Fashion Citizen x Aaron “El Fuego” Firestein of Bucketfeet
I've long been an admire of independent designers and brands and Bucketfeet has been on my radar for quite sometime. Recently, the company has taken on giving designers in South America a canvas via their shoes and the results are pretty dope. I picked the brain of one half of the Bucketfeet duo, Aaron Firestein to find out more...
Fashion Citizen : How did Bucketfeet go from your shoe customizing business to where it is today?
Aaron Firestein : It all started with me selling a pair of hand-designed Chuck Taylor's to my now business partner and the CEO of BucketFeet, Raaja Nemani. It was the combination of our two skill sets (mine being the creative, his being the business know how) that set BucketFeet on the path that it's on now.
FC : You and your co-founder Raaja have such adventurous backgrounds from your moving to Argentina after college to become a photographer to Raaja's great white shark diving excursions, how does that come into play with how you run Bucketfeet?
AF : When I moved to Argentina, I didn't really know what I was going to do. I kind of just went on a whim. I knew I wanted to stay busy so I decided to volunteer with a great group that works with kids in the villas (slums) on the outskirts of the city. Raaja was traveling the world after quitting his job and decided to do the same thing in Argentina. That's how we met. Pretty serendipitous, right? I think how it comes to play is that we believe in giving back, being adventurous and looking for beauty everywhere and anywhere.
FC : The designs and general feel of the Bucketfeet brand seems to be one of cultural awareness, fun and fresh ideas. What's the design process like for a new shoe?
AF : We really pride ourselves on not being "art shoes". We design shoes that revolve around art from around the world while still keeping the idea that you can wear them anywhere. We love to collaborate with the best artists - it doesn't matter where they're from and we hope to spread their message using footwear as the platform.
We get art submitted all the time and it's really up to us to see if it fits the brand. There's no real recipe for this, it's usually just a gut instinct. Fortunately for us, most people that send us ideas, truly get what we're all about so it makes it a really tough decision to move forward with some artists and not with others.
FC : In keeping with the last question, how did you all come up with the idea to feature the guest designers from south american countries?
AF : I worked as a photographer for a while when I was living in Buenos Aires. I got commissioned to do a photo project in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where I was to be shadowing graffiti artists from the favelas of the city. It's not normal for an outsider to get to go around these places and be immersed in the street art scene. It was an amazing experience for me and I became good friends with a lot of the guys I met along the way. When we decided to launch this brand, I thought it would be really cool to incorporate other artists that I know and help them get the exposure they deserve.
We now are working with 4 artists from Rio, one from Buenos Aires, one from Oakland, CA and one from Chicago. We are also in talks with artists from many other places around the world.
FC : Bucketfeet is such a vibrant brand with whether it be displayed through the bright colors on the shoes or the eye catching graphics on those same shoes, how do you keep the energy up with your designs season after season?
AF: It's not hard. I think what's interesting is that I'm an artist that really got his chops from drawing or painting on shoes. Now I'm playing around more with traditional canvases, but I really think my skill lies in shoe design. I look at art and I say to myself, how can I turn this into a shoe you've never seen before but will want to buy. Once again, no real method to the madness but that's usually what happens.
FC : Where can we expect the Bucketfeet brand to expand over the next 5 years?
We are in about 45 retail locations now in 5 countries. In 5 years, we hope to be in 450 in 25 countries. We're growing like crazy and people are really starting to catch on to what we're all about. We hope to have a roster of at least 100 artists and who knows, maybe we'll even branch out into other lines of apparel. We definitely have some ideas...