Vashti Cunningham: Woman of the 21st Century
Vashti Cunningham is the woman the girl of the 21st Century grew up to be:
powerful, professional and unapologetically herself. We caught up with the Olympic high jumper to talk style & fashion.
Vashti Cunningham, Team USA’s 23-year-old premier high jumper, is a fashionable force, set to take the Olympic stage yet again. The Las Vegas, Nevada native isn’t new to the bright lights, having turned pro at 18, joining Nike’s elite family of track and field stars. What is new is Vashti’s avant-garde style cropping up on her Instagram profile. “Quarantine,” Vashti reminisced, “… I started to dress for me, how I like.” As it turns out, how Vashti likes dressing is pretty fly.
In a recent phone interview, Vashti took the time to walk us through one of her recent fits. Posing in downtown Las Vegas, Vashti rocked a look we just had to know more about. The beanie, shaggy sweater-jacket, reconstructed jeans and snow-boots look isn’t exactly a classic look. But, doing what she does, Vashti doesn’t just pull it off. She shows it out.
“The beanie I got in a surf shop,” Vashti explained. “When I got it, I didn’t know what it would go with… [it’s] one of the basic pieces I have.” The black, grey & white speckled beanie, at first glance, is a busy pattern. It looks like TV static. Vashti admitted when she first picked it off the rack in the surf shop, she had no idea what kind of outfit the cap would go with. But, when you got good instincts, you go with them. That’s how Vashti rolls.
“I used to work hard, going through vintage clothes to find something,” Vashti remembered. Compared to shopping designer and off the rack, a luxury Vashti sometimes indulges in, vintage shopping is hard work. “I’ve been wearing a lot of denim lately… Levis, Vetements… I know they always fit me.” But, as Vashti will be just as quick to admit, vintage gives one a better chance at putting together a one of one look.
“I don’t remember who made the jeans,” she responded. “I got them at a vintage shop my friends run in Las Vegas… someone brought the jeans in and I […] didn’t even let the shop buy them.” When the perfect piece is right in front of you, sometimes you have to break up the transaction. Waves in Las Vegas is a must-shop destination for the fans of vintage and unique, operated by friends of hers, José & George.
“There are a lot of designers that get me excited,” Vashti gushed. “Junya Watanabe, Rick Ownes, Virgil Abloh, Yoon Ambush.” The designer of the shag sweater-coat, Jean-Paul Gaultier, is known for pushing the boundaries of what is and isn’t fashion. Tom Sachs, who partnered with Nike to create NIKECraft, is a designer concerned with functionally. Somewhere between the abstract and utilitarian is this outfit from Vashti.
“I actually had the shoes for a while before I wore them… I wanted them so much, and they were hard to find, when I got them…” The NIKECraft “Mars Yard Overshoe” is packed with meticulous detailing to make the shoe ‘water-proof enough’ (from the website) while remaining versatile enough to wear indoors. “I love them,” Vashti said of the shoes, “they do everything for me… keep my feet dry, toes warm and fashion-wise.” The snow-shoe vibe of the Mars Yard Overshoe isn’t an easy sneaker to pair with an outfit. But difficulty never deterred Vashti before. And, in 2021, Vashti is all about raising the bar, with high jumping and high fashion.
The outfit is bold, bordering on busy without crossing over. It is composed, flavorful and, above all, unique. Each part of the whole came from a moment of love and truth. Perhaps it is the genuine affection Vashti has for each individual piece in the ensemble that unifies the look. Or maybe the color palette of the Overshoe’s outsoles, the multi-hued & frayed denim and swirly, shaggy sweater work on some level Vashti’s eye picked up on as she assembled the fit piece by piece over the years. Or, maybe, it’s just the way she rocks it that makes it work. Vashti Cunningham is the woman the girl of the 21st Century grew up to be: powerful, professional and unapologetically herself. Zedis lapedis, girl, go get ‘em at the Olympics.