John Fluevog is one of Canada’s best shoe designers. Born and raised in Vancouver, his inspiration comes from cars, for he spent many of his formative years at his dad’s drive-in ice cream parlor. Quite a lot of his shoe designs have emerged from the sole source of inspiration, cars. His shoes are a classic example of modernism with messages etched into the insides of the soles like ‘resists alkali, acid, water, fatigue and Satan.’
After going on a hitchhiking trip on the west coast during the summers, Fluevog got his first job as a designer at Sheppard’s shoes. He started his own store in the year 1970 in collaboration with his colleague, Peter Fox. His shoe store was located at Gastown, Vancouver. Peter and Fluevog remained partners in the shoe designing business for over a decade until the duo decided to call their partnership quits in 1981. Fluevog soon chose to widen his horizons by starting up another store at Seattle, USA as his first overseas store in 1985 that he financed by selling off his car. Fluevog was the first designer who showed ‘Dr. Marten’ shoes, their way into North America around the 1980s. He was running quite a successful business in the 1990s with his five privately owned up and running stores in Seattle, Boston, Toronto, Vancouver and New York. It wasn’t long till his shoes caught Vogue’s attention and then his shoes were featured on the runways of Betsey Johnson and Anna Sui’s fashion shows.
His shoe designs became the talk of the town when celebrities like Lady Miss Kier and Madonna started sporting his shoes both, on screen and off screen. Truth or Dare, in which Madonna starred was one movie where Fluevog’s hot pink platform shoes were seen being worn by her. His famous tag line punched on the soles of his Angel boots was instrumental in the Seattle Grunge Movement’s fashion. Before the decade of 90s came to an end, his business had branched out to Chicago and San Francisco as well. In the beginning of the millennium, John Fluevog stores sprang up in places like Montreal, Los Angeles and a brand new flagship store in Gastown. By 2010, Fluevog was the proud owner of eleven stores.
It’s not only the shoes that have made Fluevog famous but the green philosophy behind making them as well. Customers have never seen stores like his; for the walk-in customers get to watch the design team working on their shoe designs. His stores use various cast off items like salvaged pipes, recycled carpets, the scaffolding made from Alaskan fallen old growth oak trees are turned into desks. Even his shoes have gone green. Angel soles that make up the Fluevog shoe come from latex of the hevea tree, Vietnam’s natural harvested latex. Leathers used in making the shoes are actually vegetable tanned leathers. Also, in some shoes, he has recreated the same famous designs by using hemp instead of leather.
Year 2002 marked the launch of his website, Open Source Footwear where shoe designs can be sent in by anyone. If the shoe design impresses Fluevog, he creates it and names it after the original designer. Twelve such collaborations have been done till date.
Fluevog’s vegan shoes have gained quite the fan following lately. Scarlett Johansson, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams and Neil Patrick Harris are some of the notable fans.