Interview by Melanie Gropler

Checkerboard, Slip-ons, Sk8-Hi’s – something springs to mind for nearly everybody when hearing these names. That’s because they are all lifetime classics by Vans, a brand which emerged from the skateboarding scene and still attracts fashion lovers today. This year Vans is celebrating its 50th birthday by holding events around the globe and launching special editions of its classics styles. Here, Dabney Lee, Sr. Director of Lifestyle Footwear, talks about trends, style icons and the ability for constant self-discovery as the source of renewal.

What is the most important trend for men/women in AW16?
We’re seeing consumers go back to basics - navy, neutrals, and more combinations of true whites and solid black in the market.  However, this trend is more than just basics as these timeless colors are being dressed up or down, in a variety of materials like leather, suede and canvas.

What is THE male/female style icon for AW16?
Vans Sidestripe models have gained a lot of momentum over the past few years, with our Sk8-Hi being a great hi-top option for fall. The Sk8-Hi is a style icon with fans from skate enthusiasts to fashion lovers, artists and musicians.

What are Vans strongest styles and the bread-and-butter products?
The first Vans shoe, the Authentic, was introduced in 1966 and continues to be a key style today, updated seasonally with the latest trends.  Sk8-Hi’s and Old Skool’s have continued to gain momentum over the past few years, with Slip-Ons and Eras also rounding out the top five styles.

How important are Vans’ iconic Checkerboard motif or the Slip-On style for the brand today?
Vans Checkerboard Slip-On is an iconic style that will always be a part of the brand.  It’s an important part of our heritage and remains as relevant today as it was decades ago.

How can a brand reinvent itself season by season, staying true to its core brand values?
We’re connected with our consumer and are constantly learning from them so we learn what they need from Vans.  They’re often a source of inspiration for us when building a collection. For example, our All Weather Mountain Edition out this fall was built by listening to the consumers and their needs for a sneaker they could wear all year round. So we took Vans classic shoe styles and updated them with weather resistant technologies.

What are the main challenges in designing and selling sneakers today?
We’re constantly looking for ways to innovate and create newness, while staying true to our heritage. We’re fortunate to have a rich heritage from which we can pull inspiration. The challenge is interpreting that history to create new ideas for the future but we always maintain our design DNA to produce innovative and trend-relevant products.

Where are footwear trends heading? What’s the next big thing?
Consumers are looking for versatility in their footwear, products that can take them from spring to winter, from work to play. For example, our MTE collection takes our Classics styles and makes them functional for cold/wet weather.  Our Classics Lites provide lightweight, superior cushioning for total comfort and all-day wear. Consumers have their favorite shoes and they want to be able to wear them for any occasion.