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Meet Taka Hayashi, Vault by Vans mastermind

Hypebeast investigates

Meet Taka Hayashi, Vault by Vans mastermind Hypebeast investigates

Vans is one of the most emblematic sneaker brands of the world, whose name is strictly related to the universe of skateboard, surf and BMX. Its aesthetic street style-oriented gave the brand the opportunity to create many artistic collaborations during the years. Our friends from Hypebeast met Taka Hayashi, Vault by Vans mastermind, to discover how he managed to turn the “premium” line of the brand in an icon.

From the Skate Park to the Studio

With nearly a decade under his belt with the longstanding skate imprint — Hayashi, an artist by training — got his start at Vans through a few friends who were involved with the footwear company, notably, Berto of Supreme LA and Vans Syndicate. Berto had approached Hayashi after seeing his art, so infatuated with his designs that he invited him to collaborate on the second season of Vans Syndicate in 2005. His deft use of materials otherwise sampled in high-end footwear would earn him a full-time gig at Vans, joining Syndicate before moving onto Vault.

However, Hayashi isn’t just an artist that happened to strike gold with Vans, in fact, he lives and breathes the culture synonymous with Vans’ sun-kissed California heritage. Born in Yokohama, Japan, before relocating to Santa Monica, Hayashi grew up with a quintessentially Californian childhood. He regularly frequented the local skate shop and park with his two-wheeler. 

Despite his skateboarding background, Hayashi isn’t your stereotypical irreverent, brash, West Coast skater. In fact, he's timid, soft spoken, and takes a little prodding before opening up.

Hayashi’s unique designs derive from being able to tie the knot between the lawless and disorderly known to skateboarding with the refinement one would expect from luxury footwear. A sensibility which is perhaps indebted to his multicultural American-Japanese upbringing. His vision earned him his own line within Vans, in turn, providing seasonal offerings under his guidance. A Taka Hayashi x Vault by Vans model can be spotted from a distance. Epitomized by a strong attention to detail and an elevated aesthetic that is heavily defined by prints and patterns, the South Western Native American motif continues to be an ongoing trademark in his works.

The Native American Appeal

Hayashi is particularly inspired by Native American culture, constantly referencing it in many of his collections. Particularly, Hayashi’s infatuation with it stems from his fascination with the Ainu people of Japan — the indigenous people of Japan with immense Russian and Native Indian influences.

While his own artwork provides inspiration for his designs, Hayashi admittedly “goes elsewhere for ideas before applying [his own] style to footwear.” Vans sends its design team to various locations around the globe to acquire new tastes and influences, constantly keeping them inspired. Most recently, he was sent to Morocco where he was “blown away by their leather craft and artisanal goods.” This inspiration will become the core of Vault by Vans SS16 collection. 

Despite the sophistication seen in Hayashi’s Vault by Vans designs, the designer says it’s up to the wearer to interpret and wear the shoe however they want. “Its completely up to them how they perceive it. But I guess, the Hayashi line is targeted at a more mature audience who appreciates details and a different take on the traditional skate shoe. The print and patterns do a lot in telling a different story”.

What’s next?

Apart from his upcoming core collection for Vault by Vans — which he looks to expand onto apparel —  Hayashi also developed a Vault by Vans collaboration with Pendleton. The classic heritage brand known for its woolen goods will be fusing its aesthetics with Vans, with a wool blanket, Sk8-His and Slip Ons. Elsewhere, Hayashi will bring back the Seria for 2016 spring/summer, a running-inspired silhouette in homage to ’80s performance designs. “I applied my own aesthetic onto the archival silhouette. Its not meant for skating, just a lifestyle shoe.”

Following art initiatives with the likes of Takashi Murakami and Ron English, rumor has it that Vaults next collaboration will be with no other than Brooklyn artist and Kanye West collaborator Wes Lang.

With a handfull of project on-the-go, we wonder if Hayashi ever gets sidetracked. A query which he quickly answers “I always keep the core skate audience in mind, that will always be ingrained in my work.”