Shoe Art: Zandra Rhodes and John Fluevog on Their New Collaboration and Tips for Staying Stylish as You Age
Dame Zandra Rhodes and John Fluevog at Fluevog headquarters. Photo: Courtesy of Fluevog Shoes
The Fluevog x Zandra Rhodes collection takes shoe art to a completely different dimension. The two iconic — and fiercely independent — brands have come together for a colourful, vibrant and sculptural collaboration, in Fluevog stores now and online Fluevog.com.
Dame Zandra Rhodes, 81, is a British textile designer who has been in the business since 1969. Canadian shoe designer John Fluevog, 74, opened his first shop in 1970. “She’s bragging she was ahead of me,” says Fluevog, as the two appear via Zoom ahead of the collection launch at his Vancouver shop. Rhodes signature pink hair is like the cherry atop a table arrayed with her exuberant prints.
The textile designs — wiggles, flowers, stripes and swirls in a pink, red and black palette — are adaptations of textile designs that date back to the ’60s. These patterns were placed on iconic Fluevog shapes, including the Munster (an exaggerated, heeled Pilgrim style) and the Mini (a chunky Mary Jane, with and without peep toes), and the 7th Heaven army-style boot, which is swathed in Derby Swirl. Ruffles, another Rhodes signature, have been added to trim. Prices start around $377.
“They make Fluevog shows stand out even more than they already do!” says Rhodes. For his part, Fluevog counters, citing the “abandonment of norms” in the collaboration. “Zandra has always had a joy of life in her work, which is something that can go missing in designer work at times.”
Rhodes explains she was introduced to Fluevog’s work when she went into his shop in New York and bought a green suede pair to wear with her green silk suit. “There was a robbery one Christmas. The only thing stolen was my green Fluevogs!” They are art, she says. “You could put it on the wall,” if it didn’t fit the thief.
The collaboration process — also over Zoom, because of the pandemic — was a happy one. “Our team loved the project, the history. It was a privilege working with Zandra,” says Fluevog. “It was also as much fun as you would imagine!”
Rhodes also spent the pandemic cataloging her work. “I saved more than I thought I had!” In addition to the Fashion and Textile Museum, Rhodes herself founded in London in 2003 (“It was opened by Princess Michael of Kent!” she adds), Rhodes’s work is included in collections around the world.
“My punk wedding dress is at the Met,” she says. “I was very, very lucky that I could go back through and start to catalog all my work, and figure out what museums are going to have to remember me by.” Rhodes is no stranger to collabs, having experimented with capsule collections alongside M.A.C., Valentino and TopShop.
Fluevog, meanwhile, has been associated with many heady moments in pop culture. His Angel Soles (100 per cent natural latex, harvested from the Hevea Tree, with a message engraved on the sole: “Resists alkali, water, acid, fatigue and Satan) were favourites of musicians on the Seattle Grunge scene. Madonna wore his Munster shoes in Truth or Dare. And Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite was a notable fan.
Fluevog uses eco-friendly vegetable-tanned leather and water-based glues; the company motto is “Good soles leave small prints (no matter what your shoe size).”
Staying Stylish as You Age
Timelessness, agree both Rhodes and Fluevog, is the secret to style that passes the test of time. That means building a collection of great pieces meant to last, and then playing around with your treasures.
Getting older, says Rhodes, “Doesn’t mean you’ve got to suddenly sober down.” She says she may have moved from miniskirts to trousers and tunics, but the dramatic jewelry just gets more dramatic. “I believe I dress age appropriately,” she says. “I wear as much jewelry as I like, and as much makeup as I like. And my hair stays pink.”
Her best fashion tip is to “buy one thing new, then put the whole drama together differently, in an exotic way.” In other words, dig deep into your collection and have some fun!
Fluevog jumps in. “When we get older, we are not a different person. So you want to celebrate what you celebrated all your life. You don’t want to change and go downhill and be all drab.” Fluevog has a wide demographic fan base (his hard-core fans have a Facebook club and call themselves Flummunity). He believes the test of time is good design.
“When designing things, if they are strong and they are bold and they make a statement, they will surpass trendiness and at any era at any time you can pull them out and still go ‘Wow!’”
It is all about how you put an outfit together. Accessories are your friend, the designers agree. “But confidence is part of it too,” says Rhodes. “When you have confidence, everything looks good.”
Fluevog laments the current social media culture, driven by “likes” and how much it is keeping the younger generations from developing their own, timeless sense of style. “I’m a little upset that the current generation is so influenced by likes, that they don’t know what they think or what they like for themselves. They don’t see beauty, or have the confidence to explore who they really are themselves through fashion.”
Well, I’d advise anyone of any age to add one of these collab pieces to their treasure chest. The thing about fashion as art is that it goes with absolutely everything, and always will.