Shoe designer John Fluevog: "I can't say that I love fashion."

Shoe designer John Fluevog: "I can't say that I love fashion."
Courtesy of John Fluevog

For those in the know, the name John Fluevog speaks for itself. The veteran shoe designer has been creating wearable works of art for decades, and influencing the footwear scene for just as long. His distinctive shoes have been seen on Fluevogers like Jack White, Alice Cooper, Amanda Palmer, and Madonna among others.

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Fluevog's art deco-inspired designs mix whimsy and comfort for shoes that look like they're straight out of the Capitol in The Hunger Games. (Not surprisingly, his shoes are featured in the posters for Catching Fire.) However flashy some Fluevogs are, there are others with everyday wearability, notably seen on Jenna Ushkowitz's Glee character and locally in Samantha Rei's latest runway collection, dubbed Party Monster.

Shoe designer John Fluevog: "I can't say that I love fashion."
Courtesy of John Fluevog

According to his website, Fluevog was the first to import Dr. Marten's into the United States in the '80s, selling them at his stores until he came up with his own twist on the workboot with a more environmental flair: the Angel-soled boot which "resists alkali, water, acid, fatigue, and Satan."

In fall 2012, Fluevog expanded his retail empire to Minnesota, taking over the corner storefront right next to the newly-renovated Uptown Theatre. Since then, the shop has flourished in the trendy retail location. Fluevog and his wife recently made a visit to Minnesota for the Uptown store's grand opening party. We sat down with the designer before festivities got underway.

Even though he was born and raised in Canada, the shoe designer has a close connection to Minnesota. In fact, it's part of the reason Fluevog got his name.

"My grandfather immigrated from Norway," Fluevog says. "When he came here, his name was Nielsen -- like every other good Norwegian, right? The mail was getting mixed up, so he changed his name to Fluevog. There's a place in Norway called Fluevog on the Fjord. The village and the place is still there. That's kind of the origin of the name. I think it's a good thing he did that. I'm not sure that John Nielsen shoes would have quite cut it."

Having been in the shoe business for more than four decades, Fluevog knows a thing or two about trends and fashion, but that doesn't mean he tries to keep up with the latest fads.

"It's a part of my life," he explains. "It comes from within me. I get feelings and emotions about what I do, and I just do them. When I try to get too close to the market, it's never as good for me."

While Fluevog doesn't seem to embrace trends as they come along, he does feel that your personality can change based on what you're wearing.

"I can't say that I love 'fashion' as a word," he says. "But I like make-believe, I like partying, I like parties. I love feeling that we can escape, and that in our dress we can show who we are. We can be someone else for a while. We can have alter egos."

Find out where Fluevog's inspiration comes from on the next page.

Shoe designer John Fluevog: "I can't say that I love fashion."
Courtesy of John Fluevog

Fluevog reveals that his inspiration comes from both an emotional and imaginative place that can strike whenever and wherever.

"It definitely just comes to me," he says. "When it comes to me, I just fill the blanks in. I name the shoes different names, I leave little messages on them -- that kind of thing. It starts with images that pop into my brain at various times."

Fluevog designs shoes for both men and women, but he has a clear favorite in terms of designing.

"Women are a lot more fun," he concedes. "They're more ready to play dress up. Men aren't quite so into playing dress up. I can also do more shapes with women's shoes than I can with men's."

Though the shoe designer counts numerous celebrities as dedicated Fluevogers, he says that after being previously married to a model in the '70s, he's not wrapped up in the big name game. "Maybe it's a bit of reverse snobbery on my part, but I'm sort of anti-celebrity," he says.

Shoe designer John Fluevog: "I can't say that I love fashion."
Courtesy of John Fluevog

Fluevog was mum about any specifics about what he's got coming up, but he is currently working on various projects.

"The sad day for me would be when I didn't have anything to look forward to," he says. "I've got lots of things in the works. You think, 'They're just shoes, and how much can you do with shoes?' But I think that you can do a lot."

Fluevog picks up a pair of black-and-blush shoes with a beautifully swirled clawed heel, an ankle strap, and mint accents. "I'd like to do some more pretend shoes," he says. "These are called Queen Transcendent. I enjoy doing this sort of thing."

While the new Uptown store has only been open for a few months, Fluevog hopes that it will soon become part of the fabric of the neighborhood.

"It's important for me that the store reflects the community, a place where people can feel at home and comfortable," he says. "Each one of my stores takes on a life of its own. The store in D.C. has its own little community of people that come in, and every city has its own vibe and energy. I want people to feel it's part of their home. Retail stores are kind of a reflection of our society in a way, kind of like a pub: a place were you can go and you feel at home and you connect. We've been very well-received here, and I've been thankful for that. We, as a company, don't want to come in and just force our culture on someone. It's a symbiotic relationship where we can fit into the culture and give them a bit of our culture."

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Fluevog Shoes

2900 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55408


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