Jon Warren, Vans’ Head of Design, shares his vision
Vans is one of the most respected footwear brands in the world. This great value was garnered by means of a declared focus on the culture, the California feeling, the skaters and the surfers, and all those that recognize themselves in a pair of Vans.
Jon Warren, Head of Design (Footwear, Classics, California Collection, and Vault) at Vans, talked to us about the past and present of the brand, the meaning of working at a footwear trademark with such a coolness core and more. Life could always be this good.
You have been working with Vans for a decade now; how different are things from the day you first started?
When I started Vans they had lost direction and were focused on shoes that did not pay homage to the past. I was part of the reboot at Vans when they started to hire people from the culture to turn the brand around.
I think at the time I joined there were only 2 surfers and 3 skateboarders in the building. Now if you come to Vans it’s weird if you didn’t grow up in the culture.
It’s become a place filled with people who are passionate about the brand as opposed to the beginning when we were outnumbered by suits.
What is the overall meaning of Vans to you, not only as a brand but also as a way of living?
Vans has and always will be a brand rooted in the best that Southern California is known for. It’s a brand that reflects the Bohemian surf lifestyle started in the 70s mixed in with 80s punk.
Vans is a brand that is defined by the people who wear them as opposed to what we would like anyone to be. I feel we are the closest thing you’ll get to an artistic shoe brand, as you know we got famous from people drawing checkerboards on their shoes, artistic roots from the beginning.
«It’s become a placed filled with people who are passionate about the brand as opposed to the beginning when we were outnumbered by suits.»
«I feel we are the closest thing you’ll get to an artistic shoe brand(…)»
Vans Collaborations, Vault and more:
How important are collaborations for the brand?
I love that collaboration allow you to push the brand in directions that only partnering with someone else could offer. You would be surprised at how different everyone’s creative process is and it really allows both brands to grow from the experience.
Having someone look at your brand from the outside in allows for a freedom that opens your mind to new opportunities.
The Vault line is one of Vans’ strongest artistic statements – way beyond the “simple” shoe design – do you believe that as well?
Vault is our exploratory footwear line, it is a place to take chances and push the brand in new directions. In the military, they have a division called DEVGRU (development group) to test out new concepts.
We think of Vault, in the same manner, we create new models, tweak on Classic patterns, and hopefully develop something that will one day be considered a Classic. As a designer, it’s a dream come true that the brand understands the importance of such a category and it really lets us move Vans into the future.
Can you talk about any upcoming collaboration that you really dig/felt like it was a real challenge?
Every season we are looking for new ways to surprise you. We have been working with material finishing houses and getting them to take apparel techniques into footwear which has been surprisingly difficult but is something that I believe is going to set us apart in the future.
Getting someone to understand that you want the shoes to look like they’ve been sitting outside in the sun for a few months is a trip for the people building our shoes.
But if you love Vans, at about 2 months they just start getting to that sweet spot and I’m trying to get the shoes there a little quicker.
Get into it. Check out Vans.com
While you’re here, make sure to check out the best Vans Sk8-Hi colourways available to buy now.