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by Jasmin Briggs
Hi everyone, WO2 intern Jasmin here! On Wednesday, July 20th I had the opportunity to attend the DC grand opening of Bucketfeet, a shoe company based in Chicago. It was founded by Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein in 2011 after they met each other in Argentina. Their collection of footwear features designs from thousands of artists across the globe. This gives artists a chance to expose their art to the public and receive money for their work. Bucketfeet’s mission is to, “create a brighter world by sparking conversations that bring people together, create mutual respect, foster shared understanding and, thus, build a better world.”
Originally Alison was supposed to attend the event, but she’s currently on a cross country road trip with her family and said I could go in her place. This was my first time covering an event for a blog and I was a little nervous at first. I think I was also the youngest person there, so that didn’t help my nerves, but for the most part the event was very fun.
Being the rookie event blogger that I am I arrived 20 minutes early and I was the first one there. In hindsight that was probably best because I was able to take pictures of the storefront, store interior and products before it got too crowded with guests. When I saw the storefront I was in awe. The artistry and creativity of the storefront mirrored the theme and aesthetic of the brand so perfectly. It was unique and stood out from every other storefront on the block. The storefront design was created by a local DC artist named, MasPaz.
The interior of the store was even more impressive. It was more minimal compared to the storefront, but it looked similar to an art gallery. The walls of the store were white, but they were adorned with samples of the footwear and art work inspired by the footwear. The sample shoes were placed on shelves around the store and were divided into men’s, women’s and kids. Next to each shoe was a description of the person who made it and their inspiration behind the shoe. This reminded me of how museum‘s and art galleries put descriptions of the artists and theme of the piece next to their work. I think this helps people realize that art is dynamic and doesn’t come in one form. Shoes are a form of art and there is a story behind each one. When you see people walking down the street in Bucketfeet shoes their feet look like a moving canvas.
There were also display tables around the store that showcased shoes, laces, socks, wall décor and sketch books. I think the display tables did a good job of tying in the theme of the brand and promoting a creative environment.
After walking around the store and taking pictures more people showed up and before I knew it the event was packed. People were mingling, enjoying the refreshments and looking at shoes. You could hear thirty different conversations at once, but it made the event feel lively and social. The bar was pretty standard and was equipped with water, soda and white wine, but the main attraction was the hors d'oeuvres. I had a chance to taste the mini chicken and waffles and the caramel macchiato bites. There was another food option, but I didn’t have a chance to taste it. The sales associates were on their feet the whole night showing customers shoes and getting different sizes. They were really friendly and engaged in conversation with you as you tried on shoes. People were responding positively to the brand and several people left with shoes, including me!
Before I left the event I had a chance to interview one of the co-founders, Raaja Nemani.
Me: How did you come up with the name for the company?
Nemani: Aaron (other co-founder), started customizing shoes in college and when he would make custom shoes for his friends he called it Bucketfeet, so when we met we decided to keep the name?
Me: Very cool, so is that how the company came about?
Nemani: Aaron had just moved to Argentina to work as a photographer and he ended up living there for 3 ½ years. I quit my job in 2008 and I backpacked around the world for a year and a half and I traveled to thirty countries and visited every continent.
Me: That sounds amazing, I hope to do that one day.
Nemani: Then I met him in Argentina and before I left he customized a pair of shoes for me. Those are the shoes I wore, they sparked all these amazing conversations. The idea was that there’s a different story, place and person behind every product. We could spark more conversations and bring people together, teach people about different parts of the world, different people and art is a great platform to do that.
Me: So it’s a way of bringing the world together?
Nemani: Yea! Exactly
Me: How do you decide which artists will design the sneakers?
Nemani: A few ways, Aaron, my co-founder is our chief artist, so he looks through a lot of the art and the artists and their stories. Our product team thinks about how the art will work on a shoe and from a commercial stand point and then we also ask consumers to vote on the products and the art they like best. So we take all that data and make our selection.
Me: So if someone wants to submit a design, how would they go about doing that?
Nemani: Just go to our website, there’s a link you can click to sign up and give your info then you can start submitting art.
Me: How do you want your customers to feel when they wear your products? What mindset do you want them to have?
Nemani: I want them to feel like they represent something and there’s a story behind the product. You will get asked about the shoes because they stand out and when you do you have something to say. You can talk about the person, the story and what it means. I think that’s really powerful in bringing people together and making the world a little bit better.
The entire experience from the venue, to the atmosphere, food and people was phenomenal and I highly recommend that people visit the store and see for themselves. The products are so unique and everyone should have a piece of art in their closet!