If you’re watching taste-making artists perform on a stage built into a skate bowl inside a 118-year-old mansion, chances are you’re at the brand new House of Vans outpost in Mexico City’s Mixcoac neighborhood. The facility, which joins permanent Vans venues in Chicago and London, opened its doors to the public with a free Dec. 9-11 blowout featuring performances by Japanese Breakfast, Hot Chip, Molotov and a host of local artists, including Girl Ultra, Noa Sainz, Rosa Pistola, Los Cogelones and Bonnz.
Beyond catering to music fans, House of Vans Mexico City boasts a rooftop skate bowl with a spectacular view of the sprawling metropolis, an art gallery, a movie theater, a kitchen to host world-class chefs and a studio for Vans’ eclectic, worldwide Channel 66 radio station. On opening day, Vans VP of events and promotion Steve Van Doren served waffles to hundreds of eager people who patiently waited outside the entrance to be let in for some pre-music skating.
“We want House of Vans Mexico City to serve both the local community as well as provide a cultural beacon for all of Latin America,” Vans global brand president Doug Palladini tells Variety. “The focus of House of Vans is to inspire, educate and entertain. As much as we excel on interactive platforms, when Vans is face-to-face with our fans, we are truly in our natural habitat as a brand.”
Much as how House of Vans’ 2019 pop-up in Detroit took over a former school on the National Register of Historic Places, the Mexico City edition is nestled inside a giant home built in 1903 by attorney Francisco Serralde Martinez and utilized by his family until 1996. Afterwards, it was converted into a music venue called the Bulldog Cafe, which was integral in promoting the new wave of Mexican rock bands who came to prominence in the ‘90s and 2000s.
For touring artists like Japanese Breakfast, the opportunity to perform in such a unique place is a welcome alternative to your average American club. It was also an especially nice way to wind down an action-packed 2021 for the Michelle Zauner-led group, which was just nominated for two Grammys, including best new artist.
“I don’t know how financially plausible it might have been for us to come to Mexico City on our own,” Zauner tells Variety. “So it’s really special to have Vans bring us here and have this free event for 1,000 kids to come see us. The whole band has been touring really hard this year under some tougher circumstances. Now we get to cut loose for four days — go to the Frida Kahlo house, climb some pyramids and eat good food.”
Palladini says the decision to set up shop in Mexico City was “somewhat of a no-brainer,” given that Vans is in its fourth decade serving the Mexican marketplace. “Fifty percent of the population in Mexico is under 30 years of age, which aligns with Vans’ emphasis on youth culture,” he says. “Then you pile on the truly one-of-a-kind venue our Mexico team found, and the stars were fully aligned.”
Zauner has already championed Channel 66, for which she has created custom DJ sets of her favorite songs of 2021, songs with only women’s names as the title and another with music she loved as a teenager. “I just turned it into my own thing where I got to interact with my fans,” she says. Adds Palladini, “one of Vans’ most valuable and cherished assets is our extended global Vans family of creators: artists, musicians, athletes, designers and brand ambassadors. Channel 66 gives all of these amazing humans a platform to share their talents with our fans in an accessible and understanding way.”
Palladini politely declined to reveal whether additional House of Vans locations were in the works, but in light of last week’s successful Mexico City launch, he notes, “House of Vans can come to life anywhere in any space at any time: It is a concept not bound by walls or borders, but only by the limits of our creativity. Whether we are in Hong Kong for a weekend or in Chicago for a lifetime, our ‘off the wall’ state of mind is what binds all of these activations together.”
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