John Fluevog is celebrating 50 years in business, with John Fluevog Shoes having grown from a humble local enterprise to a network of 25 stores around North America, and a couple overseas.
Fluevog on Q
Tom Power interviewed Fluevog on his CBC Radio show q November 26. The introduction to a transcript of the interview stressed his role as a designer in the fashion industry whose work has become very high profile:
Vancouver-based shoe designer John Fluevog is famous for his edgy, unique, artistic and fun styles, which are known among devotees as “Fluevogs.”
They’re sold around the world, and they’ve been worn by celebrities from Madonna to Beyoncé, and from Lady Gaga to Alice Cooper – as well as a whole lot of regular people, from punks to office workers.
Further on, Power asks Fluevog about his motivation:
Talk to me about the idea of belief. You said you almost went bankrupt. That is a moment where a lot of people would stop and go back to business school. What kept you going?
There have been a few points in my career. Falling in love was a good one that kept me going; it just energized me. I also had a time when I was pretty well done emotionally, and I had actually made a decision to give it all up. And I had somebody come and visit me, and they gave me a vision of what my name would be and what my shoes could be.
Now I want you to tell me that story.
It was November, right about now, and it was rainy and wet and miserable. I had just opened a Seattle store, and things had taken off in a mini way, but I had basically run out of money. Sales started to dive and I just emotionally ran out of juice. And I said to my then-wife, “Look, I’ve got to find another source of income because I need to feed my family and pay my mortgage, all the things we want.” And a friend of mine called and said, “I’m sending somebody down to see you. A guy from Arizona, he’s got this gift.”
So along comes a man who walks in, and he looks like he just got out of a Ford hot rod in the ’80s. He had long hair and blue jeans. And I start talking and he said “I don’t want to hear about what you’re doing. Here, just sit in this chair.” And he sits me down, and he starts to pray over me, or he lays his hands on me. And he starts seeing pictures, and he says, “I see shoes, and I see shoes in different places. And I see your name, and your name is going to be quite powerful.” And he says, “What’s your name?” He didn’t know who it was.
I’m not really into that sort of thing, very airy fairy, and I’m a little skeptical. But something caught my attention about what he said. He was watching a movie of my life. And that event gave me the courage to keep on going. He said, “Put your name on everything. Your name is going to be powerful.”
Was he like a psychic?
Well, let’s call it prophetic.
Fluevog: the book
In his brand new book – Fluevog: 50 Years of Unique Soles for Unique Souls – he expands on his relationship with the mysterious man who entered his life at a crucial time.
[He was] not a minister, but he had a spiritual gift. . . . I think it’s fair to say that if I had not accepted Augustine’s words I would not have pushed forward through all the hardships of the next few years. God knew exactly what I needed to hear.
Augustine became a “sounding board” for Fluevog, helping him to transition from shoe retailer to designer – “a big shift in my thinking.”
There are several other references to faith in the book. For example, speaking of his mother’s parents:
Their faith was a huge influence on me as a child, and for a long time after that. Even now.
The book has one page devoted to ‘Spirituality.’ Among the comments Fluevog makes there:
My journey on this planet – my work, my family, my life – has been my spiritual journey.
I like mystery. I like to think there are underlying mysteries to what we do and how we interact with each other. I hope that my faith and my spirituality is a good idea and it doesn’t hurt anybody. It does some good in my life and to those around me. It just is.
When I was growing up, my family was very religious, but it wasn’t a creative spirit that moved them. I’ve since learned that God inspires creativity, that we can all be incredibly creative when we join in and listen. It isn’t any supernatural thing. It’s available to all of us. Communicate to the Creator and creation follows. Experiencing that is the essence of who we should be because it draws us into community. We need to train ourselves to watch and listen. . . .
You could say my shoes walk in the spirit of God or the Creator . . . Good is the opposite of all that [evil]. Can we capture that feeling in a shoe? I don’t know, but I can certainly try.
Fluevog’s book is not primarily about spirituality, of course. It covers design and fashion, shoes and business; I found the book in the ‘Lifestyles’ section at Indigo. The publisher, LifeTree Media, puts it this way:
Echoing the eclectic style of Fluevog’s whimsical and witty zine-style catalogs, the book features Fluevog’s own handwritten messages to fans, lush graphics and illustrations, and previously unpublished photographs from the Fluevog archives. It also pays homage to the wild and beautiful John Fluevog shoes themselves, with a behind-the-scenes look at how they are conceived, designed and made.
Business By the Book
Fluevog spoke more about his Christian faith during a Business By the Book gathering in 2015. Here is a brief excerpt from the 31-minute podcast of his talk:
I’ll start with a little bit about my life. I’ve been sick, I’ve been three-quarters dead, I’ve been divorced, I’ve been bankrupt twice – and through it all I’ve come to realize that nothing is forever, and to hold onto things lightly.
I’ve learned to have my own business and acquiring things – reaching goals and making a name for myself – are all very temporary notions. All things have a time limit and will eventually fade away. I won’t be here, you guys won’t be here.
So, I’ve learned that it’s how we fit into God’s kingdom and God’s plan here on earth, and how we connect to each other that really counts. The clock’s ticking; all we have is now. And we can have an impact on the future. I really believe that.
I believe business is a great vehicle for having an impact, on people and on the future, So, Business By the Book – I think it should actually be called Life By the Book, because business and the structure of business is for me about life and how we structure our communities.
Business and my personal life are not separate; they’re one and the same thing. John Fluevog Shoes is John Fluevog. I don’t make a distinction.
Go here for the full podcast.
Coastal Church sponsored monthly Business By the Book meetings for several years, and still holds them from time to time. Next Wednesday morning (December 4), for example, they will host a Christmas Breakfast at the Sheraton Wall Centre.