Lizzie Armanto has accomplished a multitude of firsts throughout her five-year career as a professional skateboarder. The Santa Monica native—who picked up skateboarding at age 14 when her mother started dropping her and her younger brother off at a local skate park after school—was the first woman to successfully complete Tony Hawk’s infamous 360-loop ramp. In 2016, she became the first woman to grace the cover of Transworld SKATEboarding, and in 2017, she became the first female skater in nearly 20 years to appear on the cover of Thrasher. And when the Olympics added skateboarding to its roster for the first time, she joined a talented group of skaters from all over the world to compete in Tokyo’s 2021 Olympic Games.
Continuing to break new ground, the 29-year-old skater is adding another milestone to her extensive list of achievements with the release of her first signature skateboarding sneaker with Vans, which has been dubbed “The Lizzie.” She is the first woman in 20 years to design a skate sneaker for the Costa Mesa-based skateboarding company.
“It’s like the highest accolade you can get in the skate world,” Armanto tells Los Angeles. “You can even be one of the best and that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a shoe. So it was definitely humbling and exciting.”
She added that becoming the first woman in 20 years to design a sneaker for the brand “shouldn’t be an anomaly” and that she’s eager to “ignite that charge because in the end there should be these options for everybody.”
Carly Gomez, VP of Marketing at Vans Americas, says The Lizzie was “just a natural progression” of Armanto’s partnership with the company, considering that she’s been a team rider with Vans since 2014 and has already collaborated with the brand on several projects, including the release of exclusive colorways for their sneakers.
“When I think about Lizzie as a person [and] as a skateboarder, she really pushes the boundary, and when we think about her completing the Tony Hawk loop, she does things that are groundbreaking as an athlete,” Gomez tells Los Angeles. “So it was really kind of a no-brainer for us to work more closely with her.”
“The Lizzie” collection, which is slated to drop on March 10 at 9 a.m. PST, also arrives with a head-to-toe assortment of apparel and accessories designed in collaboration with Armanto including flexible chino pants, a vest, a knit tank top, a short sleeve mini tee, a bucket hat, crew socks, and a waist pack. Armanto is celebrating her Vans collection with a public, all ages event from March 11 and March 12 at Goya Studios in Hollywood.
Ahead of the release, we caught up with Armanto to discuss the significance of the Vans collaboration, why she wanted to celebrate the release with her fans and supporters, and what she hopes to accomplish next. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
It’s a big week for you as your first signature Vans sneaker, “The Lizzie,” is releasing on March 10, which is a huge milestone because you’re the first woman in 20 years to design a sneaker for the brand. Please take me back to the moment when you found out that you were going to be given the opportunity to design a Vans shoe. What was your reaction?
It was 2020 and I had to do a video chat with Vans because everything was converted to video at the time because of the pandemic. I just got this call and then they told me that I was getting a shoe. And they got me a boutique with this whole flower arrangement with Vans shoes and there was a mix of succulents, orchids, and some dried-type flowers. It was really ornate and pretty, and so that was the congratulations and they know I love flowers, and it was really really cool.
It was kind of a bleak time, I want to say, just like a lot of uncertainty. Everything was shutting, but after I got this call that I had the opportunity to make this shoe. And so that was really crazy just because it’s like the highest accolade you can get in the skate world. It’s like you can even be one of the best and that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a shoe. So it was definitely humbling and exciting.
Can you talk about what the design process was like? When did you actually start designing the shoe?
The design process, in that aspect, went pretty fast. I already knew I wanted to do a high top because that’s the shoe I skate. I definitely had a lot of input that I wanted to shape the shoe around because I didn’t care for most of the skate shoes that Vans had. Like I love Vans, but for skating specifically, I just felt like there were a lot of things that I could improve upon, and so that was a really exciting thing to do. I started by ordering a bunch of shoes that weren’t Vans. I’ve been skating Vans for so long that I was like, “OK, I need to wear some other shoes and see if there’s anything about these other shoes that I can use to make my shoes better.” One of the main things for me was board feel, which is when your shoe is protecting you but you can still feel your board. Sometimes there’s shoes where there’s just no contact with the ground or whatever’s under you, and for skating that’s like death for me. (Laughs)
So it started from there and then I told the designers right off the bat that I wanted to try to do something with sustainable materials because that’s just one of the things that is in my personal goals. And so I wanted to see if I could put that into my shoe and that was a little bit of a struggle, but everyone really pulled through. Because we had some sustainable materials sourcing lined up, they were able to push it like the next step further and get it VR3 certified and it’s now the first skate shoe in the line to have this, which is really because I think a lot of things are moving that way. If everyone can do their part and do things more responsibly, that’s just super awesome. And for Vans to do it, too, it’s like they’re going to make all these shoes anyway, so if we can just make them better that’s like a win for everybody.
How did you feel when found out that you were also the first female skater in 20 years to get a signature shoe?
I’m really proud to be with Vans and they’re just an awesome company. It means a lot that they believed in me so much to give me my own shoe. It’s been a long time since another woman had a shoe and right now it’ll be the only one on the market that’s designed by a female skateboarder, and this shouldn’t be an anomaly. And so, there’s part of me that’s like, “Okay, guys, we need to pick up the pace.” But I’m also so excited to ignite that charge because in the end there should be these options for everybody.
It’s also really exciting that with my shoe, they scan my foot, so the actual mold of the shoe is the only shoe on Vans that is from a woman’s silhouette. With most shoes the mold is from a man’s foot, so that’s pretty cool. Obviously, like men and women, everyone can have different types of feet, but my shoe will be a more slim fit. For me, I had a huge issue with, like most skate shoes, feeling like my foot was wiggling around in the shoe and I would have to lace them up super tight, and now I finally have a shoe that feels like it fits.
In addition to the sneaker, The Lizzie collection also includes apparel and accessories. How involved were you in creating those pieces?
With the clothing, it was really fun to design this because now I have the whole collection. I’ve had collections in the past and I always felt like most of my creativity went into the clothes, so it was really exciting to be familiar with the process. So I felt like I could really do what I wanted to. Like I’m a big fan of vests and stuff for when it gets cold, and the pants are special too because they fit really well and they’re good to just do whatever in. You can be active in them, like I like them for skating, but then I also like them for chilling. They’re really a good hang out pant in the sense that they’re like a little bit looser fit and they fit my quads really well, which I find there’s some women’s jeans that don’t take into account all body sizes, and so I feel like we found a really good fit with this pant. And there’s some special features in the pants like mesh pockets for ventilation so if you are perspiring, it’ll dry out a little bit faster than if they were like cotton pockets or some other type of material. And there’s vents in the back to on the butt-area, but you can’t see them because they’re placed really well.
You’ve been on the Vans team since 2014. When did you start wearing them?
When I was in high school, I got my first pair of Vans and they were Authentics, and I wore them until they had holes and they were like completely beaten to pulp. I drew all over them and they were very personalized. (Laughs) And now they live in the Vans office like in a glass box, which is hilarious. Even the shoe lace, I swapped it out for one of those silver key rings like the balls and chain-type key ring style. They are very like high school nostalgia.
It wasn’t until a little bit later that I started skating them. I just really liked the culture of Vans and how they support community and artists, and I think that’s really important. Just because they’re a big company and there’s a lot of big companies that don’t really care for that or they don’t empower people how Vans does all this give back. I mean, every company is different and they do different things, but I could just really get behind what Vans is doing. It just felt natural once we started working together.
In the campaign for the release, you said that you wanted to create a sneaker that was “cool, functional, and had a little bit of soul.” Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?
I felt like it had soul in the sense that for me to use materials that I was proud of and could back on every level, I felt like it really did something for me. I feel like so many times today, there’s like a give and a take, and I felt like on so many levels that I agree with everything that’s going on with my shoe, which is a big feat. There’s a lot of moving pieces in the design process and with marketing. There’s just a lot going on and I feel like Vans really listened to me on so many levels and I’m just so fortunate to have that experience because not everyone gets that. Big ups to them for listening.
Having already accomplished so much, what are some of your current goals?
Last year I did the Olympics and that was like my last major goal, I would say like. So from there, it was like, “Okay, next step is like deep diving into my shoe.” And now that it’s launching, I am really excited to just do the launch and start traveling again. And I’m working on a video part, which I haven’t done since 2017. In skating, there’s people that all they do is film video parts, and I kind of like do a mix of things, which I’m really fortunate that I get to kind of jump back and forth like doing contests, making video parts, and doing miscellaneous content stuff and demos. But right now, doing the video part is my other focus, which it’s kind of like soul mining in the sense that you put together this highlight reel of like your current best. And in October, 2019, I had a really bad slam and I broke my femur and I broke some stuff in my back, and so it was like pretty heavy rehab all of last year. And I was able to make it to the Olympics, which was amazing. But now doing a video part that’s like challenging myself in a way I haven’t done in a long time. I’m still getting my confidence back on my board, so it’s been really cool to push myself like that and feel strong. Just because you’re pushing your limits, and like I said, you’re trying to do your all time best.
So much has changed within the skateboarding industry especially when it comes to how women are viewed in the sport, although there’s still more work to be done. Your career has served as an example for a new generation for female skaters. How does it feel to know that you’ve inspired so many young skaters, including Tony Hawk’s daughter?
It’s really exciting to know that skateboarding is changing and that there’s so many role models, or just possibility models for different people. That’s so important because the next generation is able to push it that much further. It’s funny because when I hear the word “role model” it really feels like responsibility. But then when I think about what I do and just being able to have the opportunity to skate, and to design shoes and clothes, and travel the world, all of that stuff is so fun. Like it’s work, for sure, but it’s fun—like it’s something I would want to do. And I’m so grateful and I’ve made so many amazing friendships, and there’s this huge sense of community with skateboarding and it’s really changed my life. People try to ask me like, “Oh, what would you be doing if you weren’t skating?” Like, I don’t know. I was just trying to figure it out and then at some point, I found like, “Okay, if I don’t try going for it right now. It’s never gonna happen.” And I’m so glad I went for it. Everyone has to know when that is for them and take their leap. You have to believe in yourself too and it’s not easy.
That’s such great advice. You’re also having a party for your Vans release this week that is open to the public, which is surprising because other fashion-related launches tend to be private. How do you feel about being able to celebrate this moment with your fans and supporters?
I’m so happy that we’re throwing an event and that it’s in L.A. because so much of my home base is here. Skateboarding is all around the world and I know I’ve friends all around the world, but this is where I grew up. And so it’ll just be so cool to get all these people out from the woodwork that were like there from day one all in this like special space to help celebrate this milestone for me—but also just the skate community in general—with pushing women, and even just the niche of women skateboarding, forward.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
I guess the only other thing I would add that I was really excited about was with the campaign. I got to work with Dana Trippe and she’s friends with a lot of the Shep Dogs. They’re a skate crew from San Diego and they’re just really organic. Because it was a huge campaign, but then we were able to keep it within skating. And I don’t know, just having a small feel for a big thing. It was really organic in that sense.
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