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Life at VF: Q&A with Eric Rothenhaus, Director of Research and Design, JanSport

Tags: Brand News Life at VF

Life at VF: Q&A with Eric Rothenhaus, Director of Research and Design, JanSport

October 21, 2015

With approximately 60,000 associates around the world, the VF family is quite diverse - in terms of businesses, geographies, cultures and lifestyles. And that's precisely the way we want it. At VF, we value the unique ideas, perspectives, talents and contributions each of our associates brings to the job. In the following series, we sit down with individual associates from around the world to discuss what it’s like to work at VF.

Q&A with Eric Rothenhaus, Director of Research and Design, JanSport

Location: Alameda, California

Eric Rothenhaus loves to tinker. At work, it’s bags. At home, it’s old cars and a house he’s rebuilding. He loves innovation in form and function, but recognizes the beauty and durability in classic design…and he wants to take care of it.

What’s a typical day at JanSport like for you?

I’m an early riser, so I like to get to the office before everyone else to think about what I want to achieve for the day. Every morning, I usually visit a handful of websites to be honed into different things that might spark an idea.

When the work day begins, I check in with the design team. We have a small, collaborative group and everyone works in one room. I design the Destination and Collaboration product lines, so that keeps me busy for the rest of the day.

What inspires you at work?

People always talk about JanSport with a smile. They talk about JanSport as part of their history…they’ve gone from high school through college to first jobs to getting married carrying a JanSport bag.

When you design it right and it fits with a person’s lifestyle, it becomes a part of you like a worn hat. It’s really an amazing thing to work on as a designer.

I’ve been with VF and JanSport for eight years. At JanSport, we encourage fresh ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit. I work for a brand that gets the benefits of a big company, but lets us work as a small company. 

Do you have a favorite bag?

For me the one that’s most inspiring is the Skip Yowell collection, and the bag is called the Pleasanton. Skip Yowell is one of JanSport’s co-founders and is an amazing human being. The chance for me to be a designer and work with him directly, to design a bag with his name on it, it’s amazing and something most designers don’t get an opportunity to do.

I know you consider yourself a “caretaker” of the JanSport brand. What does that mean to you?

This brand’s been around 50 years. There’s amazing history with people that were here before who helped created the foundations that I work on now. We’re the number one backpack brand in the world. When bags from the 60s and 70s come in that people want to have fixed; I think about a consumer who is going to do that in 2050 with bags that we’re designing now. That’s super-inspiring. Everyone here is working hard to make great product.

What do you do in your free time?

If I’m not here at work being creative, I’m at home building my house and renovating it from the studs out. I also restore cars on the side. They are generally vintage, classic cars. I like to take things completely apart and rebuild them…my hands are always moving.

How is working on cars and your house similar to working on packs?

The one thing that drives designers is problem solving and putting beauty to problem solving. When I work on a house, car or bag, I’m problem solving. I do that every day, and I go to sleep knowing that I left the day better than I started it.