I met shoe designer, Ariana Bohling, at an event at duo earlier in the year. We talked for a bit in the store and I became fascinated by her story. Shortly thereafter, she left for Peru to oversee production of her shoes; I eagerly awaited her return for over 4 months so that I could spend a moment with her to hear more about her process and travels, and to shoot her beautiful shoes. Ariana and her shoes were definitely worth the wait!
When we met at duo, it really inspired me when you explained that you made shoes in your apartment, by hand, until you physically could no longer make the shoes (wow!). How long were you making shoes at home and when was your breakthrough moment when you knew you had to expand?
Ariana: I was making handmade shoes out of my apartment while I still had a full-time job. I would come home from work and make shoes until 12 or 1am, go to bed and then do it all over again the next day. Since I was working so many hours, my weekends were shot!
Here’s a funny story – One February, I had grand jury duty for about a month. After we got released from jury duty each day, at around 3pm, I would go directly home and continue making my spring sandal order, which involved braiding shoes by hand. Had it not been for jury duty, it hit me that I might not have fulfilled my spring order in time! That was a pretty defining moment!
Shortly after we met at duo, you left for Peru for a few months to oversee production. Why did you choose Peru and how does being so closely involved in the production influence your work?
Ariana: It was important to me to find a country with a strong background in making handmade shoes, since that was my background as well. We chose to work with small workshops that follow fair trade practices, paying their employees above minimum wage for the high quality work that they do. It was also important to have thorough communication with the workshop owners to ensure that their values matched ours. We also choose to pay well for good quality.
When you are in Peru, what is your favorite non-work related thing to do/eat/see?
Ariana: I like exploring the outdoors when I’m not in Lima. If I can take a few days off, I like to travel, go to the jungle, go on hikes to waterfalls and to the beach. I still have a lot more exploring to do in Peru! There are a lot of amazing foods in Peru and it is a big foodie destination. You have to love the ceviche, but the tiraditos de pescado is also delicious as well as jugo de maracuya.
Aside from Peru and work, what are some of your hobbies?
Ariana: Yoga, bicycling, reading in Spanish, reading the NY Times online until I run out of the allotted 10 free articles, listening to WNYC religiously, going to farmers markets and cooking
Who are some artists that influence you?
Ariana: I could go on forever! Here are a few artists I like: Frida Kahlo, Elliot Tupac, Kathleen Hanna, Vincent Van Gough, Leonardo da Vinci, Tego Calderon, Manu Chao, India Arie, Haider Ackermann and Jil Sander