For our latest Footpatrol Discussions, we sat down with Vans Vault legend, Taka Hayashi. Continuing to bring his unique craftsmanship to the Van’s Vault line ever since his first coming together with the brand back in 2005, Hayashi brings his keen eye for detail to his latest SS20 collection taking iconic Vans details and making them his own.
Read what Hayashi had to say about his journey and how he came about ending up with his own name line.
Footpatrol: Hey Taka, hope you are keeping well! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. For the readers who may not be familiar with yourself could you give a short introduction into who you are and what you do for VANS?
Taka Hayashi: Hi Sam, happy to talk to you! I’m currently the head designer for Vans Vault. I’ve been designing Vault since 2006. I was born in Yokohama, Japan and moved to California as a young kid, where I grew up skating and making art. I currently live in Los Angeles.
FP: Can you tell us a little about your design background? Before shoes, I read that you had your own t-shirt label stocked in Union? And worked on designs for the likes of stussy?
T: Before my time at Vans, I was initially a graphic designer/ illustrator. I had my t-shirt line stocked at Union and Supreme. I also worked for Stussy as a graphic designer and illustrator.
FP: From there you did your first project with Vans in 2005 and began working full time shortly after? How was it in those early years working at VANS? Surely so much to learn yet living the dream for someone who grew up skateboarding in California.
T: It was right after the launch of my Syndicate project in late 2005 that I received an offer from Vans to work on the Skate line. it was a dream to work for a company that I grew up with and respected. It was a lot to take in and adjust coming from a graphic design and apparel background. In the early years, the changes were already happening with all the heritage classic models coming back with the launch of the Z-boys documentary. I think the Z-boys story really helped with the importance of the Vans roots in skateboarding. It was cool to see alI the kids romanticizing of that era and rocking slip-on’s and authentic’s. I also remember around 99’, thinking how cool and rebellious Geoff Rowly looked skating in red authentics. It was so fresh to the eyes since all skate shoes at the time looked so bloated.
FP: You are now the Head Footwear Designer for Vans VAULT and have your own name line of product for the brand. From your experience of hanging out in Skateshops and designing t-shirts to where you are now, what advice would you like to give to the next generation who are trying to make their way in design?
T: Immerse yourself within your area of interest. Connect with people who have similar levels of creativity & passion. Keep working hard at what you’re truly passionate about whether it’s graphic design or fashion. Don’t be afraid to take risks & make mistakes, as good things tend to come out of it. Make sure to stay mentally strong and don’t fall off your path.
FP: Onto design itself you work across core vault lines, collaborations and your own line. How do you differentiate your approach to each project?
T: It was difficult at first trying to focus on numerous projects, but through time you learn to manage and differentiate each project by switching your design mindset. I usually start off designing the new models for my capsule, inline Vault, and bringing back a few of the silhouettes from the archive. Then I move on to colors and prints for the Originals, Vlt, and my signature TH capsule. At the same time, I’m working on collaborations, which probably takes the most time since it’s through partnership.
FP: The Taka Hayashi line to me is one we have stocked at Footpatrol for years and each season it seems to evolve yet remain true to itself with influences drawn from travel, craftsmanship, native american culture and the Ainu people of Japan. What are the first steps you take when commencing upon a new season?
T: Usually, I start off with travels, visiting the local flea markets, and checking out bookstores. Music is a huge part of my life, & is very inspiring to my design. Many of the influences mentioned above are already ingrained in my design aesthetic. It’s about adding and updating to that look, giving fresh perspective. I think then, you still stay true to what you’re known for.
FP: Many people would say a pair of VANS gets better the more it’s worn, skated in, worn to a party, etc.. Yet a pair of Taka Hayashi Vans with their premium materials and intricate details are somewhat the pair I imagine a skater switching to for an occasion. Do you design the ranges with a specific audience in mind?
T: Vans do get better worn in, especially in canvas. It adds character to the shoes. With my collection, I think about the Vans audience who want the heritage look, but with extra details, premium materials, and unique color combinations.
FP: You have a new collection launching very soon, featuring the Style 98 LX, SK8-Lo Reissue LX and Style 47 LX, some models that may have not been seen for some years now and they are dressed in a QR code inspired print. Can you shed some light on this collection and why these models? Will we see more of them filter down into the wider VAULT range?
T: The Style 98 LX is a model that I brought back from the archive and reworked. I was drawn to the interesting paneling and the aesthetic of the late 90’s skate shoe. The Style 98 now sits on a modern last to give more of a sleek sculpted look with added details. I kept the materials and colors simple with a premium aniline leather and suede since the shoe itself already has a lot going on with details and paneling.
The Sk8-Lo Reissue is something that I reimagined as it were designed in the 80’s along with the Sk8-Hi. We had sk8-lo’s from not too long ago through the Skate and the Classics category, but never with the thinner eye row panel. I also updated the design with a sculpted collar and heel to give a bit of the retro football cleats look. The medial side has metal vent holes for extra breathability. The graphic was inspired by the QR code, which was invented in Japan, and our heritage checkerboard print. I thought the connection of the two graphics were a perfect blend since it pays homage to Vans and to the Japanese designer who created the QR code.
The Style 47 is also brought back from the archive and reworked with added details. I love this silhouette because of the multi functionality. The heel folds down to a mule which is great for traveling through airports where you often need to take your shoes off or on quickly. It’s also good for just running quick errands outside, whether you go water your plants outside, or bike ride to the corner market. Overall, it’s an easy effortless shoe with style. The materialization of the shoe is inspired by the vintage Czech military liner with hits of rubberized screen print on the heel seams to stop slippage when folded down. Military style webbing with vent holes were added on the medial side for the upcoming summer months.
FP: Given everything that’s currently going on in the world right now, i am particularly impressed with the community spirit, the challenges, the competitions, the live workouts and so on. I think it’s amazing to see people coming together through hardship. What are you currently doing to keep active and inspired during these times?
T: I think it’s amazing to see many communities coming together and helping one another. I hope the community spirit stays strong post covd-19. Since lock-down, I’ve been going through my library of books and researching online to stay inspired. To keep active, It’s a shuffle of going on bike rides to the beach, skating, or taking a long walk around the neighborhood.
FP: And given its trainers that brought us all together originally and we are all spending a lot of time indoors lately. We would like to know what your go to is for the below:
Working out – Authentic/Slip-ons for skating
Casual every day – OG Vans Style 47 (Changes seasonally)
Impressing someone – vintage made in USA Vans or TH shoes
Staying at home – Babouche slippers
FP: Taka, thank you for taking the time out to drop knowledge with us today! Would you have any last words for the readers?
T: Thanks for reading and thank you for the support.