On The Road With Jac Vanek

Shortly before the holidays, we had the chance to chat with Jac Vanek, owner of her own line of accessories and clothing at the young age of 23! She's toured with the Vans Warped Tour and Bamboozle, and just recently appeared at Bloomingdales in New York. Jac is the kind of gal who is very easy to talk to and interesting to boot. I could tell from the get-go that I could easily go on a million fun tangents with her and I would need to restrain myself.

It was hard.

My first question, actually, is Jac short for anything? Because I've been dying of curiosity.
Yeah, it's actually short for Jacquelene, and I started going by Jac when I was 15 or 16 when I first started immersing myself in the whole music industry because people could never, never pronounce my name right. It was always like Jacki or Jaclyn or something like that, so I was like, "You know what, I'm going to shorten it to Jac. It'll be easy, and you can't mispronounce it."

Jac Vanek
CREDIT: Claire Oring
So can you tell us a little bit about how you got started?
Yeah. I actually got started with the bracelets. And I started a few years ago while I was still in college. And I basically took $200.00 – that's all the extra money that I had at the time – and I put it into making the first bracelet that I had which is the RUTHLESS bracelet. I probably got 20 of them made. I sent them off to some of my friends in bands and some of my friends that are kind of more well known. And they supported me, and then their friends just started asking about it and fans, and it kind of just slowly expanded from that.

Yeah, I like your bracelets. They're really cool!
Thank you. I'll have to send you some.

What are the influences for your fashion? I've read some of your other interviews. I know you've stated you're very into the music scene. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Yeah. It's funny because I'm a very vintage-based person. Like I'm not super into high fashion; I'm not super into really high designers. So I kind of take inspiration from a little bit of fashion, but mostly everything but fashion. Like I'm obsessed with music. I've been obsessed with music since I was really, really young, so I pull a lot of inspiration from there.

And then I kind of get inspiration just from pop culture in general, from movies and books and poetry and plays and just people in general and traveling and just meeting different kinds of personalities. I just take little bits of that throughout my experiences in life and try to fill up my brain and mix it all around and then throw it back out into a design. So it's more like experience driven than anything in particular.

Like things that you've experienced that just get you jazzed and then get translated into your fashion?
Yeah, exactly. Because the books you read and the music you listen to and the movies you watch and the people that you meet, the things that you take from that kind of create you as a person. Like you're a collective of everything that you love, and that makes you super, super excited. So I kind of like to celebrate that and really throw my interests out there and throw my experiences out there so people can relate to that and take what they can from that to create their own experiences.

What kind of books and authors are the people you're reading or favorite influences?
I'm a huge Charles Bukowski fan since I was probably like 14. He's one of my favorite poets/authors. And then recently, there's an author named Jonathan Safran Foer. Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close and then Everything Is Illuminated were his two novels. And then he wrote a book about vegetarianism called Eating Animals. And he was just one of the most beautiful writers I've ever, ever come across. Like I cry just reading different quotes from him and reading his novels. So he's pretty fantastic. And then aside from that, J.D. Salinger. The Catcher In The Rye is my favorite book of all time.

CREDIT: JacVanek.com

That's a good one! What music are you listening to right now?
Recently, I'm very, very into Mumford & Sons. And they're getting huge. They're amazing.
They're so compelling!
Oh, my God. There's like nothing out there that's like them. They're fantastic. And their live show is unreal. It's very, very moving. They've been one of my favorite groups –
I really want to see them live.
Oh, my gosh, you should go.
Them and The Black Keys are the two. I just saw The Black Keys, but I really want to see Mumford & Sons. It's – my mother is a DJ.
Oh, really?
And she used to run a folk music show. So I grew up around all that kind of music.
Oh, my God. You're going to have to send me some good music because we probably have really similar taste. I love folk music.
Yeah, it's really fun. And the new stuff is just – it's amazing where it went.
I think it's a really good path. And I think it's kind of – like Mumford just got nominated for a couple Grammys, and I think that's so awesome to be against Justin Bieber and stuff like that. It's sort of like a revolution of sorts where this really, really fantastic music is actually making a difference. So I think that's so great.
It's nice to hear the alternative stuff actually get recognized, right?
Oh, yeah, completely. Because I don't know, there's so much junk out there that the artists didn't even write their own songs, and they lip sync. And it's just like where is that talent? Because I don't see it in anything. So it's cool to see these artists that their heart and soul is into the music that they make, and they make it because they love it not because they're trying to make a quick buck from it. So I really commend all those artists.

I also wanted to ask: how do you like traveling on tour, and why do you do tours as compared to like opening stores?
Well, the whole touring aspect kind of came really naturally into the progression of my business because – I mean I have grown up in the music scene since I was really young, and that's kind of like where my heart is and where my home is and where I feel most comfortable.
So I've been attending like Warped Tour and stuff ever since I was 15 years old. And at the Warped Tour, they have the vendor booths that different companies including mine and stuff go on the tour with these bands. So it was kind of a natural progression in the way that my business is growing to jump on one of these tours and immerse myself in that. Like all of the fans that go to Warped Tour and to Bamboozle and to all the tours that vendors can be a part of.
Those are the kind of kids that are my core fans. And they're my core customers that know everything about me, and they're into the same stuff as I am. So it kind of just comes super naturally, and it's so much fun. We get the whole – it's different than just going to visit a store because you get the whole lifestyle experience of it rather than that just little part of being there and selling.
Actually, that leads to my next question. This is actually kind of a two-parter. I was wondering if there's a message that you want your accessories and clothing to say because I notice that some of your shirts are inspirational; some are a little irreverent. Are you trying to capture a scene or make something be heard or more visible?
I mean basically I feel like the underlying theme in everything I do is kind of just the power of the individual and breaking away from the mold of society that says that you have to have this kind of a job and you have to do this and this and that, and this is what's going to make you successful. So it's just kind of having that individuality and awareness of the people who take risks are going to be the people who end up making a difference in the world. So – and just having fun while you're doing it because I have a lot of silly designs and party designs and stuff like that. But I'm always having a good time, so I think it's all encompassing of all those different things.

Right. Because I notice that you do collaborations for causes, but then you also have your SORRY FOR PARTYING shirt which is just kind of fun.
Yeah. Well, my personality is – I have so many different aspects to what I believe in and what I enjoy, so it's like, yeah, of course I love to have a good time and go to parties, and I have gone to parties. So it's fun to have that and just kind of forget about everything for a second. And then you go back to what really matters and what I believe in. So I think it's good to have all those different aspects because you don't want to pigeonhole yourself into one sort of theme for what you want to be seen as.
Oh, of course. I mean life isn't ever one stereotype or one theme ever. It constantly changes. So how do you choose the themes on your bracelets?
A lot of them come from different references. I have some literary references in there. And then a lot of them are inspired by different music. Like there's a lot of bracelets that are inspired by different people, songs, and stuff like that.
And then I have some bracelets that reference certain beliefs of my own. I have the HERBIVORE bracelet because I'm a vegetarian and stuff like that. And then also, I take a lot of customer input, and I have a bunch of kids asking me to do certain designs on bracelets. And there's actually a group of people that started a Facebook that ended up getting 500 members or something like that to make a bracelet that says JUST SAYIN' on it. And I never understood really what it was, but –

Wait. Just saying? You cut out there for a minute.
It says JUST SAYIN'.

Just saying?

CREDIT: JacVanek.com

Oh, wow. Okay.
Yeah. It's really random. And I didn't really understand it, but all these kids were like super stoked on it, and they took all the time to create a Facebook group for it and get all these members to join it, so after I saw all the dedication for that, I ended up making that bracelet.
And I've done that for a couple of different bracelets. I did that for a bracelet that says CREEPER on it and then also the GLEEK bracelet which is one of my best selling bracelets, too. They're all fan-requested. So it's cool. I really care what my customers have to say because they're the ones that are ultimately enjoying the product. So I really am very in contact with what people want.

So if we want to get a certain bracelet made, we should start a Facebook group and let you know?
[Laughs] Yeah. Or you can get one of those planes with a sign that leaves trailing from it. "Jac, make this bracelet." As long as it's fun, I'm into it. Seriously, it's cool, though. It's better than having people not caring. So it's really cool to have people so stoked on it. I want to give back and make everybody happy. 
Well, I have to say I love the movie Almost Famous. So if you had a bracelet that said UNCOOL, I would probably totally wear that like all the time.
I would actually love that. That's really cute. 
Like you know that whole section there, "I'm always home. I'm uncool," I'd love that.
That's so cute. That's a really good idea.
I think that probably also a lot of people my age kind of relate to that more because we've settled, and we're not partying as much as we could be.
No, exactly.

So my next question is: at Culture Brats, we're all kids of the '80s. So we have an '80s influence and a bias and '80s fashion trends have made a huge comeback. What do you think about the '80s stuff? Do you see it on people your age, or what do you think about that fashion?
Well, yeah, I definitely think the '80s have come back in the past, like couple of years. I feel like culture trends sort of recycle every 15, 20 years. So it definitely has been that time for the '80s to come back. And I don't know, my favorite sort of movement from the '80s was the whole punk movement and leather and studs and all that kind of stuff and Mohawks and colored hair. I think it's great. So I love seeing that whole aspect of the '80s coming back, the whole neon sort of workout thing is not my favorite, but when it's done tastefully, I think it's pretty fantastic. But I love black and I love kind of the subdued colors, so that whole neon thing sort of scares me a bit. I'm more of a '90s-influenced dresser which is really funny. Like I love the whole grunge movement and stuff like that.
I heard you were a fan of My So-Called Life and Kurt Cobain. So do you think that – I mean we had the '70s trend and the '80s trend – do you think the '90s are going to come back?
I feel like it kind of has – I don't know if certain things from the '90s will come back. Like who knows if overalls or, like huge baggy pants will ever come back, but I think plaid is always in, and sort of like the dark, grungy lifestyle I feel lives within certain people. But I don't know if a whole actual taking over the culture will ever happen. I wish it would. That's how I dress, and that's how I've always dressed. So I'd be stoked if it did.

I know. I've noticed that plaid came back, too. And I was a big fan – I was in college in the '90s, so I was definitely into grunge. It was all very baggy, so no one knew that I even had a figure because it was always covered up.

But I see the sweaters – like these big sweaters – and they don't look like the stuff from the '90s. But they kind of remind me of them because they're really cozy. I wore a lot of boyfriend sweaters and plaid.
See, I love that. And the only place to really find anything good like that is from thrift stores. So that's kind of where I live when it comes to shopping. But it's good because then you get one of kind, individual, unique little items that you wouldn't be able to find anywhere. And you're never going to run into somebody that's wearing the same thing.

Right. And that's always cool to have your own statement.
Exactly. And I know I always find my best stuff there.

So you just finished the Bloomingdales appearance. What was that like? What did that entail?
It was really cool. We went to three different Bloomingdales over the weekend on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We went to Short Hills Mall and White Plains in Jersey and then Roosevelt Field in Long Island. And it was basically just like a meet-and-greet. I got to meet all my customers and fans that decided to come out. I signed posters and bracelets and pictures and just got to know these kids that have been a big part of my business and my life that I've never been able to meet before. So it was really cool being able to meet these kids face-to-face. And the only other time I've really been able to do stuff like that is at Warped Tour. So it was definitely a different atmosphere being at a department store. And it was really, really neat.

So did you meet some people who maybe had never maybe heard of you before? Was this their first time seeing your stuff?
Yeah, it was actually really cool. I mean the majority of people that came heard about it from my Twitter or Facebook or website or email blast or whatever. So most of the people that were there definitely have been fans for a while.

But then there is a couple people that showed up that were just shopping in the mall, and they were like, "Oh, my God, what is this? This stuff is cool. Oh, my God, the designer is there, so I might as well go meet her." So I was definitely able to meet some people that I would've never caught their attention otherwise, so that was really cool.

Actually a kid from – I don't even know; I think he was from Jersey – but he was my age; he was 23 years old, and he drove two hours away and waited two hours in line to tell me that his last name is Vanek, too. It was so funny. I'm like, "Oh, my God, he did this for a whole four hours just to tell me that." It was amazing.

That's funny. That's really kind of endearing that you're making that kind of an impact.
Oh, my gosh, it was so cute. And he was actually really cute. Like this is strange. Maybe I'll just marry him so I can keep my last name. [Laughs]

But it was cool. We met so many new people.

So you know what, I missed a question. I wanted to ask you are you ever awestruck when you see a celebrity wearing your items?
It's kind of weird because I was in Hollywood, so I'm very jaded when it comes to seeing celebrities. But when I – like Lindsay Lohan ended up with one of my bracelets that said JUST BREATHE on it. So I think I know where people get my stuff usually; I know where they get it from because I'm like, "Okay, I'm friends with them," or it's a friend of a friend or my publicist contacted this person. But I don't know anybody that knows her, so seeing that and seeing all these paparazzi images of her wearing that bracelet was so crazy to me because I'm like, "Where the heck did you get that from? That's so cool." Because I don't know, it's just so crazy.

Yeah, it's not someone you're going to see at the Vans Warped Tour.
And I don't know of any mutual friends that we have that could have given her one, so it was just like – stuff like that is just so weird when I see these random celebrities that I definitely don't have any connection with. I'm telling myself, "That's really cool."

So who is the coolest celebrity or musician that you know is wearing your stuff or that you've met?
Oh, gosh, let me think. I think – I don't know. Well, for me, this isn't like – they're not the coolest celebrities for probably anybody else, but I guess Third Eye Blind. They are one of my favorite bands of my entire life and getting to tour with them was so cool. And their singer who I would've never thought I'd meet ever became one of our really good friends. And he's supported me so much. Like every day, he was asking me for a new shirt or a new bracelet to wear, a new necklace or something like that. So having one of my idols being so supportive of what I'm doing was really, really cool to me.

Yeah, that would be really cool actually.
But I mean for like anybody else, I guess I have a ton of friends that are on the Disney Channel that are close with me, so they always wear my stuff, so I think more people would be stoked on that.

Right. Well, it's different when you're from L.A., frankly. I think there's a different attitude about celebrities down there than in other parts of the country.
Exactly. You kind of just have to look at everybody – treat everybody the same because they're all people, and everybody is awesome.

So what are you working on next? Do you have anything upcoming like tours or projects you're working on?
You know we're actually going to Australia in February for this music festival called Soundwave. And that's just like a – there's probably like 60 bands on that or something, and it goes to all the – there's like 70 [stops] I think around Australia. So we're going there in February for that which I'm so, so excited for. And then we're doing a couple events at SXSW, which is a music conference in Austin, Texas, in March.

CREDIT: Claire Oring

Okay, I'm at the end of my questions, but it's time for The CB3. At Culture Brats, we ask three questions on all of our interviews. But before I ask these questions, I want you to state your age, please.
I'm 23 years old.

Twenty-three. The reason I ask that is because you're probably the youngest person we've interviewed. So I'm really interested to see what you say on these questions.
Yes. It's mainly '80s kids that we're interviewing. So my first question is: Thriller or Purple Rain?
Oh, Thriller for sure, for sure. I remember watching the "Thriller" music video probably five million times when I was 8 years old. That's the greatest video I think that has ever been made. To this day, there's never been anything better.

That's awesome. And Debbie Gibson or Tiffany?
Oh, gosh, I don't even listen... No, I'd probably say Tiffany.

And my last question is Pretty In Pink or Sixteen Candles?
Oh, Sixteen Candles for sure. Jake Ryan is the love of my life. [Laughs]

That's awesome.
I love that movie. I'm such a fan of all those '80s teen movies. And one of my best friends looks exactly like Molly Ringwald, so I kind of have to go with that.

So Jac, those are all the questions I have. Thank you so much for interviewing with us!
Thank you. It was so fun.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...