Taka Hayashi’s rise within the footwear ranks has steadily become apparent over the past few seasons, mostly due to an imaginative and unmatched approach to producing edgy, well-thought out product. Offering a refreshing approach to the Vans hierarchy, the Southern California native has consistently developed top notch designs within the Vans Vault, Syndicate, and California collections. Always extremely intricate and detailed to the core, Hayashi’s approach to footwear stems from the designer’s own works of art, often garnering mass acclaim for their passionate attention to detail. Given a unique opportunity, we were able to catch up with Taka and speak of the many influences that have brought his masterful ideas to the forefront of this current sneaker landscape.
Interview: L. Ruano
Photography: Jon Warren
Hey Taka, hows it going?
I’m doing good, thanks.
Not too many people know about the man behind these latest and greatest designs from Vault. For those not completely familiar with your work, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I was born in Yokohama, Japan and moved to Santa Monica when I was nine. I’ve been drawing and skating from an early age. I’ve done graphic design and illustration work for Stussy in the past and am currently designing footwear and graphics for Vans, including the Vans by Taka Hayashi, Vault, and California lines.
Your artwork’s uniquely intricate. What’s your weapon of choice when it comes to illustration?
I would have to say black India ink with a Rapidograph pen, or a brush. I’ve been using that for many years.
A good amount of your work is in Black & White. How much do you enjoy working in color?
I like working in both color and black/white. It just depends on the subject of the artwork. Lately I’ve been working with more color within my artwork.
How did you become involved in footwear design?
After my second season at Vans, I started evolving more as a footwear designer, rather than just a graphic designer and illustrator. I began looking at footwear more as a sculptural design rather than just slapping graphics on shoes. At the time, most footwear/artist collaborations consisted mainly of heavy, all-over graphics on shoes. That look was getting stale and that made me want to progress and do something more unique.
What are some of your favorite things about working with footwear?
I like the process of making a product functional with my aesthetic taste.
Are you yourself a fan of sneakers, or fashion in general?
Ive been a fan of sneakers and fashion since I started skateboarding. When I was thirteen, I used to hang out at a skateboard shop in Santa Monica called Fred Segal Wheels. It was owned by this really cool skater, named Mike Teele, from El Paso, Texas. A lot of pros would roll to this skateshop and I would see Eric Dressen wearing Vans Old Skools and Sk8-Hi’s, Natas wearing Converse Dr. J’s and Weapons, Mark Gonzales wearing Jordan 1′s, and Mike Vallely wearing adidas Ewings and the gold/ red instincts. Growing up, I also went back to Japan every summer, and seeing their take on American fashion trends was very inspiring. These memories had a great impact on my personal style.
Do you have any artists/designers that you look up to?
Ralph Lauren for his Americana style.
Does California Skate/Surf culture play a major role in your designs?
Growing up in Southern California, skate and surf culture definitely played a major role in my designs and has influenced my aesthetic to this day.
How did you link up with Vans?
About 6 years ago, a good friend of mine, Berto (Supreme LA/Vans Syndicate), asked if I was interested in collaborating for the second season of their line. I was really excited to be a part of this project. From there I met the Vans Syndicate group (Jon, Rian, Jay, and Tom) who were open to creative ideas, fusing the same mentality, appreciation, and history of skateboarding. So after I was done with the project, I became really good friends with them and they asked me if I wanted to work at Vans full-time.
What have been some of your favorite designs you’ve created for Vans thus far?
Too many to list, but I would have to say the “Akat”. It’s very unique and simple at the same time.
Spring/Summer 2010 was a great advancement for Vault. How did the inspiration for that season come about?
Native American bead work and leather craft work. I have a deep appreciation for their culture.
You have an upcoming design with Pendleton for Fall 2010, revolving around that same aesthetic. Can you tell us a bit about that sneaker?
It was great working with Pendleton. I grew up wearing a lot of their flannel shirts… I still do. For the material, I was really drawn to this blanket called the Black Tucson. I like the bold geometric designs and color on the pattern, which symbolizes strength in the Native American culture. The two silhouettes I worked with on this project are the Sk8-Hi and Slip-on, both of which I re-designed. They feature moccasin-style paneling and heavy stitching, with a mix of a waxy leather material and the Pendleton blanket material.
You can tell those are definitely more of a fashionable design. How do you approach silhouettes for Vault as opposed to those in the Syndicate range?
The concepts and details are very similar. With Vault, I approach it more with a fashion sense. With Syndicate, it’s a little bit of both, [skate and fashion] with a dark twist.
Seeing how you can accurately translate such intricate details in footwear, do you have any plans to produce apparel for Vans?
Right now my main focus is footwear, but I’m starting to design leather accessories and bags. As my product line starts growing, I would definitely like to start designing some apparel pieces.
What else do you have in store for 2010, both personally and with Vans?
More projects. Top secret.
What can we expect from Taka Hayashi for 2011?
Continuation and growth of my product line. I’d like to always keep pushing the design of Vans footwear.
Any last words?
Thanks to all the people who have given me the opportunities to share my creativity!