man showing off custom cow print vans with sharpie marker in his mouth (l) vans official cow print sneaker (r)


‘Stop stealing from Black creatives’: Artist claims his shoe design was stolen by Vans

The story went viral this week thanks to TikTok.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Published May 28, 2021   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 9:59 am CDT

Days after a designer used TikTok to accuse Converse of stealing the design she submitted as part of an internship application, another designer is coming forward to say that a different shoe company stole his design.

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Ment Nelson, an artist based in South Carolina, first shared a TikTok video made by a friend earlier this week that detailed his story and told Vans to “stop stealing from Black creatives.”

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Nelson’s friend, @tooturnt_tuna on TikTok, said that she was given permission to share Nelson’s story and was inspired to do so by Cecilia Monge’s TikTok video claiming that Converse stole her designs. @tooturnt_tuna’s TikTok video, which has received more than 15,000 likes since it was first posted, spells out the coincidences between Nelson’s shoes and offerings from Vans. @tooturnt_tuna’s TikTok video, which has received more than 15,000 likes since it was first posted, spells out the coincidences between Nelson’s shoes and offerings from Vans.


pay up @vans // artist: @mentnelson // #fyp #designersspeakup #stolenartwork // story inspo: @ceci.monge

♬ original sound – via

A few years ago, Nelson took a sharpie to his white pair of Vans and drew several spots on it so that they would look like a cow, tweeting “Moooo-d.”

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He posted different photos of his custom-designed shoes in February 2018, which got him a direct response from Vans’ official Twitter account and to another Twitter user after he tagged the brand.

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twitter screengrab of vans reply to ment nelson
twitter screengrab of interaction between vans and @sk8nfrmdajakes

In July 2018, Vans released cow print shoes as part of its Vans Vault collection. But when Nelson entered his cow print shoes in a Vans contest in 2019, he had no idea that Vans had already released cow print shoes. While he acknowledged that cow print designs, on their own, aren’t a new concept and that many contests include stipulations that artists give up the rights to their designs just by entering the contest, his issue is with the 2018 cow print shoes.

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The viral TikTok video also highlighted the Vans’ website, which included the phrase “A whole Moo-d” and photos of the cow print shoes. (It also appeared as the caption of a Facebook post for Vans Canada in January.)

“Vans stole my concept,” Nelson wrote.”They couldn’t stand the fact a Black man marketed this design so well. Plus my version looked better than the ones they released.”

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The Daily Dot has reached out to Vans and Nelson.

It’s not the first time that Vans was called out for allegedly stealing Nelson’s design. A viral tweet from early January called out Vans for taking Nelson’s design and called for the brand to give Nelson an apology, credit for the design, and the $25,000 prize that Vans’ contest yielded.

While Vans pointed to its 2018 print for, it later corrected itself by highlighting that Vans had featured cow print shoes as far back as 1991.

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“Hey there Ment,” Vans wrote. “We just had to fact check ourselves on this one and we apologize we made a mistake in our last response. We dipped way back into the archives, our new customs and the 2018 shoe were inspired by this 1991 cow print.”

Nelson replied by pointing Vans’ hypocrisy in the article from Under the Palms (a website run by Vans shoe enthusiasts but isn’t officially affiliated with Vans) that described cow print as “sort of fresh and new.”

So far, Vans has yet to publicly respond to the latest accusations of design theft. But with a viral TikTok video relaying what Nelson said happened, on top of Monge’s own viral TikTok, Nelson’s story is already spreading further than it did just a few months ago.

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*First Published: May 28, 2021, 1:57 pm CDT