repare to put your hands together because I'm about to introduce you to a shoe designer who clearly deserves a round of applause. Isobel Schofield is living the life that many of us fantasize about. Trained as an artist and employed for years in the fashion industry, she realized that she needed to make a change. And what a change she made! She walked away from her New York job and went in search of a truer identity. Happily, she's not the only one to benefit from Isobel's journey. Her path has meant that you and I are better off as well. Because what the teen fashion scene lost, the clog world has gained. Isobel turned to Sven Clogs to help her complete her visionquest. The results of that collaboration can be seen in glimpses in today's post and in greater detail on her BRYR clogs website.
I'm tempted to explain her story, but I'd like to let the founder of BRYR speak for herself. The best place to start, I think, is her first entry on The Creative Sabbatical, the blog that documents her move from corporate America to the wilds of the human heart. It's quite a tale. And I feel quite honored to be catching up with it as it's just beginning.
[Be sure not to miss the BRYR discount offer at the end of today's post.]
SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2012
My name is Isobel. Like many of you, I've been working hard since I graduated towards my career goals. In my 20's it seemed so important, but as I got closer and closer to my goal, I felt less and less like me. On Friday, I gave it up in the hopes of connecting back to my path. I spent the last 3 years living in New York, working at a huge teen clothing retailer as a design director. My job was well-paid, I had amazing benefits and an awesome team. So, in a sense, what I'm doing right now isn't really rational or grown-up (I should be buying a condo and having babies right now). But the corporate life felt inauthentic.
I know I am so privileged to be able to make this leap. That our country is in the middle of a recession, that people are struggling to make ends meet, and indeed even being born in the first world is an incredible blessing. I don't take it lightly. That's part of the reason that I want to share this experience with people... to show the fear, the trepidation, the excitement, the exploration, and to hopefully show that it is possible and that it does make a sort of illogical logic.
I'm not going to be talking about money on this blog. For me, this was the biggest road block to quitting, and I gave myself so many 'grown-up' excused for why it was stupid to walk away from a well-paying job. My situation is unique to me, as yours will be to you. I am more interested in exploring the great white canvas that is life when you take away your barriers and work out what it is you want to make, do, and be.
I hope you'll come with me on this journey.
ECHID: I love how words are so important to you. On The Creative Sabbatical you define what the Hebrew roots of "sabbatical" mean. And now with BRYR you've chosen a Swedish word with its own significant meaning. (Bryr means to care in Swedish and is pronounced like the English word briar.) Tell me about your love for language.
Isobel: Honestly, I never felt like a writer before in my life. I had always expressed myself through drawing and making things. When I left my last job, I started The Creative Sabbatical on a whim. I think it was through that process that I learned that writing doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect, it just has to speak to people. Having a way of talking my truth has been an truly amazing experience for me and pushed me on.
ECHID: You say you left a cushy corporate job to do "something more". What planted the seed for this journey? And how did you muster the courage to take the leap?
Isobel: I was very lucky that my best friend was going through the same transition as me at the time, so I had a buddy to go through it with. We supported each other and were each others cheerleader. I don’t think I could have done it without her.
ECHID: Why clogs? Were you a design director for a footwear company in your previous life? Why did you choose clogs out of all the other fashion and design options available?
Isobel: I think super cheap imports have really skewed our view of the real cost of things, and that’s really sad because it’s hurt the US manufacturing industry and economy in general. I believe that there is a new movement happening in America where consumers are looking for well-made, long lasting domestic products. It’s akin to how the organic food movement has grown in the past 15 years, where people want transparency and to feel good about where their money is going. They want to vote with their dollars for what they believe in.
When I discovered Sven Clogs, I was so excited to have discovered this incredible company that was doing just that: making gorgeous, well made products and supporting the local economy. As a designer, it had been a dream of mine for a long time to partner with a company like this and make an amazing product that we can all be proud of.
And, of course, I love clogs.
From The Creative Sabbatical:
THURSDAY, JULY 5, 2012
ECHID: Where did you start, once you charted a course with clogs? It sounds like you picked out the leather you wanted to work with and then the rest of the process fell into place.
Isobel: It started one night when Marie asked me if I wanted to ‘make some clogs’. This was way more than I expected from my apprenticeship (I was just there to learn some leather craft skills). We ended up making 3 pairs of clogs and had so much fun we were jumping up and down by the end of it. Seriously. It was like love-at-first-design. After that, I was hooked.
ECHID: How did you get hooked up with Sven Clogs? I've been to the factory myself. What a rush! Tell me about getting them to take you under their wing.
Isobel: This is a crazy story. I’d always had this weird irrational desire to learn to make shoes. I was going a bunch of research on shoe-making programs in the US, but they were mostly for men’s shoes, and I couldn’t afford them on my budget. Then I randomly bought a pair of clogs in Manhattan, and noticed ‘Made by Sven’ in the label. I Googled Sven and it led me to their website. I mustered up my courage and wrote Marie an email asking if she would consider taking me on for a 2 week unpaid apprenticeship. She called me half an hour later, not only happy to take me but also offering her Volvo for the 2 weeks I was there.
ECHID: I was very intrigued by your paper cut art clogs. Very unique! How did that idea come about?
Isobel: I was in a log cabin, by a lake, with no tv, no internet. Creativity has a way of creeping in during those moments quiet moments.
ECHID: You have a sweet fantasy that someday the daughter of one of your customers will find your shoes in her mother's closet...and want to wear them herself because they're so timeless. Is that a story from your own experience?
Isobel: I can’t even tell you how much I love this question, because it means I can talk about my mum’s fashion taste. My mum came of age in Liverpool in the 60’s with the backdrop of the Beatles playing at the local bar, mini-skirts and fake eyelashes. In photos of her from back then, she just always looked amazing; very twiggy and fun. (Someone I’d definitely want to hang out with if I met her today). I grew up with a closet full of dresses from those days. There was one dress in particular that she wore on her first date with my dad that was an Ossie Clark, that is so amazing and still makes me feel so beautiful when I wear it.
ECHID: Now that your shoes have been created and the website is up, what's the next stage of your journey?
Isobel: Designing is the bit that’s natural for me. It’s the ‘business’ part that’s going to be a massive learning curve.
ECHID: What do you think sets your clogs apart from other clogs on the market? Brag on your line for a bit!
Isobel: I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. I was a tom-boy growing up, and so I like to feel sexy, but in a grounded, confident and smart way. I designed my line around what made me truly happy, what truly talks to me. When I put my clogs on with a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt, I honestly feel good. It’s as simple as that. Uncomplicated and honest.
And listen up, my fellow fans of wooden goodness. Isobel was so pleased to be featured on ECHID that she wrote to say,
I've attached photos of the new 'Annabella' clog. I'd like you guys to have an exclusive on featuring this style, so I'm going to hold releasing it on my website it until your article goes live.
She also wrote to say (and this is the bit that should make you "Squeeee!" with delight),
I'd also like to offer your readers a 15% off all clogs! The promotion code is everycloghasitsday15off. It's good 'til the end of the day Sunday, September, 9th.
Let me employ a timeworn technique used in radio copy writing to provide emphasis:
Did you say 15% off all clogs?
Yes, 15% off all clogs.
Um, what was that BRYR web address again?
Oh, that's easy. Just click here.
[On my feet as I blog: I must really love these John Fluevog lace up boots a lot! I mean, I think I've worn them five out of the past six days! And for a footwear fanatic with over 90 pairs of shoes to pick and choose from when I get dressed each morning, that's saying something! Any other crazed collectors ever have something similar happen to you?]