By Hannah Yakobi
Photos courtesy of John Fluevog
John Fluevog is an independent fashion designer and retailer of forward-thinking footwear and accessories.
Since 1970, he has been steadfast in creating shoes that have been seen everywhere, from the feet of Madonna and the Scissor Sisters to the runways of high fashion.
Fluevog has spoken at the L’Oreal Melbourne International Fashion Festival and has stores in various major cities across North America.
As your website says: where in the Fluevog are you?
Today, I’m in my office in Gastown, Vancouver. I was in San Francisco recently. Here and there – busy boy.
You have been designing shoes for 40 years. So how many pairs do you own yourself?
I don’t own a lot of shoes. I only own about five pairs that I currently wear. They are all my own designs.
What is your favourite design of all time?
I think my favourites are the ones that I have yet to design. If I get too attached to a look or a thing, then I feel that I can’t move forward. The exciting part of what I do is to look to the future, to the new things, rather than dwell on the old. So to answer your question, I don’t actually have an all-time favourite. And, of course, I’m a designer, but I’m also a businessman. I have a business to run and things to sell, so if you asked me what a good style is, I would probably, in a very mercenary way, tell you “the one that is selling the best.” But having said that, I, personally, never wear the shoes that are selling the best. Because I have an innate need to be different, and I think that is reflected in the product and in the shoes I design. The need to stand out from what everyone else is doing in my industry.
You have several models that are environmentally-friendly, such as your vegetarian line called the Veggie Vogs. Where did the idea come from and how do you make them?
We try, whenever we can, to make things more environmentally friendly and biodegradable. There are two things here – there is being environmentally-friendly and then there are also people who don’t like animals. So it’s a work in progress. Whenever we can, we try to squeeze in little things like using water-based glues, and put those kinds of efforts into our footwear.
Your website has a lot of humour. You talk about angels, Satan and the fairies, and dreaming up styles. So if you had to design a pair for God, what would it look like?
That’d be a very humbling experience. My impression is that God is ever-changing – he never changes but yet he’s always changing. He probably doesn’t need shoes. (laughs) I could see making shoes for angels – they do fly, but they also have to touch the ground. But I never thought of God having to worry about gravity. So I don’t think I could design a pair of shoes for him.
What’s the most outrageous or memorable thing that people have told you about your work?
The thing that means the most to me is when I meet people and they say, “Mr. Fluevog, I love your shoes. Don’t stop doing it.” I look at them and go, “Oh, I have to keep on working?!” (laughs)
Many celebrities wear your shoes and some of your work has been in different films. Are there certain expectations that you have to fulfill when designing shoes for films? How does it change the design experience?
Actually, everything that has been used in films is part of our current collection. Sometimes, I change colours. For instance, we did a collaboration with the Opus hotels and all the porters are wearing our shoes. It’s the basic shoes, we just changed the colour combination for them. [HY: This is a current collaboration and the shoes are called The Porter Shoe.]
What can we expect from your next collection?
Fall is coming out, I’ve finished spring and we are now working on fall 2011. Spring is sleeker and cleaner, with lots of natural and hand-finished leathers. I’m not doing a lot of pinks or pastels, some are lighter shades but they are a bit washed, so they are not too bright or poppy. They are simpler.
What about this fall?
I have a lot of rugged shoes in my collection that are really good, particularly in the east coast. You know, the solid pieces of footwear. That’s the part of my line that I like – the shoes that you could wear to a party, and yet you can wear them in a snow storm. You’ll also see a Western influence in the footwear. If you close your eyes, you’ll see those different characters in a Western town, say in 1880.
Could you give our readers some advice? What are the most important things to consider when buying a pair of shoes?
It all depends on what you want. For me shoes and clothing are way past what is practical and what our needs are – instead it’s all about how they make you feel. Look for the styles that are not so current, but more enduring. So that in a few years from now, when you pull them out of your closet, they still look good, because they looked good in the first place. I’m kind of anti trendy-trendy.
I read somewhere that Barbra Streisand shares a birthday with you?
So, how old are you? Or do you not share that information?
I’m a little less than 100. A little more than 50. It’s no big mystery, really. I’m 62 and I started when I was 21-22. I feel that the book on John Fluevog is not finished and there are still some more chapters to go. And I think that what’s nice about what’s happened to me lately is that I have a team around me, and other people around me, who can carry it along and give it energy. So I still do the designing, but there is lots of other hands around that are helping me do it. It’s been a nice career. It’s really evolved well over the years.
For more information, please visit http://www.fluevog.com
For more information about the Museum of Vancouver exhibition Fox, Fluevog & Friends, please go to http://www.museumofvancouver.ca/exhibition.php?id=17