I was talking with a friend the other day. It is bitterly cold in my neck of the woods just now and she’s wearing a pair of comfort sandals with thin cotton socks – Crazy! I’m in sheepskin boots or wool socks with sheepskin insoles. Aside from the fact that my friend likes sandals and hates socks, our conversation revealed something deeper. She is on the 3rd generation of these sandals and has kept versions 1 and 2 even though they have seen better days. Why? Each pair of these shoes accompanied her on a journey – Thailand, Cambodia, and many more. The shoes have become a memory and connection to these travels and as she may keep photos or objects from the trips, so too does she keep the shoes.
I thought about this in relation to my shoes. I often buy shoes when I travel, something unique to the country either through brand or materials. Each of those shoes also act as a reminder and fond memory of the place. These fish skin boots are the second pair of fish skin footwear I purchased in Reykjavik. They are show stoppers and get lots of admiration the world over, but the memories they hold for me are deeply personal. I recently had an incident while wearing them that damaged them. I am so thankful that I have an excellent shoe repair person who returned them to beautiful. There are small traces of the damage that continues to give these boots character. And of course I now have another memory attached to the boots.
Perhaps this is all not so interesting after all. I am sure many women keep the shoes they wear to rekindle memories. Bridal shoes, in particular, come to mind. Shoes are an intimate object – they provide protection, comfort, style and often play a role in our construction of our personal identity. Not so strange then that they act a prompt for fond memories.
I re-discovered a delightful little book filled with shoe wisdom this week, The Shoes of Salvation by Edward Monkton. My favorite shoe enabler gave me this book as a gift. It is worth remembering the lessons imparted in the tiny tome. Shoes do offer happiness, pleasure and ecstasy, although they often come at a cost and I’m not just talking about dollars and cents. The most beautiful shoes can pinch, hurt and cause pain. When you feel that agony, just remember it is the shoes reminding you of their presence! Grin and bear the agony knowing that a pair of fabulous shoes really can make you feel beautiful and complete. Find a seat, preferably where you can show them off;)
One of my favorite shoe designers is John Fluevog. Since the 80’s his brand has been creating some of the most interesting and wearable designs around. I have quite a collection. These are some of my recent faves. They have the perfect balance of masculine/ feminine, combine many “of the moment” trends and are comfortable. My mantra is generally “Badass and Beautiful”. These definitely fit the bill – real statement making shoes.
Recently I was able to go to Vancouver and see the flagship store in the Gaslight district. It is beautifully light and airy. The first floor is the sales floor and the design goes on upstairs. Sadly, one can’t explore the design space, but it is exciting to be in the same place where creative juices and prototyping are happening. Overall, the brand makes a great connection with their customer and is interested in customer input. Their website sports an open source footwear opportunity that allows the community to submit their ideas. Several have been put into production. The site supports online sales, community interaction, and the stores, telling the Fluevog story and establishing the lifestyle brand.
I’m sure it is no surprise that I found 2 styles that I wanted in Vancouver. At $300-$400 Canadian dollars a pop and a poor USD exchange rate, not to mention VAT, I only purchased one pair. Unfortunately for my bank account, I just couldn’t get the second pair out of my head. I couldn’t find them locally so to the web I went. Yep, I bought them! They shipped from a US store. From the order confirmation to the package that arrived, Fluevog uses every opportunity to engage the customer in the brand. Enjoy!
In 1970 I walked past a boutique window in the Chalfont-Haddon Hall Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey and fell in love. The object of my desire – mauve suede knee-high lace up boots-rounded-toe, boxy heel, black grommets and laces. Italian, expensive. I could tell the leather was soft as butter. They reminded me of the boots Nancy Sinatra was singing about in “These Boots are Made for Walkin'”. I love that song. I was 8 years old. Sadly our relationship was not meant to be, but my passion for shoes was born.
Since that day I have appreciated shoes as an admirer, customer and collector. My next adventure? Designing and making – yes, MAKING shoes. I look forward to sharing all musings shoes (and other obsessions) with you as you accompany me on this fantastic journey.