Sneaker LAB X Keith Vlahakis Youth Day Collaboration

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Sneaker LAB  X  Keith Vlahakis Youth Day Collaboration
Today, we raise our voices and hearts in honor of the unstoppable energy, creativity, and courage that defines our youth.
Keith has worked with various brands including Amazon, Adidas, MSCHF, The NBA, PEPSI, DC Comics, Warner Brothers, Sean John, and Netflix.
From dreams to reality, Keith Vlahakis is an illustrator and letterer specializing in a niche, bespoke design, and hand-crafted typographic-driven illustration, as well as typographic murals.

"Be the change you want to see in the world" - Ghandi

1. Why is it important to celebrate and uplift the achievements and potential of young individuals when it comes to reaching their goals and dreams?

The youth are the future and without a future - We lose hope. The youth are the future because they are not tainted by the darkness of the past, they have an energy and exuberance that can propel their lives and Dreams forward, it may come across as naive to some, but it is precious golden energy that can translate to deliberate positive action that can then change the trajectory of our nation.

I think it’s important to highlight, motivate and encourage the youth at every chance we get because we live in a society that’s primarily out here to use resources and move forward at any cost, even at the cost of the young people’s dreams and enthusiasm. The youth are the driving workforce of our future and must be protected, encouraged, and motivated at all costs. We also live in a part of the world that is still developing, we don’t have all the resources that the first world has, but we do have a sense of grit, determination, and resilience that is unmatched on a global level. Those intangible talents and skills are what propelled my career.

I firmly believe in “nuture” over “nature” when it comes to harnessing and developing talent and skills. One can be born with a gift or natural knack for something but if you don’t work at it, and develop it every day, it will go nowhere.  I am able to work at the highest level of design and illustration in SA and overseas because I worked harder than most of my peers, I sacrificed all the parties and temporary success for long-term wins. In the words of NBA superstar Kevin Durant: - “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Uplifting and supporting the youth is super important as most of our economy is built on informal industries and if the youth don’t get encouragement from their homes or schools/leaders then they are likely to get it from the wrong places. It’s our duty to uplift each other at every chance we get.

An artist you don't want to sleep on @keithvlahakis

2. Can you share a personal experience or role model who has inspired you as a young person to pursue your goals and dreams? How did their story or influence impact your own aspirations?

I never had a real role model in my life, I grew up in a fairly rough turbulent environment. I had mentors that were not physical or close to me, I had to rely mostly on my faith and relationship with God and my own developing wisdom and determination to make it, so my mentors were actually fictional characters, “ imagination is more important than knowledge”- Albert Einstein.

I had to believe in a future for myself that others didn’t see, or was overwhelmingly too far out of their reach or perception. Firstly I look to my faith as my biggest pillar of strength. I’m a Christian and Jesus is my biggest mentor. I also looked to characters like Batman, Rocky, Yoda, Michael Jordan, Wolverine, and Professor Xavier from The Xmen, I had to pull and extract wisdom from anywhere I could. I think it’s good to have mentors, but everything we need to succeed is really within.

The biggest moment that inspired me to push was when I was part of the design team that worked with the Toronto Raptors during their 2019 NBA Championship run, it’s a job I reflect on almost every day. It was a dream opportunity that came about exactly 10 years after I got accepted into university to study design in 2009, I always reflect on how long it took to get to that level, the amount of dreaming and proactive work to make it at that world stage. My work documented the first ever game 7 buzzer beater shot in an eastern conference final championship. It was a Raptors vs the 76ers, Kawhi Leonard shot a fifteen-foot buzzer-beater with 0,4 seconds on the clock against Philadelphia, the ball bounced 3 or 4 times on the rim and then went in. It was a movie-ending shot. The shot is termed “the shot heard around the world”. The Raptors won the championship against Golden State and my work was shown on the Jumbotron at the ring ceremony in Canada. Drake was even there. I mean it’s the biggest moment of my career and it will be hard to top.

3. How do you believe society can better support and empower young individuals in their journey toward achieving their goals and dreams? What specific resources or opportunities do you think are crucial in fostering their growth and success?

I think there needs to be more practical outlets for young people to gather around, interact and find camaraderie, fellowship, and encouragement. Youth camps, sports programs, talent development programs, and spaces to share and exhibit the shining and developing stars in our youth.

Strength in numbers is what I’m preaching. We are stronger together facing all the major problems in society, instead of trying to compete with each other about who is the coolest or whatever inferior goals that pop culture or the internet throws at us, it’s important to realize that our willpower and determination are unmatched. Africa is the strongest continent as far as natural resources and a sense of determination and will, we have overcome far more than the rest of the world to get to where we are, we must pull together to fight for a future we want to live and work in. The future is in our hands.

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