A two part post today...featuring two fans of wood soled shoes who share a country in common, Featured Designer: Onni and Featured Blogger: 5 Inch and Up.
Featured Designer: Onni
Once upon a time, shopping used to mean going to visit the butcher or the baker or the candlestick maker right where he worked. Open the door to the shop and you were stepping right into the room where the chopping or kneading or dipping was done. The same thing was true once upon a time of cobblers and tailors, too. I can picture the settings of countless fairy tales and fables I read as I child in which a boy goes to see a tailor who's seated behind the counter surrounded by bolts of cloth and spools of thread or a young woman pays a visit to the cobbler who's hammering away on his bench to attach a sole to a boot. Times have certainly changed considering that much of what we purchase is not even manufactured in the same country. But happily there are still craftspeople in the world who love to hearken back to those simpler days.
One such designer is Tuula Pöyhönen, the creative spirit behind Onni. In Finnish the word translates as happiness, though the vibe I get from Tuula feels closer to contentment. She has set up shop in the loft building where she and her family live on a quiet street in Helsinki. Here she puts her hands to good use on a range of clothing, shoes, and accessories. As she explains on her web site, having her business virtually in her home allows her to do design work while she's keeping shop "the same way as clothiers, shoemakers and the others did in olden times."
I wish I could take credit for discovering the graceful wood sandal designs of Onni on my own. Instead I have to cede that honor to the blogging duo at Six Six Sick. A friend first pointed them to the Onni website, and instantly they were intrigued. Who wouldn't be? It's a visual feast of minimalist Scandinavian style. Hit the home page and you're dazzled by a photo montage of cleverly crafted dresses, tops, bags, head coverings, slippers, and wooden sandals.
And of course, it was those wooden sandals that caught my eye. Tuula calls them Woodpeckers (because of the holes in the wood like a woodpecker would make), and these unusual shoes are simplicity itself: a sculpted block of wood laced onto the foot using satin ribbon or leather cord. The result is an extremely adjustable shoe that can be dressed up or dressed down as the mood strikes.
Naturally I couldn't simply be content with what I read in someone's blog. I had to get more of this designer's story for myself. And then share it with you. Armed with the Onni contact info, I tracked down the owner to find out more about her distinctive sartorial vision.
ECHID: What's your background? Did you study fashion design?
ONNI: Yes, I am a fashion designer. I got my MA in the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, nowadays Aalto University, (I recommend it to exchange students - very good and international). I worked more than 10 years in the industry, mainly in young fashion and jeans design, but also interior and furniture design, writing and styling...then I had two kids, and life and work were better combined this way.
ECHID: Are you the only designer represented on the Onni web site? Or do you carry other people's creations?
ONNI: I am the only one now. I started ONNI with my colleague Susan, an interior architect, in a shop location in Helsinki, but it became too expensive to keep up. There we had other designers' work as well. Now I only have my own stuff.
ECHID: How did you become a designer of shoes?
ONNI: We only had one course of shoe design at school, therefore I can´t really call myself as a proper shoe designer. I have always loved shoes. I have always been open-minded to [borrow from] other fields of design.
ECHID: How did you come up with the Woodpecker sandals?
ONNI: By mistake. I had a pair of wooden sandals with one hole for string in the bottom plus a leather strap on the top. They didn´t keep on the feet when walking, so I decided to change them by drilling another hole. It went totally wrong, and I became mad and drilled the whole bottom and threw it to [the back] of my wardrobe. Some time later it crossed my mind that that [multi-holed] bottom could be the idea for a shoe, but made by professional driller : ). In Finland we have a company called TALLA which is very open for designers: I contacted them and now they produce the Woodpeckers. They call them cheese clogs.
ECHID: From the Google Maps image of your street, I was pleased to see that you do have warm, sunny days in Finland. How long is the weather nice enough to wear your sandals there?
ONNI: I count 5 months: May through September. Of course, there are days for rubber boots, but some sunny days, too. Indoors they are okay throughout the year. I've sold some with red satin laces for Christmas parties.
ECHID: I think I saw a boot style of your Woodpecker shoe on your site.
ONNI: The sandals were too summer like with my winter clothes. I made a leather "sock" for the winter photo shoot. I have also used wool socks with them.
ECHID: Are you able to take orders from overseas? Or are you limited to sales in just Europe?
ONNI: I haven´t found out yet how it works...customs, taxes, etc. I know through experience that American law is very different compared to European law. I am coming to the Straightforward New Finnish Design exhibition in New York, May 14--17 in the Meatpacking District. There will be a Pop Up store attached to the exhibition selling Woodpeckers too. One [of my goals] is to find retailers for the products, so that might be the best way to enter American market.
ECHID: What makes you the most satisfied when you create something to wear?
ONNI: I am happy when people are happy wearing my designs.
Featured Blogger: 5 Inch and Up
Elsewhere on the web, I came across the blog of a twentysomething fashion student from Finland named Sandra. She not only shares our passion for wood soled shoes, but she also knows how to dress them up and take them out. You can find more of her stunning collection of shoes on her web site 5 Inch and Up including an occasional peek inside her formidably stocked closet. (How did one person ever come to acquire so many cool boots?) When I saw that she actually owns a pair of the Zara high heeled clogs that made my heart skip a beat at the beginning of this month, I had to share some of her photos with you. (Be sure to stop by her blog today for a full size shot of her new Jeffrey Campbell clogs...and a very useful tip for stretching a snug pair to fit.)
As for her country's connection to clogs she explains
Clogs are known as the Dutch shoe so [they're] sold and mostly worn in southern Sweden/Denmark/Holland, that area. But they are still known as the 'summer' shoe all over Scandinavia so I did grow up wearing them :) just rediscovering the heeled version! I was actually back in Finland a while ago and found my red baby clogs I wore when I was about 3! so adorable!! Finalnd is much colder than Denmark so the clogs could only be worn for a short time every year... more known as maybe a garden shoe or something like that. My mom still thinks it's hilarious that they are in fashion now!