Housing nearly 150 shoes, sketches, photographs, correspondence, and marketing materials, Fox, Fluevog & Friends, the current exhibit at the MOV, looks back on forty years of footwear, and celebrates this innovative creative collective as design torchbearers of the entrepreneurial spirit that now lies at the heart of Vancouver.
While John Fluevog, a lifelong resident of Vancouver, described the city of his youth as once being disconnected from the rest of North America, the role that he and his partners have played in the global recognition of up-and-coming local designers and fashion labels is clearly displayed, from the pointy tips of their Swordfish shoes to the stained glass heels of their platform boots.
The exhibition is set up in semi-chronological order and follows the career of Peter Fox from Harrods in London, where he was discovered and recruited as a buyer for Sheppard Shoes in Vancouver. Fox began introducing styles that were influenced by his interest in the Carnaby Street mod fashion of the 1960s, and soon, he launched a business with family friend John Fluevog, whom he met at church and had later hired as a sales clerk at Sheppard Shoes.
In 1970, they opened their first shop (Vancouver’s first non-shoe store) at 2 Powell Street, where customers were invited to join a stage play in their parlour that they had decorated with velvet settees and antique tables in order to showcase new designs, along with a purchased lot of 50-year-old never worn shoes that were discovered in a hidden Mexican warehouse. Soon, they branched out to multi-coloured disco platforms and made-to-order clogs, which were designed in collaboration with Ken Rice.
The idea of customer experience was always a part of the company mandate, and one that has never waivered, even after Fluevog bought out Fox’s share of the company in 1981. Their rebellious cheekiness was carried through in the company marketing campaigns with inside jokes, crudely assembled booklets (purposely anti-slick advertising), and references to the faith that had unified the company creators and collaborators from its inception. The latter is most notably reflected on the bottom of each pair of Angel shoes and boots, with an inscription of hope for Satan-resistant soles.
From a business that budded from friendship and a belief in the greater good, this retrospective pays homage to a company that has not only created a uniquely stylish line of footwear, but who have also embraced their patrons as friends, not clients—an attitude that has lead to global admiration, and a retrospective that is well worth attending.
Fox, Fluevog & Friends runs from May 14 to September 26, 2010 at the Museum of Vancouver. Joan Seidl, the curator of the exhibition, lead talks and tours of the retrospective on the first Thursday of every month at 7pm, and the museum staff guides 15-minute tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 2pm.