For months now, Andy and I've been stomping around in our lace-ups by George Esquivel, and loving them with each wear. It's hard to resist the comfort and look of a beautifully crafted handmade shoe. I frequently joke I'm going to toss out all of my footwear–the Demeulemeester heels, Louboutin stilettos, Chanel flats, Viv Westwood boots–in exchange for a dozen pairs of Esquivels. (Ok, the Birks stay, too).
I'm not the only fashion-minded gal doing such sole searching. George is among the 10 talented finalists of the 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. The endowment comprises of industry mentoring and investment cash–$200k for the winner and $50k for two runners up. There is also a full page of each designer in the November issue of Vogue. Singer Janelle Monáe is featured with George in a pair of wicked black and white lace-ups (and following a prominently featured pair of pink and chocolate wingtips in the May issue). We love the family portrait and q+a by the magazine's Jane Herman.
Winning, obviously, isn't the end all and be all. Four years ago, finalist Isabel Toledo lost to runners up Derek Lam and Thom Browne and winner Trovata. But none of them dress the First Lady. Like Isabel, George, a self-taught shoe maker, has stayed true to his craftsmanship these many years, which is why he counts an avid following among rock stars and pro basketball players alike. While all the finalists have their own deserving reasons to take the top prize–and, let's face it, the winner has always been a clothing designer–George has the chops to create a luxury brand. With a little help, it could come sooner than later.
George and his fellow finalists were feted a couple of weeks ago at the West Village townhouse of Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Since Google is this year's sponsor, the search engine's Marissa Mayer was the night's guest of honor and the designers were previously charged with created Google-inspired pieces. George dressed his model for the night, Kemp Muhl, in colorful "Google shoes" with search box back tags.
The pre-celebration continues this Thursday in Los Angeles at Satine. Meet George and his right-hand Albert Yeh, and check out the latest Esquivel collection.
The 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winners will be announced on November 16.
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