John Fluevog

​John Fluevog, footwear designer, marketing innovator (born 15 May 1948 in Vancouver, BC).
​John Fluevog, footwear designer, marketing innovator (born 15 May 1948 in Vancouver, BC).


John Fluevog, footwear designer, marketing innovator (born 15 May 1948 in Vancouver, BC). Through collaborations, online and ecologically sustainable innovations, and a consistently unusual sense of style, Fluevog has remained at the forefront of both the Canadian and international footwear design world for more than four decades.

Early Life

John Fluevog was raised in an evangelical Christian home in Vancouver, and spent much of his youth at his father’s drive-in ice cream parlour. As a boy, Fluevog developed a passion for vintage automobiles, a love that would inspire many of his future shoe designs. After a summer spent hitchhiking down the West Coast, Fluevog returned to Vancouver and began working at Sheppard’s Shoes.

Fox and Fluevog

In 1970, Fluevog teamed up with Sheppard’s co-worker Peter Fox, and the two men started Fox and Fluevog, a shoe store in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood. Their first line was crafted from old unworn shoes that John stumbled upon in a Mexican warehouse, and were branded as “Brand new 50 year old shoes.” After 10 years in business together, Fox and Fluevog ended their partnership and Fluevog opened his own store on Vancouver’s Granville Street.

Going it alone

From the beginning, Fluevog favoured unusual designs and materials that embraced alternative culture and fell outside the mainstream. This ethos is reflected in his slogan, “Unique soles for unique souls.” An early importer of Doc Marten’s boots, Fluevog would sell his own wares alongside the British brand, creating embellished designs featuring novel materials like leopard print and pink pony skin. Each Fluevog shoe is marketed with its own name and often has a phrase engraved in the sole. The “Angel” boot, one of Fluevog’s most iconic designs, contains the inscription, “Resists alkali, water, acid, fatigue and Satan.” Often inspired by art deco and Victorian design principles, “Fluevogs” became popular among musicians and actors, and were a fashion mainstay in the grunge rock scene of the 1990s. By the end of that decade, Fluevog had opened private shops in Seattle, Boston, Toronto and New York, in addition to the Vancouver flagship store.

Eco-Activism and Online Innovation

In the 1990s, Fluevog began pursing ecologically friendly options in the production of his footwear. The Fluevog “Angel” soles are made from a natural tree latex called Hevea and can be replaced when worn out. Fluevog began producing certain styles using vegetable-tanned leathers, and also created “vegan shoes” made of hemp instead of leather. He also started the FlueMarket, a venue for selling, buying and trading used Fluevog shoes and boots. In 2002, Fluevog launched Open Source Footwear, an online venue that allows the general public to submit shoe designs. Twelve shoe designs from this endeavor have been manufactured and sold, with each model named after the designer. In 2009, FluevogCreative was launched, a platform that encourages designers to create Fluevog advertisements. Winning designs are selected by public vote and then used in print campaigns around the world. The brand continued to expand in the 2000s and there were 19 Fluevog stores across Canada and the United States at the end of 2014.

Collaborations

The Fluevog brand has collaborated with numerous designers, musicians and corporations. Fluevog has designed a snowboarding boot with Ride Snowboards, a bicycling shoe with Race Face Bikes, and a boot with Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the band The Dandy Warhols. He also named a high-heel men’s boot after Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction and named the 2011 “Jack” boot for its inspiration, musician Jack White. He has also joined forces with American lifestyle product design company Nooka to produce a watch, and with LA Eyeworks to create the VogVision, a limited edition pair of sunglasses. In 2013, Air Canada announced that all of its flight attendants would wear specially designed Fluevog footwear.

Fluevogers

Fluevog has consistently marketed his shoes as an ideology or way of life rather than simply as footwear, dubbing wearers “Fluevogers.” Celebrities who have identified themselves as fans of his work include actors Woody Harrelson, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Neil Patrick Harris and musician Alice Cooper, who is a personal friend to Fluevog. Madonna wore his boots in the 1991 documentary Truth or Dare, in which she opens a box of pink platforms and says, “Do you like ‘em?”

Recognition

In 2010, the Museum of Vancouver hosted 40 years of Fluevog designs in a special exhibition titled Fox, Fluevog and Friends. He was named one of the most innovative companies in the fashion industry that same year by the magazine Fast Company. He was also selected as the Two/Ten Foundation’s 2011 Shoe Person of the Year, and was honoured at a ceremony at Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum, which has eight Fluevog designs in its permanent collection.


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