Fox Fluevog & Friends
Quick post: Love this shot of Peter Fox (left) and John Fluevog taken in 1971 outside the Hotel Europe. (What is it about a flat-iron building that’s universally popular? Read the Gastown blog’s nice profile of the 101-year-old structure here). Timeless. And when plaid, three-piece suits are worn this confidently, they might be too.
Image courtesy of John Fluevog
A round up of news stories we’re following, plus other events and cultural happenings worth a notice.
Whales, actual and pixelated. Last week, a grey whale swam deep into False Creek, apparently drawn to the rehabilitated shoreline fronting the new Southeast False Creek neighbourhood. Then, a new public artwork depicting an orca whale was installed on the plaza outside the Vancouver Convention Centre. According to artist Douglas Coupland, Digital Orca “breaks down a three-dimensional Orca whale (they are really dolphins not whales, but I digress…) into cubic pixels—making a familiar symbol of the West Coast become something unexpected and new.” It’s already drawing crowds. (Price Tags)
Remembering Lorne “Ace” Atkinson. The local cycling legend and owner of Ace Cycles on West Broadway passed away on April 23. He was 88. Last summer, his spare, handmade track bike from the 1954 Empire Games appeared in the MOV exhibition Velo-City: Vancouver and the Bicycle Revolution; a symbol of his long dedication to the sport. Yesterday, the Globe and Mail published a feature-length obituary on his life and impact on the city’s cycling culture. (Globe and Mail)
Maybe next year? As everyone in this city knows by now, the Vancouver Canucks are finished for another season. What does the team need? I retweeted this post from Vancouver magazine the morning after their elimination by the Blackhawks but it bears repeating: “1. Shrink for Luongo. 2. Byfuglien-sized forward. 3. All-Star-calibre D-man. 4. More Green Men. What else?” (Vancouver magazine)
What Vancouverites are actually reading. The most-read article on the Vancouver Sun’s website today was… this. (At least it doesn’t involve Kate Gosselin. She usually occupies the top spot.) (Vancouver Sun)
What we’re working on: Thanks to everyone who attended the opening party for Fox, Fluevog & Friends tonight. The exhibition opens officially tomorrow and runs through September 26, 2010. Our first related public program happens this Sunday at 7 p.m. with the premiere of The Colour of Beauty. The documentary-short examines racism in the fashion industry and is presented by MOV, Schema Magazine, and the National Film Board. A panel discussion and reception will follow the screening and—bonus!—admission to the film is free. Another bonus: a discounted rate of $10 gets you into the exhibition. Details on the event are linked here. Happy weekend.
Image credit: Susan Gittins
Has there ever been such a pun-friendly name as Fluevog? In the 40 years that John Fluevog has been in the shoe business, he’s certainly played off of it, using it as a noun, adjective, and verb—see his chatty website for a sample—all the while building a colourful, forward-thinking, and innovative business that’s only partly about shoes.
From the outset, both the store and Fox’s designs pushed traditional (read: safe) shoes aside in favour of bold, unconventional silhouettes and dramatic detailing. Picture fur-collared ankle boots, multi-hued platform heels, or handmade wooden clogs (the handiwork of their collaborator Ken Rice). In short: Shoes made by risk-takers, for risk-takers. Celebrities like Robert Altman and Julie Christie were fans; others just didn’t get it (Fluevog recalls people walking past the store windows exclaiming “Who would wear these?!”).
In a feature MOV exhibition that opens Thursday night, curator Joan Seidl has traced the Vancouver company back to 1970, when a men’s shoe store named Fox & Fluevog opened at 2 Powell St. in Gastown. With $13,500 borrowed from his dad, then-22-year-old Fluevog and business partner/mentor Peter Fox aimed to build off their retail experience at the venerable Evans Sheppard shoe store on Hastings Street. Peter Fox, a London native, was also working on his own shoe designs which reflected his interest in art history and Carnaby Street’s emerging modish aesthetic.
Fox and Fluevog parted amicably in 1981. Fox moved to New York to focus on his own label; Fluevog took over Fox & Fluevog running it as “just another shoe store” until competition from big chains forced him to rethink his business model—and to take the leap into designing himself. Though his work shares Fox’s unselfconscious design philosophy, it is his skill at branding that has pushed him into new and interesting territory, and earned him a cult-like following.
Working with local illustrator and creative director Dave Webber of Webbervision in Gastown, the two have established a brand that is urban, worldly, off-beat, acerbic, gently subversive, and an attempt to “above all… avoid anything that smacks of being ‘just advertising’.” Old Fluevog catalogues featured in the exhibition comment on such topics as religion, consumerism, and human nature. They feature incredible shoes, too.
In an interview on CBC Radio that aired this morning (click here to hear it), Fox and Fluevog said they didn’t know they were breaking new ground so much as doing things that interested them and designing shoes they couldn’t find elsewhere. Over 3,500 square feet of gallery space has been turned over to a selection of their work. Some 150 pairs of shoes appear alongside photographs, catalogues, press, and ephemera, and yet it’s only a glimpse of their work and its impact to date. There’s most definitely more to come.
Image descriptions, from top to bottom:
A Fox and Fluevog clog from the mid-1970s.
A sketch by Peter Fox.
A selection of John Fluevog shoes designed between 1980 to 2000.
All images by Kirsti Wakelin.
This week’s round up of news and cultural happenings is rather museum-heavy; always lots going on as institutions prepare to launch their summer blockbusters. We’re no exception: Fox, Fluevog & Friends: The Story Behind the Shoeslaunches exactly one week today (one of the 150 pair of shoes featured in the exhibition is pictured left). The building is buzzing.
The quest for the 20-minute neighbourhood. Ever since last year’s feature exhibition Velo-City: Vancouver and the Bicycle Revolution, we’ve kept an eye on two-wheeled matters—news, ideas, design, etc. But what of pedestrian traffic as a city-making/organizing tool? The City of Portland recently unveiled a new 30-year plan for the city that introduced the concept of the 20-minute neighbourhood. “The idea? Simple: everything a person needs for his or her daily life should be within an inviting 20-minute stroll of home.” Key components include things like walkability, scale, density, and amenities like transit connections, schools, and parks. Most interesting is this: though Portland is held up as a model of progressive urban planning and livability, only one district comes closest to meeting this ideal. Wonder how many neighbourhoods in Vancouver would pass the test. (Portland Monthly)
Golden king = gold. This week, Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario wrapped up their exhibition King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs reporting incredible and inspiring stats. Over 400,000 people visited during the 24-week run—47% of them first-time visitors. “Gallery memberships also increased strongly, with 12,450 new members.” AGO director Matthew Teitelbaum said they hosted the exhibition to attract a new audience, but admits the results were unprecedented. It’s also a sure sign that the boundaries between art gallery, history museum, and cultural space are increasingly blurry—all for the better. (Globe and Mail)
BC Place’s roof deflates, real story missed. The bubbled white roof came down on BC Place stadium this week, amid much chatter about the stadium’s future: “Why not tear the whole thing down?”, “Is a new retractable roof really necessary?”, “What benefit to stadiums actually bring to downtowns anyhow?” In typical Vancouver fashion it was all a tad… over-thought in the eleventh hour. Here’s an angle missed by both the media and PavCo (the crown corporation that oversees the place): As Vancouver bills itself as an efficient, sustainable, and all around smart city, shouldn’t we be finding ways to repurpose existing structures? Finding ways to make dated venues fit into contemporary uses? Extend their often all-too-short life cycle? (Read about the environmental toll of concrete production in the excellent 2002 book Cradle-to-Cradle; you won’t look at the ubiquitous building material quite the same way again.)
What a £20-million museum rethink and marketing blitz looks like. On May 28, the Museum of London will launch their Galleries of Modern London, the results of a three-year re-think of five exhibition spaces. (In London, the “modern” era starts from 1666 and runs to the present making the project all the more daunting.) I love the simplicity of their “You are here” marketing concept, which features off-beat archival shots of urban life over the centuries. Details on the project, plus a slideshow of the new spaces is found on the museum’s website here. Additional coverage in Marketing Magazine.
Image credit: Rebecca Blissett for the Museum of Vancouver