Gender in the Sneaker Shop, Fame on Depop: Laine Katz-Vanzo

For sophomore Laine Katz-Vanzo, style is a means of expression, exemplified by her “shoe-game” — or sneaker collection — and her small business on the Depop app. Her style, characterized by streetwear logos and statement sneakers, transcends norms and avoids microtrends. Katz-Vanzo’s academic concentration is Environmental Economics, and she applies her studies to sustainably-conscious business practices as she gives nearly discarded clothing a new home. 

On a campus dominated by Veja lows, Hoka trainers and ON running shoes, Katz-Vanzo represents the Nike and Jordan sect. If she’s looking for a statement, she’s wearing the Nike Dunk Lows in the green-and-yellow colorway “Brazil.” But when it’s more about the outfit, she’s flaunting the Jordan 4 “Winterized Loyal Blue” combo, with a touch of red. Surely, she’s not alone in these choices, but she adds her own twists. For Katz-Vanzo, it’s all about curating her own style.

“I like wearing basketball shoes a lot — like Jordan 12s,” Katz-Vanzo said. “But I also like wearing basketball shoes that you wouldn’t usually see as a streetwear style. Combining baggy utility pants with those sporty styles is pretty cool.”

As she recounted her distinct style and her relationship with the sneaker community, Katz-Vanzo recalled the divide amongst those interested in shoes — certain styles appear to be gendered, in the sense that specific groups of people are often demarcated as to what they should and should not wear. It seems that basketball shoes and colorful releases are predominantly pushed at men, while more seemingly feminine colorways and certain Jordan silhouettes are marketed to women. Further, Katz-Vanzo said that sneakerheads who do not identify as male are often assumed to have less knowledge of this particular realm. 

“Everyone seems to gender, like many other things, what kind of shoes you should get,” Katz-Vanzo said. “People often associate guys with the ‘cooler’ streetwear styles, and tell girls, ‘Oh, you could get a pair of hot pink Jordans!’ I feel like there’s an assumption in the sneaker community that shoppers who aren’t men don’t know that much about shoes. I’ve definitely felt it while shopping in person.”

Beyond her interest in sneakers, Katz-Vanzo expresses herself with slick hairstyles and neutral-colored acrylic nails. The tones also match her Dunkin Donuts coffee, a 2-cream 2-sugar order that she’s always sure to be seen with. A sharp yet subtle wing accentuates the soft arch of her eyebrow for her near-everyday makeup look. She’s put-together and purposeful — Katz-Vanzo remarked as to how she finds comfort in styling herself before classes and other events: 

“I love putting a fit together for class; it makes me happy,” Katz-Vanzo said. “When you have a really good outfit on that you feel comfortable in — even if it’s like, a pair of pants and a cool hoodie— it makes you feel more ready for the day.”

Katz-Vanzo is all about streetwear and favors the brands Dior, Stussy and Carhartt. On her Depop page, @lulukv, she boasts over 20,000 followers. Common to her page are sneaker silhouettes, quirky graphic tees and chunky purses. Katz-Vanzo got her start during quarantine, without expecting to gain a large following and become her own boss.  

“I started at yard sales and thrifting,” Katz-Vanzo said. “I found it so fun, the process of picking items out, getting the inspiration to rework them, taking pictures of them and packaging them — it’s a long process, but it’s fun to run every part of it.”

Additionally, Katz-Vanzo spoke about the ethics of this work, noting that the source from which items are resold is of critical ethical importance. 

“It’s scary how many clothes go to waste from thrift stores,” Katz-Vanzo said. “At some stores, like the Goodwill bins, shoppers have the opportunity to buy clothes before they’re sent to the landfill. You need to be careful about where you’re buying things [to repurpose], and be sure not to take items from other people who need them more. But, if you’re saving clothes that would otherwise be going to a landfill, you’re doing the right thing.”

In her personal style and business philosophy, Katz-Vanzo reaches far and wide to curate a sense of self. Through piecing together inspiration from others, she creates ideas for her own style.