john fluevog
Image courtesy Fluevog. Design by Danielle Campbell.

Self-Isolation Diary: A Day in the Life of John Fluevog

"One of my oft-used slogans in the company has been “Let’s be thankful." This Covid-19 time has really been a time for me to put this saying to the test."

We’re now in Month 3 of self-isolation with an uncertain road ahead but for some much-needed inspiration, FASHION is reaching out to some of our favourite Canadians to get a peek into how they’re living their lives in lockdown (remember: #StayHomeSaveLives). Each week, keep an eye out for new self-isolation diaries from actors, designers, influencers and artists who are riding this uncertain time out with us.

John Fluevog, designer

My wife and I returned from Melbourne (where we had been visiting the new—and first—Fluevog store in Australia) on March 20th to find that all our stores were closing. No cash flow, no income and not knowing what the future looked like. On top of that, most of the retail staff who are really part of our family were having to be laid off. It was a lot of shock and disbelief and then panic. I felt upside down and shaken. My life of slowly building up a brand was looking like it was being torn from me in an instant. The future was changing day to day and it did not look promising. It was as if someone had pressed a huge pause button in the sky and the whole world had stopped.

The biggest thing that I did and that helped was to focus on being thankful for each day. I could not plan for the future but I could change what I was thinking about today.

Each day, I focused on what I could do that day. With all the stores and factories closed, I felt a little unhinged. I began to look around and see all the unfinished projects. I did not buy anything but used all the bits and pieces I had around me. My wife painted the bedrooms with paint we had. The colours were just what we had and seemed perfect and still do. I put up wood trim and found I had the perfect amount and sizes to do the job! It seemed that I had all the right screws and pieces. It was a time for me to see that I was being provided for.

Image courtesy John Fluevog

I went to my workshop and started to dig out old clog bits and parts that I had stored and never finished. I started to piece them together to try and make something out of what I had. I would like to sell the ones I made as one-offs from my studio that JF made himself. I still have more to go on that project but I will get there.

I walked up the hill everyday behind our house. It’s a forty-minute long, hard walk. I routined myself to meditate, read and wrote down a to-do list for myself each day in my quiet time that I kept in my pocket. Again, I focused on only what I could do each day and worked hard at not looking at the future. I found myself busier than normal as every day I ticked things off my list. I read books out loud in front of a fire in my living room that were posted on Fluevog.com. That was fun and gave me a purpose everyday.

My team that was left working in the company were stellar. Everyone was pulling together and building each other up as from time to time, each one of us would lose it a bit. Lots of our video conferencing was filled with laughter and encouragement.

We had an opportunity to support and make a special shoe in honour of BC’s chief medical officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. Our marketing team went full steam ahead and when the shoe got released on our website, the traffic was so intense that it crashed the site! In a time of greatly reduced sales, we suddenly had this opportunity, along with Dr. Henry (she was the real star power) to give a large wad of cash to food banks across British Columbia. It was such a blessing and great encouragement to all the Fluevog staff to be part of helping the cause during this time. Needless to say, we were and are very thankful for all the customers that bought the shoes and helped the cause.

Then we had International Fluevog Day on May 15th to think about. For those unfamiliar with Fluevog Day, it’s a day of random acts of kindness, special deals and celebrations in store and happens to coincide with my birthday. It’s the single biggest retail day for our company. Our marketing team was going into overdrive as this year, it was going to have to be all online. For the first time ever, and in our landmark 50th year in business no less, no stores were going to be open on Fluevog Day.

Normally, I call every single store on May 15th and randomly give away shoes to unsuspecting customers. This year, that was not going to happen. Thankfully, Fluevog Day also includes virtual surprises — every 50th web order is free on Fluevog Day — so this year it was decided that I would personally call the winners… or at least as many as I could. That turned out to be an unsuspecting blessing for me as each person I connected with was overwhelmed to be a winner and blown away that John Fluevog himself was on the phone. It was not a hard job to have people gush over me, I will admit! To everyone’s surprise, International Fluevog Day in this crazy year turned out to the best May 15th ever.

At the time of this writing, we are gearing up to re-open our stores where it is safe and possible. Once again, we have no idea what this will look like and are taking things step by step. I have been finding that living from day to day is in many ways a better way to live than always looking at the future.

One of my oft-used slogans in the company has been “Let’s be thankful.” This Covid-19 time has really been a time for me to put this saying to the test. What I realized however, is that the alternative of being worried was just not an option I wanted to have in my life. I am thankful that I am more than than my shoe designs and brand. I am thankful that I can say I’m thankful.

I am thankful that during this time, I can persevere and be even more creative than ever.