How Vans went from a SoCal skater brand to a global icon that teens love
- Vans‘ sales are soaring.
- In just over a decade, Vans has grown from a mostly local Southern California brand to a global powerhouse.
- Global President Doug Palladini said in a 2017 interview with Business Insider that the brand’s success is partly due to the emotional connection that young fans have with it.
Southern California culture has gone global with an assist from Vans.
The brand, which is rooted in 1960s SoCal skate culture, has grown into a worldwide phenomenon under the stewardship of VF Corporation, which acquired it in 2004. In the years since the acquisition, Vans has gone from selling 90% of its products in California to growing its reach across the globe, making the leap to Asia and Europe.
In its latest earnings report, VF Corp reported a 35% increase in Vans sales year-over-year globally, following a string of up-and-to-the-right sales trends.
“We are constantly blown away by the level of loyalty consumers have for our brand,” Vans’ global president, Doug Palladini, told Business Insider in an interview in 2017.
As teens shift from favoring athletic styles to street styles, Vans is apparently one of the first brands they pick up.
But, Palladini said that he sees a “multi-generational” appeal in Vans that makes it unique, adding that both parents and teens can wear it.
“Vans has this incredible ability to be cool with everybody,” Palladini said.
Vans’ popularity isn’t sudden, Palladini said, but gradual. It has five iconic shoe styles, which take turns in the spotlight.
Back in 2004, any shoe with Vans’ signature side strip had poor sales. Now, Palladini said, it’s the best-selling category of Vans shoes, which includes the super-popular Old Skool model.
“It’s nice to have those cycles and it’s nice to see things come back around,” Palladini said.
Vans famous checkerboard models, which the company has incorporated as an iconic style, are also popular.
Vans’ biggest moments happen organically
Take, for example, “Damn, Daniel,” the 2016 viral Vine video of a Southern California high school student showing appreciation for his friend’s white Vans shoes.
“I’d love to sit here and tell you that we’re so smart we masterminded it,” Palladini said, calling the viral Vine video “purely organic.”
The brand did see a meaningful bump in sales after the video appeared online, and sales of white Vans Authentics shot up. But to Palladini, it’s just another example of how Vans fans express their loyalty and admiration — and how much the brand has integrated into the fabric of the culture.
“This is absolutely how our fans show their appreciation for our brand. We see it all the time. It’s incredibly humbling,” Palladini said.
He added: “‘Damn Daniel’ was just a perfect example of an organic expression of love.”