Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Born and raised in Orange County, designer Jac Vanek was once a popularity-obsessed high school cheerleader who discovered her true calling when she attended her first concert—Finch, Sugar Cult and Something Corporate at the Irvine Spectrum mall—and quickly became entrenched in SoCal's emerging pop-punk music scene. After graduating high school, Vanek moved to the City of Angels to study Design Media Arts at UCLA, where she earned a full scholarship, and it was during her college years that she created her first design: a rubber bracelet with the word 'Ruthless'. "I kind of just did it to make some money because I didn't want to get a real job," Vanek tells us.
Vanek's designs got their first major exposure on the concert stage, where many of her musician friends sported her statement bracelets. Fans wanted a piece of their idols' style, "and it turned into this snowball effect," she says. Her business "took on a life of its own, I've been riding this wave and expanding as it's growing." Soon, paparazzi-stalked celebs like Miley Cyrus, Kat Von D and Lindsay Lohan were snapped in her gear; Vanek collabed with non-profits like the NoH8 campaign, PETA and Invisible Children; and she's since traveled the globe selling her grunge-inspired merch—now expanded to graphic tees, upcycled vintage apparel and more—at music fests like the Vans Warped Tour and the now-defunct Bamboozle Roadshow.
We got to know the incredibly cool designer at juice fave Liquid in West Hollywood, where we chatted about high school fashion blunders, celeb crushes and what it's like to go on tour with Third Eye Blind.
A one-of-a-kind upcycled vintage flannel shirt ($69)
What are you drinking today?
"I am drinking the Green Energy Potion from Liquid. I think it's kale, parsley, celery, light apple, lemon, ginger and spiralina. I like my juices very non-fruity and very spicy. So lots of ginger and lots of cayenne."
Your first show was Something Corporate, Finch and Sugar Cult. What did you wear?
"I wore a white button-up shirt—it might've been short-sleeved—a jean mini-skirt, Chucks and a tie. Like an Avril Lavigne tie. Yup. And I had really bleached, bleached blonde hair. It was a good outfit, it was my Avril Lavigne outfit for sure."
What's your all-time favorite show?
"Okay, so I went on this tour called the Bamboozle Roadshow. [...] Third Eye Blind [headlined] that tour and [they're] one of my favorite bands of all time, and [lead singer] Stephan Jenkins is like a god to me. There weren't that many people on [that tour] so my employee, Nicole, and I got to know Stephan super, super well.
He's like the craziest, weirdest person I've ever met in my entire life. I have notes on my phone of Stephan Jenkins quotes and I was going to make a book out of them. He's just ridiculous; he's crazy, he's just very eccentric, he's very flamboyant, in a sense. He's insanely intelligent and also has no filter, so he'll say all this shit. So being on that tour and getting to know one of my idols was just a fucking huge thing for me. It was so surreal."
An Instagram snap from Vanek's trip to Amsterdam.
"Recently? Amsterdam; I loved it there. We went on this trip to Europe in May and I just stepped in the city off the train and it was just like, 'I belong here.' I haven't felt like that since the first time I ever went to London. There are some cities that I just feel such a great familiarity with."
Favorite record at the moment?
"So this is really weird. The new Ed Sheeran album is like, really good! [Laughs] It's not my shit at all, but his new album is really good. A lot of it's like, vibe-y sort of Justin Timberlake-y sounding stuff and then there's some really good folk-y kind of songs."
What's your best birthday?
"I had never seen Nine Inch Nails and they'd been one of my favorite bands for ten years. We were in Europe in May [earlier this year], and we were in Copenhagen having dinner when my friend texted me. [She said], 'Go see Nine Inch Nails, they're in town!' One of our mutual friends drums for them, but I had no fucking idea that they were even there. So we go see them and it's on my birthday eve, and it was like the most epic, epic show ever. It was awesome."
What was your dream job?
"When I was five, I wanted to be a mouse. When I was 13, I wanted to work at Hollister! That was my dream. And when I was younger I wanted to be an actress. [...] I used to take acting classes; [my mom and] I used to drive up here every Thursday to take classes. Thank god I never became an actress."
Favorite store in LA?
"Wasteland, for sure. I just got the best jumper there the other day. They carry amazing new brands [and] their vintage selection is always really good and not overpriced. I got these Docs from there; I got them so beat up, and they're already worn in. They don't have to hurt my feet, they hurt somebody else's feet and I get to reap the benefits."
What are your favorite movies?
"Grease, Black Sheep—which nobody has seen really, it's so good—and Heavyweights, which is a movie about fat camp. And probably Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."
Who was your first celebrity crush?
"Jim Carrey was my first celebrity crush. He will always be my number one. My actual first celebrity crush was the Green Ranger, Tommy. I met him once, I was like, 10. It was like, the best moment of my child life. I've always loved guys with long hair—I loved his hair so much!"
Most embarrassing fashion mistake?
"Probably anything I wore in high school. I was the biggest scene kid of all time. I got a Hanes white sweatshirt and I got neon green and neon pink puffy paint and I wrote 'Danse,' like how The Faint spelled it. I wore leg warmers over jeans with pointy-toed ugly kitten heels. Ugh! Kitten heels are NEVER a good idea; they're like my phobia. Never bring them around me!"
· Jac Vanek [Official Site]
· All A Juice With Posts [Racked]
· Love Nail Tree's Tyler Madsen Loves Berlin and Umami Burger [Racked]
· Jeannie Mai on Her Beauty and Style Icons, First Designer Buy [Racked]
· Bliss & Bone's Cindy Skanderup Loves YA Books, Safari Vacays [Racked]