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A Shoe Lineage

I am a clinical psychologist by training turned fashion designer, but I’m still doing both. Fashion has always been a love of mine. And it’s so interesting to have this conversation with you. Because really my first love was shoes, even though I have a clothing brand now.

I really fell in love with shoes because of my mom. I continue the lineage of this love for fashion that the women in my family have. My mom had a ton of shoes when I was growing up. Her closet would be over run with shoes, heels, different colors… I remember being so fascinated by them. I knew where they were. I knew where to go to find this pair. We had a hardwood floors in our home. Her room was on one end of the hallway and a bathroom was on the opposite end. I would just love to go in and find a particular pair of shoes and walk the hallway. They were too big and I was always trying to work the runway.

A particular pair that I have remembered throughout my life were a pair of dark grey perforated leather pumps. And they had a small peep toe. For some reason I was very intrigued by that tiny peep toe. There wasn’t a lot of toe out. It was truly a peep at the toes, but it was intriguing to me.

I remember longing for the day when I could just take her shoes and keep them for myself. Actually, that ended up being my first shoe heartbreak because I grew up in that house my whole life until it was time for college. And then we ultimately moved. Unfortunately there was a lot of stuff that was lost and things that we ended up not taking so I don’t have the shoes.

As I became a young adult, I fell in love with BCBG and BCBG Girl shoes. It wasn’t intentional. I would be in the mall and fall in love with a pair of shoes and then another and another and so on and they just all happened to be BCBG Girl shoes. These blue fishskin sandals harken back to that perforated peep toe that I fell in love with years ago. I love heels and shine and this color really adds a pop!

–Nicole Muhammad, Sew Elevated

Want to hear more about Nicole’s shoe lineage? Listen to our full discussion on my KindredSoles podcast.

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An Iconic Tragedy in Two Parts

As promised, I am adding a bonus exchange between Sarah and me on Instagram DM with Sarah’s permission.

dr scholls sandals
Dr. Scholls all the rage circa 1970s

Anyone remember Dr. Scholls sandals circa 1970? Again given the difference in our ages, I am surprised that Sarah and I shared a love of these shoes. They were all the rage and both of us just had to have them. Here are our stories.

Sarah: Cleaning up my shop and I remembered an earlier shoe-love story!!  Those Dr.Scholls clogs/slides. I had them when we lived in a triple decker in Lynn, and coming down the back wooden stairs from the kids’ apartment above us I slipped down the stairs. My dad came out of our kitchen door on the landing, I was crying and sprawled on the stairs, and he ripped the clogs off my feet shouting “it’s these damn shoes!” and threw them in the trash bin outside. I started bawling harder, for my beloved shoes! We moved from that house when I was 7, so earlier than the white sneakers. I didn’t dare ever get another pair of the Dr.Scholls until I was an adult, I also had them in Italy, and they would CLACK loudly on the cobblestones. The ones I had falling down the stairs in Lynn had navy blue straps .

Anne: I have a tragic Dr. Scholl story too! I was riding my bike in them. I had a glass fish aquarium outside drying. I cut a turn too close to the aquarium and put my foot through it. I didnt damage myself when my foot went in, but It was a major injury. Many stitches and I cut a nerve in half. I have only partial feeling on top of my right foot.  I was bed ridden for all of July and missed horseback riding camp. Mine also had navy straps. I was a bit older 11 or 12 I think. We must be sisters! First reeboks and now Dr. Scholl’s. I never went back to them.

Sarah: I wanted to go back to them, and nostalgically tried buying some before moving to Rome (hadn’t dared cross my dad who forbade them FOREVER all those years!) but mostly I wore the geta because the Dr. Scholls really aren’t all that comfortable! And ironically they always feel like a disaster waiting to happen.

Anne: Agreed on the Dr. S’s. Way too much trauma for me to try again. Both my parents were doctors. They turned white when they saw the cut. I knew it was really bad when I saw their faces.

Sarah: Yikes!!!

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Clean Sneakers – Wearing White Shoes

Original 1980’s Reebok Freestyle the first athletic sneaker made for women
image from ebay

I’ve been thinking about this question since you gave me the prompt. I don’t know that anyone’s ever asked me when I first fell in love with shoes. I parse it into to two different ways of thinking about it. There is the me who loves shoes as objects who has felt that way for as long as I can remember. And I’m a maker too. I’m a very hands-on person. And my journey throughout life so far has slowly led me to become a professional boot maker. I have the love of making of footwear, which is, to me separate from loving shoes.

I have always been drawn to shoes. Everybody in our small community of footwear is, whether maker, collector, or lover of footwear. I’m a child of the 80s and the first pair of shoes that I loved, loved, loved – leather high tops with the two Velcro around the ankle, Reebok sneakers and they were white. If I wore them for two seconds outside, they got dirty. So I carried around this liquid product that you put on the side that cleaned them up. I was constantly stopping and putting my foot up on the picnic table bench in the yard to clean them. All my friends were getting annoyed with me because we were around 10 years old and we were all playing and I had to stop and keep my sneakers white.

That’s the first time I loved footwear because they took priority over all the other things I was doing was keeping them white and clean and beautiful. And I could play in them and they were just perfect. So that’s my earliest memory probably mid 80s but falling in love with shoes.

Sarah and I have common shoe experiences. I was teaching aerobics when the Reebok Freestyle debuted. I had them in pink. Turns out we also both have a Dr. Scholl’s sandal story. I’ll share that one next time. It is NOT on the podcast. You can hear our entire conversation on my podcast KindredSoles.

–Sarah, Bootmaker follow here on Instagram@saboteusebespoke

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From Taps to Straps – a story of dance & shoes

I was a very active child so my mom put me in tap dance class to channel my enthusiasm and I fell in love with dance. I would steal my mother’s shoes and dance around in her heels. My mother used to laugh and laugh. Of course it was funny because they were massive on me , but I would dance around the kitchen in the living room in her shoes.

I fell in love with shoes the first time I watched White Christmas with my mom-the 1954 movie musical with Bing Crosby. Of course, I was drawn to the dance scenes. The best things happened when the cast sings and dances. There was so much enthusiasm, energy and excitement. I wanted to be right there with them! Those satin heels just caught my eye immediately as she moved across the floor. I thought, “Oh my gosh, they’re pink satin. They’re amazing. Look at the straps on them.” I just knew I had to wear a shoe like that. And when she was twirling in her dress it was the stuff of dreams. I couldn’t wait to wear heels like that and dance. Now, it took a couple years for me to graduate to heels and tap but the journey and destination was full of joy and excitement. My wedding shoes were Betsey Johnson and they had a really pretty strap on them and I could just dance in them all night and they just need my dress flow around the dance floor as my husband twirled me around, just like that scene in White Christmas.

From there I fell in love with all types of shoes that were strappy, perfect for dancing the night away in. I walk on my toes. So if I wear pumps, I walk out of them. So straps keep me safe. I love a strap. A strap on a high heel on your ankle- so classy and sexy. I love a pump, because it elongates you, but I just love a strap on a heel.

Lindsay Dunlap is a Photo Fashion Stylist Check out her work at :http://lindsaymmchugh.wixsite.com/photostylist

Want to hear more about Lindsay’s obsession? Listen to our discussion on my KindredSoles podcast.

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Home Front As Store Front

promotional wreath
Home Front as Store Front

Like many small businesses during the pandemic, I have been working to find ways to promote my products. I design and hand make custom shoes for women under the name RoxAnneLava. To help my search, I’ve looked to commercial storefronts and considered how I can adapt commercial marketing methods to my business using my residential home front.

A key tool retailers have is one of the oldest marketing products ever used, the sign. Humans have used signs since we began providing products and services. The businesses needed to make their business visible to their customers and a sign immediately identified the product for sale. Think beer mug for a pub or a pizza for a pizza parlor or food for a restaurant. It is no different today. A sign is often the first marketing touch point with consumers.

The earliest form of signage was symbolic. Rudimentary symbols were used to indicate that an individual had a product or service to exchange or sell. By as early as 3000 BC, trade was developing and tradesmen needed a fixed location from which to sell. They generally installed an identifying symbol, or insignia to mark their place of business.

As the Greeks and Romans continued to develop commerce, we see the birth of the modern sign. Generally made of stone, terracotta, wood, leather or metal, specific symbols developed into a visual language that identified businesses by classification, for example a tavern.

As commerce expanded after the Dark Ages, the need for “trade” signs increased.  By the 17th century, English law required each craftsman or tradesman to exhibit a sign that identified the products and services they provided. Soon enough the utilitarian signs became more elaborate with each business establishing a unique visual to differentiate their business from the pack. Signs remained visual, as most people still were unable to read. This is the beginning of the logo and dare I say it – Branding.

As outdoor signs became more elaborate and heavy, they became dangerous hanging over the street. Tragic accidents occurred on the crowded urban streets below, necessitating ordinances that were created to limit the size, weight, placement and extension of these signs. AND now we arrive at my conundrum. Sign ordinances exist today and they are very specific in terms of commercial and residential usage.

A commercial sign is not allowed on a residential home, but I am allowed to decorate my home front. I can do window, door and stoop displays and I do. Sadly my window is not easily seen from the street. It is high up and hidden behind a tree. But my steps and door are primary real estate, easily seen from the street.

The digital age has given us a new set of tools, but often the traditional methods are still effective.  My plan is to create “signage” within the vocabulary of acceptable residential home decoration. This spring and summer, I’ve been playing with bunting for my step rail, ornaments for my tree, and most recently the wreath.

The wreath you see here is eye-catching, colorful and fun, key elements in getting passers by to stop for a closer look. It is a good size to display a message. In terms of my brand, the elements are sandals, a product I make. Sandals on the wreath are made from up-cycled materials, a core characteristic of my brand.  These particular materials are connected to life in the time of COVID, featuring bubble packs from Amazon and re-usable bags from Fresh Direct deliveries. They are perfect for a wreath that is subject to all sorts of weather.  The wreath was designed to be on my step rail and it will be there in the near future, but for now it sits on my door.

As my projects progress, I will include more sophisticated, yet understated promotion of my brand while still keeping to the residential language. I’m excited to get started.  Visual display is very me. Follow my journey on Instagram: @roxannelavarox