Iowa State graduate and Vans footwear designer Jerod Harmon talks about the importance of collaboration in his work in the Sun Room at the Memorial Union April 11. Vans is the featured designer at this year's Fashion Show. 

The Fashion Show 2019 and the Committee on Lectures hosted Vans, a California-based footwear and apparel company, as its Guest Company Designer on Thursday. 

The lecture, titled “Vans: Empowering Youth Culture,” began with a video detailing the personal stories of individuals including the company’s founder as well as long-time wearers of the company’s products.

“It was never about waving the brand around like a flag. It was always about the people,” read a quote by Paul Van Doren, the founder of Vans.

Members of the company’s team discussed various elements of the company, including its culture, history, apparel merchandising, production processes and business strategies.

Derek Huenecke, an Iowa State graduate in industrial engineering who now works as a footwear designer for Vans, began by explaining the meaning behind the company’s signature slogan “Off the Wall” and the culture surrounding the brand.

“Off the Wall. Everyone’s familiar with that phrase, but it’s basically a rallying cry for self expression, and [...] everything from skating to art, [and] always being authentic to yourself, and being authentic to the brand is something we strive to do as designers,” Huenecke said.

Other members of the company’s team, including Lynda Castillo, senior apparel merchandiser, and James McCahon, an apparel designer, spoke about different lines of apparel offered by the company and gave insight into the process of creating these different lines.

“It wouldn’t feel authentic for us to make a super technical rain jacket, right? That doesn’t really feel right for Vans and [for] our consumer,” McCahon said.

Following the introduction of the company’s history and practices, members of the company’s team held a Q&A session. Audience questions regarded topics ranging from the typical production process to the company’s target consumer to where their inspiration comes from.

“[Skateboarding] is the heart and soul of our heritage. We want to be honest to that. We don’t ever want to leave that behind, so I think we’re always going to look at everything [through a] skateboarding lense [...] first,” said McCahon, acknowledging the brand’s persistent popularity among skateboarders.

Students from many majors attended the lecture to listen to what the Vans team had to say about their brand as well as what advice and tips they had for college students.

“[Vans is a] brand that really resonates with students from all backgrounds and majors," said Paige Disch, a senior studying apparel merchandising and public relations. "What stood out most to me was all the speakers’ laid back vibe. They weren’t worried about being super professional and dry. Vans is successful [among] college students because of their team[‘s ability to understand] our lifestyle.” 

This lecture was a part of Fashion Week 2019 celebrations. The Fashion Show 2019 will be held in Stephens Auditorium at 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or at the Stephens Auditorium Ticket Office.

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