December 2019 - January 2020 Best Cities for Work in B.C.

With a mission to inform, empower, celebrate and advocate for British Columbia's current and aspiring business leaders, BCBusiness go behind the headlines and bring readers face to face with the key issues and people driving business in B.C.

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Page 22 of 71

300+ DECEMBER/JANUARY 2020 BCBUSINESS 23 COURTESY OF JOHN FLUEVOG But as he reveals in his new book, Fluevog: 50 Years of Unique Soles for Unique Souls, there were plenty of ups and downs. As a kid in Vancouver, where his late father, Sigurd, owned a drive-in ice cream parlour, Fluevog loved cars and clothes but strug- gled in school because of dyslexia. After enjoying early success on his way to becom- ing a notable designer, he narrowly escaped bankruptcy in the mid-1980s and again in the late 1990s. Now happily married, he's been through two divorces, and this past decade he twice overcame leukemia. Equal parts memoir, primer on his cre- ative process and tribute to Fluevoggers everywhere, the lavishly illustrated book devotes a chapter to the often encourag- ing messages he prints on the bottoms of his shoes. A spiritual man who believes in divine inspiration and has quietly given to the arts and charity throughout his career, Fluevog was never just in it for the money. "I've grown, but it's always been orga n ic," he says, sprawled across an upstairs sofa as he nurses a bowl of soup. "And I suppose part of my reason for growing is an artistic one. I want to influence people. I like influencing culture." Fluevog, 71, notes proudly that besides $13,500 in startup capital from his dad, he's had no investors. "I'm so glad I never did that. I'd be so unhappy," he says. "People now think, Oh, well, all I've got to do is flick this lever here and flick that lever there, and I'll be a zillionaire. I don't know any- thing about that world. Man, my life was one shoe at a time." What made you open your first store? Why shoes? I guess an answer would be, be careful what you start, because you might end up doing it. I was in partnership with somebody for 10 years, from my early 20s to 30s. He was 15 years my senior and knew a whole lot more than I did, and probably still does. I bought him out in 1980 and was doing the same sort of thing we had been doing. I was a retailer; I'd go to Europe and bring things into the boutique. And I was trying to make things look different, so I'd go to the factories and try and change bits on the shoes the best I could. Trying to pay him back with a recession happening, around '85 it got really difficult, and I ran out of money. I ended up with two stores, on West Broadway and Granville Street, and I made a bold decision to move the store on West Broadway to Seattle. That did a few different things to me. The business did quite well, and then I changed the name of the company from Fox & Fluevog to John Fluevog. When I did that, it was a pivotal shift personally and in consumers' minds. Suddenly there was one name, the Fluevog name, and therefore I became a designer. I wasn't really before. Why did you decide to do a book? There's not a lot of independent fashion retailers that are still in business 50 years later. And I call myself a boutique rather than a chain store or multi-stores. It's a bou- tique because it's my collections of things that I put together that I have thought of, made and put out. So I wanted to celebrate the fact that I've made it thus far. I also wanted to celebrate the fact that it hasn't all been smooth sail- ing. When I look back at my life, some of the hardest parts have been the best parts. It's deep-down satisfying to go through a really tough time and come out the other side of it. How is the shoe business doing? What are its big challenges? When I started putting my own name on my shoes, I don't think I understood the implications. If I hadn't done that, I don't know if I'd be in business today, because of the Internet. If I'm just selling other people's brands, I'm competing with all the other online retailers. And traditional retailing has fundamentally changed, so you need to have your own feeling, emo- tion, schtick, energy—whatever you want to call it, you need to have your own grasp on it. Because if you don't, all your products can be had cheaper and more conveniently on the Net. HOT WHEELS With Peter Fox (left), his former business partner, Fluevog rocks Gastown in 1970 "Families" for the thousands of shoe styles that John Fluevog and his team have created over the years

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