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Talking with Doug Palladini about writing the Vans book

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  • Vans VP of Marketing Doug Palladini

I drove to Cypress last night for the launch party for Vans new book with a burning question I needed answered: How exactly did Vans VP of Marketing Doug Palladini squeeze in writing a book while managing his other duties?

The guy has a big job as the lead marketing executive for the biggest skate shoe brand in the world plus he's involved in many organizations, including the Surf Industry Manufacturing Association, where he was recently named president.

I tracked down Doug at the party and he told me the story of how the book came about.

Kevin Bailey and Ron AbdelI have to admit, I figured Vans had published the book since Doug wrote it and many industry companies publish their own books.

But "Vans off the Wall: Stories of Sole from Vans Originals" is backed by New York publishing house Abrams.


Doug said part of the fun of the project was working on the book "soup to nuts," from pitching the book to publishers in New York to enjoying the launch party Thursday.

"I've written a lot, and have a lot of bylines, but not a book," said Doug, the founding editor of Snowboarder magazine and former publisher of Surfer, Skateboarder and other publications.

(Above, new Vans President Kevin Bailey, left, with Jack's CEO Ron Abdel at the Vans party.)

All told, the project took 18 months. The hardest part was deciding how to structure the book because Vans is such a huge topic. Doug said it was a process of elimination - he didn't want to do a business book or a pure history of the company.

David Stanfield, Steve VanDoren and Randy RarickInstead, he wanted to capture the emotional connection people have with Vans. He said no matter where he goes, when people find out he works for Vans, the stories start flowing. He hears "Let me tell you about my first pair of Vans!" a lot.


A pair of Vans shoes is a pretty simple thing but there's something special about them that people connect to, Doug said.

He decided to write about that emotional connection by telling the stories of key people and events associated with Vans, including Jeff Rowley, Steve Caballero, Joel Tudor and even "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

(Pictured above, David Stanfield, left, the 'play-by-play' announcer during webcasts of surf contests, Steve Van Doren, whose family founded Vans, and Randy Rarick, executive director of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.)

Doug squeezed in working on the book during his regular job when he could, writing chapters about athletes when he and the athlete were already together at a Vans event. For instance, he worked on the Tony Alva chapter while they were together in China to launch Vans in that country. He also spent a lot of late nights writing.

PT TownendI asked him how he liked the editing process. He said the tough part was sending off a chapter to his editor in New York late at night, then logging on to his computer the first thing the next morning to find the chapter filled with suggested rewrites from his editor.

Doug said there were lots of discussions back and forth, and they usually ended up in the middle.

(At right, Peter "PT" Townend.)

The partnership with Abrams worked, he said, because Abrams took the role of innocent bystander and made sure the average person picking up the book would be interested in it, while Doug and Vans made sure it was culturally accurate and would appeal to in-the-know fans as well.

The nice thing about Abrams is that it understands specialty publishing and retail, Doug said. So in addition to book stores, it also sells to stores like Bloomingdale's, Barneys and Urban Outfitters. There is also information on the Vans website for other retailers interested in carrying the book. 

Cypress policeThe party last night was packed, and even some Cypress Police stopped by to check out the party and pick up a couple of shirts. 










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