Any pattern, any photo, any design. Right now, Vans can already do it, but it’ll take a little while and you’ll have to wait for it to land on your front door. But the brand has just unveiled a new, innovative machine that allows it to take any pattern, photo, or design and slap it on a pair of shoes in less than 15 minutes.
Check out the process from start to finished design in the exclusive video below.
The new machine is a natural extension of the brand’s long-running Customs program. In fact, now with its ability to bring unprecedented customization to people at events and in stores, the brand is harking back to its very beginning.
Vans vice-president of creative Jamie Reilly says it reflects how Vans builds its future in a way that is based on its past and staying true to who it is. “Heritage and innovation are linked, so one of the nice things about that is having this history of creative experimentation,” says Reilly.
The Customs program started the first day the brand opened its first store in Anaheim in 1966.”A customer walked into the shop on that first day, Paul Van Doren was there, and they wanted a different color of shoes than the ones he had,” says Reilly. “So Van Doren said, ‘Bring me the fabric you want your shoes made out of and I’ll make them for an extra 50 cents.'”
Director of innovation Safir Bellali says the Van’s overall innovation strategy is built around helping the brand deliver iconic products and experiences to enable and inspire creativity.
“This piece is one example of technologies we’re exploring as part of our commitment to creative expression,” says Bellali. “Understanding how big a role customization plays in enabling this commitment, it was natural for us to seek out ways to elevate the customization experience, remove barriers to creativity, and make the process more immediate.”
As more and more shoe brands offer their own versions of customization, Bellali says Vans aimed to find a way to not only offer people as many possible design options as possible, but to do as faster than anyone else.
“Everyone can customize product to a certain degree and with relative immediacy, what you don’t see out there is a process that allows you to customize your shoes with an all-over print of your choice in less than 15 minutes,” says Bellali.
They partnered with parent company VF Corporation’s Global Innovation Center and their advanced manufacturing team to develop a process to test the idea of on-the-spot customization and quickly learned its limitations. At that point, there were plenty of doubts the technology could work. “Instead my team got scrappy, got a new machine built, put it through end-to-end testing, got stoked, and kept going,” says Bellali.
Reilly says Vans has long taken its own inspiration from how people have customized their shoes. “The checkerboard is an iconic piece of Vans branding but it originally came from kids drawing on their shoes,” he says. “So this is just another cool way we can see what people want. The new machine fits into this as just another experiment to help us connect better with our customers and give them another platform for their own creativity and expression.”