Exclusive: Jac Vanek Opens Up About Music, Fashion and Passion
Whether you know it or not, those cool rubber bracelets you've seen on the likes of Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Greyson Chance are made by Jac Vanek, a 23-year-old designer, who is not only the mastermind behind the fresh, eponymous clothing and accessories line, but is also an inspirational force for our generation.
Just two years ago, the Jac Vanek line began with one bracelet that simply, but boldly said: "RUTHLESS." Since then, the California native has expanded her declarative collection to include T-shirts, hoodies, rings, necklaces and more.
While the music scene has embraced this mogul-in-the-making and has helped her make a name for herself, Jac is taking her designs to a new level. In fact, Bloomingdale's is now carrying her line in select stores nationwide. Recently, we got the chance to hang out with Jac in New York City and talk to her about everything from being an emo kid to listening to her heart and following her dreams.
JSYK: You said that Sugarcult, Finch and Something Corporate was your first show. Can you tell me about it and what happened there? What changed you from the typical OC cheerleader to an "emo kid"?
Jac: I seriously was the biggest emo kid in the entire world. It's really embarrassing -- I wore an Avril Lavigne tie. Sugarcult and Finch was my first show, and Something Corporate was my second show, but Something Corporate is my favorite band of all time, so I kind of put them all together. But it was just weird, because I had never been to a concert besides Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears, so it was the first time I was really going out by myself and doing something that I was super interested in. The feeling of community and aliveness that I was given at those shows made me feel like home. Before, in high school, I was on the cheerleading squad and super interested in popularity and all that kind of stuff, and it was sort of just fabricated in my mind. I thought that was what I wanted. When I went to that show, I was like wow, this is speaking directly to my heart; this is what I really, really love. I love the feeling I get at a show and seeing a band that I love so much. So, I don't know, it was the feeling of being somewhere that felt good.
JSYK: So, what made you want to make that initial bracelet?
Jac: The first one I made is the "Ruthless" bracelet, and it's inspired by a Something Corporate song. Around that time, I decided that I wanted to start doing the bracelets and was kind of starting a fashion thing. I was listening to Something Corporate, and it was the only thing I was listening to at the time, so I wanted to express my all-encompassing love for music. A lot of kids kind of reacted and felt that connection to it, so it was cool.
JSYK: How old were you when you made that first bracelet?
Jac: I was 20. It was around two years ago.
JSYK: In the beginning, how did you get your business up and running?
Jac: I used to do sales through my MySpace, PayPal and email. I had three bracelets and one shirt, and had kids emailing me and messaging me on MySpace. I would send everything out of my parents' house in Orange County. It was very makeshift, do-it-yourself, but it makes me appreciate where things are at now, because I didn't start up, like, awesomely. There have been a lot of stepping stones to get where I'm at, and I'm still in the beginning stages of a clothing line and a business, so it's cool to see the progression.
JSYK: You're clothes and accessories have been geared towards the music scene, but now you have this partnership with Bloomingdale's. Are you excited to get into this crossover lifestyle market?
Jac: Yeah, as I said earlier, it's hard because there's those two different worlds -- the music world and the clothing lines that come along with it. The different clothing lines you see on Warped Tour and stuff like that, they're very connected to certain bands and certain genres of this music. So, I feel like I'm fortunate enough to make that crossover towards the fashion side of things, which isn't where my heart initially grew up, but as I get older, I get more fashion-conscious. I research more and more about the fashion world, so it's good to be able to have that crossover, because these fans, they get older and more interested in different things, and I don't want to be stuck with a person's old interests. I want to be able to grow and expand with my consumers, and I find it more interesting.
JSYK: Who's been your favorite celebrity or musician to work with and why?
Jac: It was really fun doing a collab with singer Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low. He's been one of my best friends for years and years, and they are one of the biggest bands in the whole pop punk music scene. There are a lot of bands that ripped the idea of the bracelet and just made their own with that kind of idea, but Alex approached me and said, "I really support you as a person, and I support what you're doing. I would love to work with you, rather than take your idea." It was cool, because that set the precedent for a lot of other bands to be more interested in working with me than working against me.
JSYK: How does social media play into promoting your line?
Jac: First of all, social media networking has pretty much been the biggest asset to my company and making it successful. Twitter -- I'm obsessed with Twitter. I've been obsessed with Twitter for the last two years since we came out. I don't just keep my Facebook and social networking sites to a business standpoint of, "Oh I have this new shirt out!" or whatever. I try to showcase the things I'm into, the things I'm interested in, the music I'm listening to. I want to have these different connections with people, because I feel like its all about what's going on in your mind, not what you're trying to put out on the table.
JSYK: You completed high school and then went on to college. Why do you think its important to stay in school?
Jac: For the record, I went to UCLA with a scholarship and I graduated, so I think its really important to stay in school and definitely to go to college. I definitely could have done what I'm doing without going to school. I was a design major, so I did learn a lot about design, but the kind of design that I do now is pretty much all self-taught. But, I think its really important, because you never know what's going to happen in the future. Anything could happen, and I don't want to be stuck having nothing under my belt. It's really good to have a college degree. You can tell when someone isn't educated or didn't pay attention in school in any conversation you have, so I think its very important.
Jac: Finally, what is your advice to teens who have aspirations of starting their own business?
JSYK: Follow those dreams. There are so many people that I have met and dealt with in my life. They're so talented and have such big dreams, but are too afraid to take that step and take that risk. Doing something like this, I have taken a gigantic risk and I have worries all the time, but if you don't take that risk, then you'll never know. You're going to be sitting in that 9 to 5 job wondering what you could have done if you would have mustered up the courage and actually did something with it. So, if you really do have that passion, that's the biggest thing in the entire world because so many people lack it. It's very special to have.
The new collection is available online, in stores and at select Bloomingdale's locations. To learn more about Jac, visit JacVanek.com.
For more music news and updates, follow JSYK's writer @nadinecheung on Twitter.