Evolution of a Fashion Force
- Ashley Ahwah’s leadership and keen eye for trends helped Vans increase its female customer base.
- A sports enthusiast and lover of the outdoors, Ashley played soccer from age 8 through high school. Today she enjoys hiking and yoga.
- Ashley’s contributions are the ethos of Women’s History Month, being celebrated in the United States throughout March.
A Southern Californian born and bred, Ashley Ahwah hung out with “the cool kids” who skate-boarded and surfed in high school. She’ll never forget her first Vans® Warped Tour.
“I was 15,” said Ashley, Vans’ Senior Director, Global Merchandising, Classics Footwear. “Your parents would drop you off because it was a day concert. It was us joining into independence. Bad Religion was the band — that’s going to date me!”
Fashion became Ashley’s calling at a young age. In elementary school she clipped magazine photos and curated outfits to inform back-to-school shopping with her mom.
When Ashley went to work for Vans in 2007 as an Assistant Buyer, the male consumer ruled and the company’s products for women weren’t as prominent.
That has changed dramatically in recent years, in part because of Ashley’s leadership and keen eye for fashion trends.
“We’ve done a complete 180 from where I first started. Women were consumers that we real-ly didn’t know much about. We now have a team focused on this market. We started to listen to our female consumers. We wanted to make sneakers a part of their everyday lives, and not just sneakers, but Vans.”
Vans’ diversification has paid big dividends for the company. W magazine recently dubbed Vans’ Old Skool silhouette “all the rage in fashion.” Fashionista credited Vans’ “newfound chic-ness” in part to the shift in how it markets to women.
Ashley credits the company’s team of creative and passionate associates.
“I love who I get to work with here every day. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are to-day. It’s a testament to our brand how many people have been here for 10-plus years, and we are all just as excited to be a part of this brand as when we first started.
”Ashley’s career at Vans speaks to her ability to cultivate relationships and seize opportunities. She strives to stay humble and hungry.
“I tell younger people starting their careers, always look for opportunities that make you feel uncomfortable. I am where I am today because I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone. You learn and progress as a professional and personally if you are able to overcome what you thought might be an obstacle but is actually an opportunity.”
“This was a dream of mine,” said Ashley, of working for Vans. “I grew up wearing Vans and the culture has been part of my entire life.”