Gastown's Six Hundred Four elevates everyday sneakers with works by local artists

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      Professional golfer James Lepp has no problem admitting that golf shoes are “lame”. In fact, it’s what prompted the Abbotsford native to start his own label of stylish, tee-time kicks in 2010.

      A few years later, Lepp was itching to expand the brand. But when a friend tipped him off to a vacant retail space in Gastown—an industrial cavern outfitted with concrete floors, crisp white finishes, and exposed wood beams—he knew it was time to move beyond the green.

      Inspired by the grit of the historic neighbourhood and the many ateliers situated throughout the area, Lepp began reaching out to emerging illustrators, designers, and painters. His vision? A part shop, part museum “shoe gallery” that would showcase limited-edition sneakers adorned with prints by local artists.

      “That was the gist of it: to do really cool sneakers and combine it with Vancouver art,” he tells the Straight by phone.

      Dubbing the brand Six Hundred Four—a not-so-subtle nod to its hometown—Lepp officially opened the boutique at 101–123 Cambie Street in late December. Lined atop the neat floating shelves inside are rows of low- and high-top sneakers (from $290), each decorated with an original design captured from an artwork that hangs just a few inches away.

      Basic canvas kicks take on a West Coast edge when splashed with artist Elyse Dodge’s punchy, geometric interpretation of Garibaldi Provincial Park, for example, while swirling octopi—coloured in warm hues of rouge and orange by the U.K.–born L.J. Throstle—amp up a black, leather-lined pair equipped with waxed laces.

      Vancouver-based artist Jennifer Sparacino was the first to hop on board at Six Hundred Four with her piece, The Long Winter.
      Six Hundred Four

      Elsewhere, Patrick James Bravo transforms standard high-tops into a kailedescopic piece of abstract art—complete with glow-in-the-dark screenprints—and moody, comic-style sketches by Sean Karemaker play out in intricate detail on both canvas and leather.

      A variety of sneaker styles in solid colourways such as black, mustard, and emerald are also available.

      All of Six Hundred Four’s shoes are made ethically in Vietnam and are laser-engraved by the maker to specify its number in production. Only 604 pairs of unisex sneakers are produced with each artist’s work.

      In addition, each contributing artist may select a local nonprofit organization or charity to which a portion of proceeds from every pair of shoes sold will go. At the moment, Six Hundred Four contributes a part of its sales to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, the Saint James Music Academy,  and more.

      “I think art and giving are two things that align very well,” Lepp says. “And since our shoes are definitely art pieces, I think it makes sense to give back in that way.”

      Once an artist’s entire shoe stock is sold, Lepp introduces another designer into the gallery. Since opening Six Hundred Four, he shares that many local artists have expressed interest in creating a print for the store.

      He welcomes artists of all mediums to contact Six Hundred Four by email if they would like to get involved. “Vancouver has no shortage of artists, that’s for sure,” he says.