Friday, September 16, 2011

Behind the scenes of OTW: Interview with Designer Ian Gray

As we continue our Behind The Scenes of OTW feature we sat down for an interview with OTW footwear designer Ian Gray an avid surfer, hard working and creative dude to find out how his design process works and what it's like to be a footwear designer. Get the full interview after the jump!

YS: Please introduce yourself and what is your position at OTW?

Ian: I'm Ian Gray and I design the OTW Collection at Vans.

YS: What is a typical day for a Vans OTW designer like?

Ian: I get to the office catch up on emails from China and the developer of the OTW line, get some green tea, or coffee, and get down to either drawing shoes for a new design season like I am today, working on samples that come back from China, coloring up the shoes on Illustrator, or just doing research and getting inspiration on the Internet or maybe a little shopping trip.

YS: That sounds like a loaded day! Besides the Internet where do your inspirations come from?

Ian: For quick stuff yeah, but also we go on trips like the one I just got back from. Me and the core line designer, just went to Chicago and Toronto to get a feel of the market out there and to get inspired.

YS: Very cool! Chicago is amazing, often overlooked but I think it's one of a few truly metropolitan cities.

Ian: Yeah it was rad, i'd never been it was a nice change to be in a real city. LA just doesn't have that East Coast city feel.

YS: Absolutely! East Coast is great for a visit. But you get so many other perks in LA such as the beach and the weather... Excuse our East Coast readers!

Ian Gray

Ian: (laughing) I totally agree!

YS: Could you get into a little bit of details on an actual process of designing a shoe? Maybe describe designing the Alomar as an example?

Ian: Well the Alomar wasn't really a typical process, i actually designed that in traffic on the way home form work one night.

Alomar sketch

YS: Love it! In it's true fashion inspirations come in the most unexpected places.

Ian: But a typical shoe I get a brief an idea of what should be designed, then do a little research and start drawing. We go through a process of three design reviews where the entire design team creates the shoes and decides on a direction.

Ian: We typically start out drawing then bring the shoe into Illustrator and to get all the details and finish work.

YS: As a designer do you have to understand manufacturing process and get to pick materials for the shoe?

Ian: Yeah totally, but a lot of the processes you kinda learn on the job, and as for materials we get to pick all that when we color up the line for a new season.

Ian: Yeah, the Alomar was a project that I was working on with no brief or direction and it just happened to be a shoe that fit really well into this new line we were creating that ended up being The OTW Collection.

YS: Oh wow. That really turned into an awesome shoe, definitely a highlight of the OTW line up.

YS: Ian you must have a lot of patience to wait for the samples to come back or you are too busy getting the next one done, it's probably like living in the constant future?

Ian: It really is. We work about a year and a half out so right now I'm designing new shoes for Spring 2013, and we just finished the initial colors for Holiday 2012. Samples actually come back really quick sometimes, like a week. But there's always so much going on there's not much time to just wait.

YS: That's crazy! Could you describe designing a collaboration shoe with OTW Advocates, what is it like?

Ian: It kinda depends on who I'm working with, sometimes they have a really clear idea of what they want and we'll just send then a line drawing and they'll work it out for the most part and then I guide and answer questions. Other times I meet with the them and get a feel for what there all about and then I go back and design a shoe for them, and then have a dialog back about what they like and don't like about the design.

YS: Must be fun! Working with different personalities getting their feel for the creative process, probably a great experience that translates into future works.

YS: How did you get into designing shoes?

Ian: I've always really been into shoes and ended up going to art school in Boston where I studied product design. My cousin is in the shoe business and got me an internship at Fila where she was working at the time. I just fell in love with design shoes.

YS: It's truly great to do what you love! Any advice to aspiring shoe designers out there?

Ian: Just keep pushing, takes time and a lot of work.

YS: That's fair advice. You heard the man!

YS: OTW has changed quite a lot from it's original inception, how would you describe the current direction and if you could, give us a few hints on the next season...

Ian: It really has, it's kinda gone in two direction, one focused on more of the menswear vibe and one more on the streetwear side. It's nice because I dabble in both. All I can say bigger and better thing are on the way, new innovative styles and updates to classics.

YS: Both directions are totally beneficial to each other and exact thing seems to be happening in the culture so it looks like an organic growth. Can't wait to see the next drop!

YS: What are your favorite things in 2011 so far?

Ian: The Pritchard in grey canvas has been my summer jam. Personally I've just been loving the surf and relaxing when I get a chance.

YS: Sounds great!

YS: Thank you so much for taking the time from your busy schedule and we are really looking forward to more of OTW!

Ian: Thank you man, it was great chatting!

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