STEVE VAN DOREN
BREAKS // Honor to meet you Steven! How did you get involved with shoes?
STEVEN // What happened was, back in the ‘60’s, I was only 10 years old. My Dad started Vans. He was a shoe maker from Boston. He made shoes for 20 years, not Vans. When he came to California, he decided to do his own company. I was 10 years old. For the last 48 years, I’ve been working for the company that my Dad started. The passion for him, was making good quality shoes. And when he decided to start Vans, he wanted quality shoes, selling them direct out of his own stores. It had not been done during that time. Today, we have thousands of great accounts. It could be from a core Skateboard shop up in Santa Monica, or a Fred Segal’s, Conveyor, or a Mom and Pop’s BMX shop. The passion came from the ‘70’s. About 8 years into the company, when we were just selling sneakers, tennis shoes in California they call them, in Boston we call them sneakers. The skaters started wearing the shoes. That’s when I met Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, and the DOGTOWN guys. They wore our shoes because they lasted longer, and they weren’t that expensive. First year of the shoe, it was $4.49, so in the ‘70’s it was maybe $7. What happened at that point was, we started to notice that the skaters and surfers liked our shoes. The slip ons for the surfers. The deck shoes for the skaters, for the sole. We weren’t a traditional company. We were just a struggling business and we noticed that they were always wearing our products, so at that point I was 20 years old. I’m going to be loyal to who is loyal to us.
BREAKS // That’s right!
STEVEN // Skaters, musicians, artists, surfers that kind of culture started to become instilled into me. They are liking my products, I’m gonna like them. So, we started sponsoring some skaters. Cabellero and all those guys coming out of the ‘80’s. We started making our first signature shoe with Steve Cabellero in the late ‘80’s. We started doing Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, Skateboarding, Snow boarding, Motor cross, BMX. In the last 10 years, we started to get more artsy and put the House of Vans for 3 years into New York. So people in New York would know what Vans is about. We did the Vans Warp Tour. I’m doing year 19 right now. A musical festival that travels to 50 cities in 60 days. And we see 600,000 kids every summer.
BREAKS // Wow!
STEVEN // So, if they are loyal to our product, I’m going to be loyal to them. At our US OPEN of Surfing we built a big arena and a big bowl on the sand. I’m jealous that Venice has one buit permanently on the sand. My goal in the next 3-6 years is to convince the City of Huntington Beach to allow us to leave what we built. A quarter million dollar bowl, and they have to tear it out once we leave.
BREAKS // What, leave it for the kids!
STEVEN // That’s what they should do! Like Venice, it’s awesome! It was a replica of a bowl from Marseille France. The graffitti artists worked on it. This is a replica of that. We just took the far bowl off. But it’s the Marseille bowl.
BREAKS // Amazing!
STEVEN // We had this Vans Custom Culture tent where kids come in and paint on cardboard. When you are done, you can fold it into a shoe. It’s creative, trying to get the creative juices out of them.
BREAKS // Could you talk about the stores?
STEVEN // If we didn’t have our stores, we might just have been a wholesaler, selling to stores and retailers all across the world. But then, we wouldn’t have the connection to our customers like we do. By having our 300 stores here, 50 in Europe, 50 in Mexico. China now has 500 stores. That’s a direct connection we have. Thousands of accounts with core shoe outlets Active and Nordstrom’s. In Laguna, Thalia Street, in New York City, The General. We are partners. We are opening a new one in Boston. It’s cool that we have this kind of connection. We put 5 stores in the Boston area. We feel the connection.