Shoemaker officially opens new store and 'Flueseum' in Calgary

by Vinciane de Pape

John Fluevog celebrates his own history

Love them or hate them, quirky John Fluevog shoes have become a staple at boutique footwear stores across the continent. Known for his unconventional designs and offbeat detailing, over the years the shoe designer has developed somewhat of a cult following. Now in his 41st year spearheading the eponymous company, Fluevog is celebrating a colourful history with the opening of the world’s first permanent Flueseum. Located inside Calgary’s new Fluevog store on Stephen Avenue, the Flueseum is a gallery space showcasing a retrospective exhibition of the company and the man behind the eccentric shoes.
Fluevog, now in his 60s, has seen the company expand from a single store in Seattle to over 10 locations across North America. His shoes are distributed worldwide. Throughout this growth, it has always been important to the designer to maintain high standards of quality and craftsmanship, authenticity and loyalty to his consumers, all the while staying true to himself and, of course, keeping things a little weird.

Generally one to buck trends, the Vancouver-based designer doesn’t seem to care what others think (a memorable quote inside the Flueseum reads “You may not like these shoes — too bad. I do.”) When pointed-toe, spiky, high-heeled shoes were all the rage in the early 2000s, Fluevog deliberately chose not to go down that already well-trodden road, maintaining his creative integrity at the expense of not cashing in on the fad.
“I felt like, been there, done that. I was just so over it, so I never did it,” says Fluevog. “It probably killed me.”

Keeping the company small allows the designer complete creative liberty, providing him an unbridled outlet for artistic expression. From zany colours to a multitude of out-there shapes, nothing appears to be off limits.

“It’s pretty amazing to be able to live in an era where I can have a small company and I can say what I want and do what I want,” he says. “I’ve got no one critiquing me, but I like to leave it a bit open to interpretation so other people can add value to it.”
Though the secret to Fluevog’s success can be attributed to his ingenuity and distinct style, there is much to be said about having a sense of morality. Whether it’s providing jobs for people in small manufacturing facilities in Peru, or developing environmentally friendly practices within the business, Fluevog’s company is dedicated to social responsibility.
“People want to align themselves with companies that they value,” he says. “[Consumers] are much more conscious of where they spend their money, because money is power and we vote with our dollars. If a company has no values, then they themselves are somewhat valueless.”

Though not concerned with others’ opinions, Fluevog hopes not only that his brand is ethically responsible, but that his story is inspiring. A firm believer in humanity, with all its quirks, its ups and its downs, Fluevog places a great deal of importance on transparency and sincerity. The Flueseum at Calgary’s new store provides the perfect example.

Chronicling the evolution of Fluevog’s shoe designs, dating from his earliest creations in the ’80s, the museum also tells the story of someone who is unafraid to take risks and uncompromising in their creative expression. Read between the lines and you’ll begin to see a greater vision.

“If you look at some of the quite silly shoes I’ve done over my career, I hope you’ll learn that you can just put yourself out there sometimes,” says Fluevog. “To be human is to be divine.”
In an industry where the importance of appearance often outweighs reality, Fluevog’s refreshing honesty is inspiring.
“I think we need to be genuine and real. I hope my company is that, and that it reflects who I am as a person.”

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