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Surf Style Gone Global: Zac Andrews' Footwear Designs for Reef are a Worldwide Hit

Even though Zac Andrews graduated from Academy of Art University only four years ago, he has already helped create a top-selling product for Reef, one of the most well-known surf apparel names in the country.

Zac AndrewsGrowing up in Cincinnati, Zac wasn't always sure what he wanted to do as a career. He went to school for a year in Arizona, but he quickly saw that it wasn't for him. He decided that he wanted to get into the design field, and he went back home for a year to think about what to do next. It was then that he discovered the Academy and enrolled in the Industrial Design School, graduating in 2006 with a BFA. Zac's job at Reef was his first job out of college.

Since then, Zac has become a footwear designer for Reef, working at the company's headquarters in Carlsbad, CA. The Reef Vision Sandal was the first independent project Zac created at Reef. Once it hit the market in spring 2009, it immediately became a bestseller for the famous brand.

Zac Andrews' DesignIn 2005, VF, the company that owns other major clothing lines including Vans and The North Face, bought Reef. Since Zac began at Reef, the company has gone through a lot of restructuring under its new ownership, which turned out for the best for Zac: recognizing him as a fresh talent, Reef put him in charge of his own design team.

Reef clearly thought that investing in Zac would be good for the future of the brand. Judging by the success of the Reef Vision Sandal, it was a wise move.

Zac's role at Reef is a pivotal one, because it is up to him to decide which designs should be put into development. It's a demanding job that requires him to be involved in both the business and technical sides of the design process. In other words, he has to be both a businessman and a trend-wise surfer. It seems to be a perfect job for Zac, who finds time in his busy schedule to go surfing at least three times a week.

About a third of Zac's trend research comes from blogs and the Internet. He also gets to travel from time to time; recently, he came back from visiting the company's distributor in Japan. Zac takes two inspiration trips a year, in which he travels to different parts of the world to keep up with global trends.

"When I analyze all these different fashions, I step back to see where our brand identity lies," says Zac. "Reef has a South American heritage, that's a big part of who we are. I think about what will have longevity, and what makes sense for us – our designs need to have a Reef twist."

Zac has a clear picture of the major trends around the world, and where Reef fits in on the map.

Zac Andrews' Office"What's cool in South America right now are the techie skate shoes – that's something that never really translated to Europe. In the U.S., that whole trend was in the 90s," he says. "American trends right now are all about Chuck Taylor, Vans – basic, retro designs. In Europe, you have more fashion forward things. When you go to Japan, you see all kinds of Nordic and Native American prints. And everywhere, there's a major hybridization of trends, a lot of cross-gender fashions."

All of this knowledge goes into Zac's decision-making process. Everything Zac puts into development becomes part of Reef's global line of footwear, and then the regional directors decide which designs to market within their part of the globe.

Zac needs to make sure that every regional director will see shoes that make sense for his or her particular market. One of his successful design techniques is to take a classic silhouette and refine it for today; he gives classic designs a new life by using different, unexpected materials or putting in a modern twist.

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