Vans takes controversial pro-Hong Kong protest shoe out of its Custom Culture competition

The latest edition of the Custom Culture contest for footwear brand Vans has found itself in the thick of controversy after disqualifying a design that carried imagery that represents the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

The decade-old contest invites submissions from all over the world for designs to be used on its shoes and carries a prize of $25,000 for the winning entry. The controversial design was created by a user named Naomiso from Canada and featured many elements associated with the protests in Hong Kong such as yellow umbrellas and gas masks.

The entry was pulled by Vans in spite of having secured the maximum number of votes, according to media reports.

Vans published an explanation on its Facebook Hong Kong page which said: “As a brand that is open to everyone, we have never taken a political position and therefore review designs to ensure they are in line with our company’s long-held values of respect and tolerance, as well as with our clearly communicated guidelines for this competition.

“Based on the global competitions guidelines, Vans can confirm that a small number of artistic submissions have been removed. This decision was taken to uphold the purpose of Custom Culture.”

Vans一直鼓勵創意表達,而舉辦Custom Culture比賽旨在貫徹品牌精神,支持與連結世界各地的創作者,並期望他們及一眾參與者能利用此平台共同宣揚創意及正面的信息。…

Posted by Vans on Friday, 4 October 2019

The decision has resulted in considerable backlash, with many users on social media accusing the brand of having turned its back to its rebellious ‘Off The Wall’ positioning. There were others who pointed to the fact that the entry did not appear to violate any of Vans’s stated submission guidelines.

Vans is only the latest brand to unwittingly stray into the crossfire between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland – other brands censured for an allegedly pro-Hong Kong stand include Pocari Sweat, Pizza Hut, Coach and Versace.

There have been many documented instances of late of China taking a zero tolerance policy when it comes to brands making what are perceived to be insulting messages about its culture or its sovereignty. Other examples include the ads for a fashion show from Dolce and Gabanna and an ad for McDonald’s that showed a Taiwanese identity card.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing