Legendary Vans Co-Founder Paul Van Doren Has Passed Away

Vans brand co-founder Paul Van Doren has passed away, NBC News reports. The 90-year-old footwear innovator died on Friday, May 7. The cause of death has not been made public.

“Paul was not just an entrepreneur; he was an innovator,” said VF Corp. in a statement. “Paul’s bold experiments in product design, distribution, and marketing, along with his knack for numbers and efficiency turned a family shoe business into a globally recognized brand.”

Van Doren and his brother Jim Van Doren (who died in 2011) — along with partners Gordon Lee and Serge Delia — established the Van Doren Rubber Company in 1966, which later became known as House of Vans. The brand officially rebranded as Vans Inc. in 1991 and was sold to V Corp. in 2004.

In the early ’60s, Van Doren’s shoes would be made to order at the brand’s Anaheim, California HQ and handed to customers on the same day as the orders were placed, with a starting price of $2.49. Over the next few decades, Vans canvas and rubber silhouettes became synonymous with laid-back Californian skater style (a fact reflected in the “off the wall” and spear-shaped skateboard deck branding, which was added in the 1970s) and transformed into the $2 billion-a-year brand it is today.

Talking to The LA Times about his dad’s business acumen, Steve Van Doren, said, “My dad was a systems guy. He did things like color-coding the boxes, blue for men, green for women, and orange for boys, so you could see what inventory you had right away. He would only open stores that had a free right-hand exterior wall because he thought that was the best place to catch someone’s eye if they were driving by.”

In his memoir Authentic, which was published last month, Van Doren wrote that giving customers what they want is the key to success. “If it’s a checkerboard, if it’s bright pinks and yellows, or if it happens to be dinosaurs or a skull and crossbones, listen to their two cents’ worth about colors and designs,” he said.

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