Fluevog: 50 Years of unique soles for unique souls at UBC Library

Vivid colours, unique silhouettes and a generously thick sole are all hallmarks of a Fluevog shoe. John Fluevog has been an integral part of not only the Vancouver business scene, but the international art, fashion and design community for over 50 years. His work is being presented in a new exhibit 50 Years of Sole: A History of Fluevog: Honouring a Vancouver Icon.

If you happen to take an exam stress-reducing walk through either the David Lam Library in the Sauder school of business or Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKB), these brightly coloured gems peek out from behind glass and beckon passersby’ attention.

Coinciding with Fluevog’s 50th anniversary and the release of a book celebrating 50 years of Vancouver shoe history, the exhibition showcases the inspiration behind some of his most iconic shoes and how the Fluevog company grew a small family business into an internationally recognized brand.

The IKB display showcases a collaboration between John Fluevog and author Robert Chaplain. Chaplain’s book, The Elves and the Shoemaker, feature a classic tale from 1806 of holiday whimsy of helpful elves paired with stunning Fluevog shoes.

This exhibit is unique for the level of collaboration that it showcases. Usually exhibitions are curated solely by Rare Books and Special Collections — located in the basement of IKB — but this exhibit was a year long passion project curated in collaboration with Sauder’s David Lam Library staff as well as with the Fluevog team.

Community and cooperation shine in this exhibit — not only throughout the curatorial process, but also in the exhibitions themselves. From student-designed labels for each shoe to the ethos of the Fluevog business itself, working collaboratively was important for the curators.

“We have taken a very much a team-based approach to curating this exhibition,” said Katherine Kalsbeek, head of Rare Books and Special Collections.

“We’ve had amazing collaboration from the team at Fluevog. It’s been a really collective effort to put up this display.”

Not only was collaboration crucial to the curators but there are ways for students to get involved in the collaborative spirit as well.

One of the best ways for students who are Fluevog fans to engage with the display is the mood board design contest. Students have until Monday, December 16 to help design a mood board for the Fluevog autumn-winter 2020 season. Submissions will be judged by the legend himself, John Fluevog. And the cherry on top? The winning submission will win a Fluevog gift card.

Christina Sylka, head of the David Lam Library, and Kalsbeek were in agreement on how this exhibition aligns with the Sauder and wider UBC Strategic Plans.

“UBC Sauder strategic plan has a core principle called the ‘transformative student experience’, which sort of aims at providing students with rich experiences outside of the classroom. I think that this is kind of enhancing their experience in our space,” said Sylka.

Viewing the exhibit leaves students with a sense of how a family business can create and foster community. Kalsbeek and Sylka hope that students can walk away from this exhibition feeling inspired about how their individuality and creativity can make an impact on the world.

“One of the takeaways for me that’s interesting is that when [Fluevog] is starting his business journey, he’s at the same age say you are and sort of thinking about what life holds for him,” said Sylka.

“So I thought it would be really neat for people who are kind of further in their academic journeys but they [are] starting the rest of their life journey.”

The David Lam Library exhibition runs until December 24 and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre exhibition runs until January 13.