural signature shoe and the company’s first signature model for a female skater in two decades.

The fact that her career is a trailblazing one isn't lost on Armanto, but being ‘first’ isn’t her main motivation: a simple love of her sport is. ‘I just follow my passion for skateboarding and let it take me as far as I can go,’ she tells Sneaker Freaker at The Lizzie’s launch event in Hollywood. On her skateboard, Armanto’s style is effortless, transcendent even. Off of it, she’s warm yet measured and thoughtful, aware of her ‘firsts’ and their impact but not wanting to be defined by them. See our conversation with Armanto below.

Congratulations on 'The Lizzie'! How do you feel now that it’s out?
I’ve been staring at them for the last two years as they were conceptualised, designed and produced, so I’m really excited that they’re finally out! I’m looking forward to everyone’s reaction to them – especially my friends and peers.

Tell me about your relationship with Vans. How did it start, and how did it evolve over the course of this project?
I got my first pair of Vans when I was in high school, and I wore them until they had holes in their soles. That pair is actually on display at the Vans office now, which is pretty cool. When I started my career I’d always be skating in Vans but I went through skate shoes really fast and often couldn’t afford to buy new ones.

This other company started flowing me shoes and I was wearing those… until Jeff Grosso saw them and was like ‘Why are you wearing those shoes from that other company?’ [laughs]. I explained my situation to Jeff, and he was like ‘We have to fix that.’ He got Vans to start flowing me shoes, which was a surreal experience. I officially signed with Vans in 2014, which was really big because there weren’t really any other female skaters on the Vans team then, and women getting shoe deals was rare in general.

Let’s talk about The Lizzie. You’ve stated that you wanted it to be ‘simple, functional, feel good on-foot and have a bit of soul.’ Why are those things important to you?
When I talk about The Lizzie having ‘soul’, I’m referring to its sustainable construction. That’s something I feel really good about. I try to practice sustainability in my personal life, so being able to continue that through my shoe is important to me. Vans is going to make a tonne of these things, so after everyone’s done wearing them it’s great that they’ll be able to biodegrade. We don’t need these shoes to outlive us!

So not being wasteful is important to you?
Definitely. I feel really connected to nature, and I love plants. If I’m not skating, I’m probably gardening – that’s a big hobby of mine. The earth is really special to me. We all live here, and we have to do what we can to take care of it.

You’ve clearly got the sustainability aspect on lock. What do you expect your skate shoes to provide from a performance perspective?
Board feel is really important to me. You can’t get a good flick if you can’t feel your board. A lot of modern-day skate shoes take way too long to break in as well, so I wanted The Lizzie to feel broken in straight out of the box. Lockdown is big too. My feet are narrower, so I used to have issues with them sliding around in my shoes. The Vans design team took 3D scans and created a slimmer heel design that gives me better lockdown.

So you prefer a shoe that’s a little more slim, sleek and low to the ground instead of a bulky model with a big slab of cushioning?
Yes. Most pro model shoes these days are created for people with a bigger build than me. A kid might go to the skate shop to get a pair of shoes and not find something that fits their needs because the shoes that are available don’t match their body type. My shoe offers that lightweight, broken-in feel right off the bat so they can go do what they need to do.

Since you’ve worked on a few shoes with Vans before The Lizzie came out, did you know exactly what you wanted from the jump or was there some trial and error to get it right?
There’s always trial and error with design. Doing collections in the past definitely helped because I was more comfortable working with CADs. I’ve learned so much about design from the first time I worked on a shoe with Vans, and my biggest takeaway has been that these things take time! You don’t realize that when you start. You’re like ‘I want this! Do it!’ [laughs].

The Lizzie was promoted as an inclusive, adaptable sneaker. Why is that important to you?
Because there should be something for everyone!

How have you seen skateboarding change since you first turned pro? Do you feel like it’s become more inclusive over the years?
Skateboarding has definitely changed since I started. Most notably, there are more places to skate and more people to skate with. It’s great to see so many more women and girls in the scene – in the past, I’d go to a contest knowing I’d be skating against the same women because the scene was so small. Now, you go to a contest and there are so many names and faces. The rosters have really grown. Instagram is even more expansive: you’ll see so many sick skaters on there. The Internet has really bridged gaps and opened up a lot of possibilities.

Where do you see the world of skateboarding heading in the next five years, and how does the expansion of women’s skateboarding fit into that?
Skateboarding as a whole will continue to grow, and the expansion of women’s skateboarding will play a major role. The skate community is so special – you can go have a session anywhere around the world, and although you may not be able to speak the language of the people you’re skating with that connection is still there because of your shared love of skateboarding.

Between the last women’s Vans colab and yours, there was a 20-year gap. Do you feel like the skateboarding industry is on track to make the next one happen sooner?
Definitely. I’d like for my shoe to provide a spark to women everywhere and skaters everywhere.

Your career has been full of firsts, from magazine covers to completing the loop and being a part of skateboarding’s Olympic debut. Now, the shoes. Would you consider yourself a trailblazer?
It’s funny because it’s not like I set out to be the ‘first’ in anything. Some people are actively trying to do things ‘first’, but I just follow my passion for skateboarding and let it take me as far as I can go. It’s been amazing what I’ve been able to accomplish by doing that.

What’s your advice for the next generation of skateboarders?
Keep pushing the limits! Skateboarding isn’t going anywhere, and its future is in your hands.

16 Mar 2022

Features Vans <Platform>Sponsored

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