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Last Thursday I got the opportunity to check out the Museum of Vancouver’s latest exhibit, Fox, Fluevog & Friends.The 4 months long exhibit features a retrospective on the past 40 years of designers John Fluevog, Peter Fox, and Ken Rice’s work within Vancouver fashion institution, Fluevog Shoes.

Fluevogs, as they’re commonly referred to, are known for their revolutionary and quirky designs and after meeting the men behind the soles, I can see why. John Fluevog, with his wavy sandy-blond hair and tanned face, has the look of someone who has lived a full life and the things he told me that Thursday morning as we sat and chatted on a museum bench, were full of wisdom.Oh yeah, and he also loves Phnom Penh’s chicken wings!

The first thing I had to ask was how he got into design, as from what I’d learned from him on Google, he was a pretty quirky guy! John laughed and said well, he was really into it for the money. Being someone who just “fell into it” he knew he had to make a success out of it and so that’s what he did. Though initially it sounds quite mercenary, make no mistake - John is still an artist. When asked about his influences, John waved his hands in the air and simply said that “beauty just pops up,” and that as an artist you had to “just go do it.” John is also known for his love of cars, to the point where an admirer has even said that he thinks of cars when designing shoes, and to this John did admit to, saying, “Cars are a bit like shoes,” and went on to describe how a car’s sculptural shape and the way a car is like an intersection of function and form, is all quite similar to a shoe. It was an interesting perspective that I’d never thought of before, and just the first of several statements the designer said that opened my mind about design and life.

The biggest thing that struck me about John was his laidback demeanour and individualism. John is a man of his own path and when I asked him if he pays attention to other designers, he flatly stated no. In fact, John says, the biggest mistake that other upcoming designers can do is to try to follow what other designers are doing, or even worse, trends. Chasing trends is like “chasing the bar of soap” as John puts it – you’ll never be able to get your hands on it if you try. What would be more productive he says, is to always ask, “What’s your reason for existence?” This design philosophy is quite evident in John’s work. Fluevogs don’t resemble any other shoe out there, with their sculptural patterns and heels and the spiritual messages stamped onto every sole. Even the marketing paraphernalia used by Fluevog has a unique twist with its hand-printed retro comic pamphlets and ads made entirely of limericks.

Having toured around the exhibit and seen how Fluevog has evolved over the years, I asked John what his favourite moments were. “The first 10 years,” John said after some thought and with a tinge of wistfulness. It was the 60s then, and John and his fellows were full of youthful optimism, idealism, and free love. The future for Fluevog seems just as bright as then, with the company spreading even more internationally while still remaining as independent as ever. When I asked John what he wanted his lasting legacy to be, I was expecting him to muse about making his company a household name, or to see his shoes being sold in X number of countries, but I should have known that this former hippie, always visionary, would have a different type of answer to give. It was a simple answer actually, more of a life philosophy than a statement. It was something he said he learned from his mother and it was an ideal we could both agree upon and which everyone at some point, forgets to do. It was only three words: “be more thankful.”

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