CATEGORY: SKATE SHOES
INTERVIEWEE: JUSS APIVALA (GLOBAL CATEGORY MANAGER – VANS PRO SKATE)
Do you see a shift in skate shoe buying habits when cold season in Europe rolls around? If so, what is your response?
Probably not from a performance point of view. A skate shoe needs to perform every time you step on a board, no matter the season. Therefore, we continue what we do every season – deliver the world’s #1 Skateboard Shoes to the skaters around the world.
In terms of buying, yes, there probably is a shift as school starts – people want new shoes to look fresh and they can use them as their skate pair later on. Another aspect is materials, there’s definitely a shift towards more suede uppers than any other textile.
How important is technology in skate footwear for customers these days?
In order to skate better, longer, ollie higher or whatever, you’ll need a performance product to help you out. Technology has always played a big role in Vans Pro Skate and we’re working hard to push the envelope even further. Skaters along with every other modern consumer out there are way more open to new technologies than ever before, so we make sure we address this. Obviously in Pro Skate it comes thru a heavy skate lens – how can we build more comfortable shoes to skate in, how can we create uppers that would last for a longer time, how can we make sure we have superior impact cushioning, how Vans can help you to make you skate better and longer, etc.
What are your main new technical developments?
For FA’17 we are very proud to introduce a brand new construction type in Pro Skate. UltraRange Pro is the name of the style and there’s a lot of tech built into the shoe. It all starts with the sole that combines the Original Vans Waffle outsole with a custom-tuned Ultracush Lite formula co-moulded midsole.
In simple words – you’ll have the Vans OG grip that skaters love and it adds a super comfortable midsole that gives you the lightweight support and cushioning you’ll need. That’s only the sole of the shoe, the upper is incredible too. The UltraRange Pro features a sockfit liner that provides amazing fit and feel on the upper.
On top of that you’ll have Duracap reinforcement rubber underlays in high-wear areas. For any skater, this is huge – a performance skate shoe that blends comfort, lightweight support, incredible fit and durability. We’re stoked on the outcome and we keep hearing great feedback from skaters who are trying them on for the first time.
What are the main colour and material stories for FW2017/18?
One of the biggest strengths as a brand that Vans has is this talented pool of designers that work together. Blend this with the amazing team of skaters and you feel quite confident that what we put out there is on point. Suede remains the material choice of skaters, but we always make sure we spice it up with textiles – twills, washed canvases, etc.
As for color, there’s a nice balance of commercial colorways, but we bring in seasonal energy with color and prints. Checkerboard is obviously something that runs deep in our heritage, so there are some fresh takes on there too. There’s not a massive shift in trends of where we have been in the past, it more comes down to execution and putting out there the right amount of newness.
Putting things in perspective, how have skate shoes developed over the past 5 years? How are this seasons’s shoes different from FW2011?
Last 5 years have been busy for Vans Pro Skate. We have introduced Wafflecup – the best of both worlds, combining cupsole support and vulcanized boardfeel without sacrificing the grip. This solved skateboarder’s perennial problem. Gilbert Crockett 2 Pro and Kyle Walker Pro feature Wafflecup.
We introduced the first ever stitchless vulcanized shoe with the Rowley Pro Lite and now that same technology is available on the AV RapidWeld Pro Lite. We introduced a lightweight single wrap Pro Vulc construction that’s first featured on the Chima Ferguson Pro and now has trickled down to other styles. With the launch of Chima Ferguson Pro, we also launched the skateable canvas with Duracap reinforcements. This changed the way skaters look canvas shoe.
We have completely retooled our Pro Classics. Basically taking our Vans Classics silhouettes and making modern skate shoes out of them. This is where all our Ultracush drop in footbeds come to play and obviously Duracap treatments that allow us to build longer lasting shoes.
Now for FA’17 we’re adding UltraRange Pro to the mix with all its new features, so it’s pretty easy to say that the skate team at Vans has been really busy and we don’t have plans to slow down. Basically every season we look at what we have achieved and ask ourselves and the skaters – how can we evolve and make even better product.
Please point out the 3 key products in your collection that retailers HAVE to keep on their radar and tell us the story.
UltraRange Pro because of everything that was described above.
Thrasher x Vans collab – two industry heavyweights coming together and coming up with a rad capsule of products that combines some of our most iconic skate shoes and really sick apparel pieces. It’s definitely a pack not to miss out on.
Pro Classics – Vans iconic styles on a modern skate build with Ultracush HD footbeds and Duracap reinforcements for added durability. We have added some new basic colorways and obviously some new seasonal packs that looks amazing, but one thing to note is that the Slip-On Pro, Sk8-Hi Pro, Old Skool Pro and Authentic Pro are now available sizes 3.5 – 13. This means all the little rippers can now enjoy the benefits of true Pro Classics.
How do you see the overall health of the European skate shoe market?
In the big picture it’s quite similar to the global landscape as most of the players are the same and their tactics are globally aligned. It’s definitely not an easy time for all the skate shoe brands out there, the competition has changed and the majority of market share is owned by a handful of brands.
On the other hand, it’s also interesting as everyone is asked to step up the game on a seasonal basis. This means that brands, including the big ones, are being pushed to put out better product than ever before and from a consumer point of view I think that’s only great news.