100 Days of Sole
Student Work / Personal Project, School of Visual Arts Masters in Branding Program
How did I get here?
In New York City, the odds are high that my answer to that question on any given day, at any given place, is that I walked — and my shoes enabled that. They are my most trusted form of transportation in this highly pedestrian environment.
But between their most simple functionality and superficial design characteristics, I believe that shoes can also contain a bit more … but what?
Cinderella’s heels or Dorothy's red slippers would suggest that it’s magic...
But Vincent Van Gogh’s shoes would suggest that it’s memory. And this is where I started my 100 Day Project.
In the decades following the creation of the painting, "A Pair of Shoes" by VanGogh, famous philosophers such as: Heidegger, Schapiro, and Derrida all wrote on their interpretations of it — building connections between shoes and the philosophy of art, its reception, and its relationship to the history of ideas.
Thus, 100 Days of Sole became my attempt to do a modern day exploration of the concepts that these philosophers uncovered.
This dovetailed perfectly with my personal fascination for — and mission in — the field branding; which is centered around the ideas of self-expression and personal growth. As in my research I found links between shoes and the psychological concept of “individuation” — that is, the process of becoming one’s own unique person.
So I sent about 300 emails, texts, and facebook messages (it wasn't until later that I would incorporate in-person ambushes) to a range of friends, acquaintances, and people who I had never met before—all of whom inspired me—with the following primary subject line: "A Project About Shoes."
... and miraculously, people replied.
Even more miraculous were the stories that they shared. Stories of the identity and memory that a pair of soles can contain. Stories that themselves contained hope, grit, inspiration, humor, meaning, and LIFE.
A Few Fun Facts
All 3 Mary-jane shoe submissions contained stories of Mother and Daughter relationships — including the ones submitted by my own mother:
All 3 New Balances submitted were from highly successful and creative entrepreneurs
And all 3 Converses submitted were from people who were either musicians or had once played or studied music professionally
The oldest person I received a response from was 92 years-old ...
... and the youngest was 6 years-old
And through this project I learned that having something which I thought was meaningful to talk about allowed me to give myself permission to reach out to some of my personal heroes and ask them a question — something I otherwise may have been too shy to do.
I got to interview Dorothea Bozicolona Volpe — one of the Keynote speakers from this year’s HOW Design conference — and share a video of our conversation.
I also interviewed shoe expert, Meghan Cleary, about how shoes’ transformative nature far exceeds their superficial reputation. I then published an article from our conversation, outlining thoughts on the intersection of footwear and identity, on Medium.
Overall perhaps the greatest thing I gained was the ability to shine a spotlight on how many brilliant, creative, incredible people there are out there. And to celebrate them and their stories first and foremost. They are what made this project come to life, and the reason that it is beautiful.
Process + Deliverables:
Trend and fashion industry research
Collection and curation of 100 stories
Publication of findings