'It's been quite staggering': John Fluevog says interest in Dr. Bonnie Henry shoe overwhelming

Named after B.C.’s provincial health officer, the pink pump goes on sale this week, with proceeds going to food banks

Named after B.C.’s provincial health officer, the pink pump goes on sale this week, proceeds to food banks

John Fluevog Shoes is releasing a limited edition shoe, inspired by British Columbia’s chief provincial health officer — an avid Fluevogger — Dr. Bonnie Henry. (John Fluevog)

What started as fun idea to honour B.C.'s top health official has snowballed into something much larger, says legendary Canadian shoe designer John Fluevog.

Dr. Bonnie Henry is the provincial health officer for British Columbia, and in recent weeks, she has won broad acclaim for her calm and effective handling of the COVID-19 crisis, and for her unmistakably warm and empathic demeanour.

In fact, her new celebrity has reached such heights people are sending her fan mail, artists are painting portraits, and musicians are writing songs.

But in her daily briefings, people began noticing something else about Dr. Henry: she has an incredible collection of shoes — many of which are "Fluevogs."

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry sporting a pair of Fluevog shoes. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

This week, a limited edition Fluevog design is hitting the market with a very special moniker — the Dr. Bonnie Henry — and so far the response has been overwhelming.

'We need to honour her'

Fluevog said he began hearing from more and more people who noticed she was wearing her shoes; then he began hearing that her collection was extensive. Then the online groundswell to name a shoe for her grew.

"It was the community and my staff going, 'John we need to do something for her. We need to honour her.' And in a sense, to me, it's more like honouring all of the health-care workers," says Fluevog in an interview with q host Tom Power.

"I know she stands out. But it's everybody who's behind the scenes working. And it's just our little way as a company to do something."

The Dr. Bonnie Henry shoe is stamped with the phrase that Henry has repeated again and again: “Be kind, be calm and be safe.” (John Fluevog)

The shoe is red and pink with a round toe and rubber sole ("so they're practical," says Fluevog) and the inside is stamped with the phrase Henry has repeated again and again: "Be kind, be calm and be safe."

The shoes will retail for $339 Cdn, will all presale proceeds going to Food Banks BC, a charity selected by Henry herself. Pre-sales begin at 4 p.m. Pacific on Thursday, April 23 at the John Fluevog website.

So far the interest has been overwhelming, and the shoes — which won't arrive from the manufacturer until August or later — are expected to sell out quickly, with would-be buyers contacting the company from across North America and around the world.

"It's been quite staggering, I have to say, how it is has just snowballed. There's been so much activity, it's kind of driving the staff who are manning our phones a little crazy," says Fluevog with a laugh.

'I had no idea what a big deal it would become'

The designer hasn't spoken with Henry directly, but he heard through his marketing manager that she's thrilled.

"It's win-win-win. It's a win for her and health-care workers. They get a bit of praise. We get to give money to something that is very worthy. And my staff are over the moon about it," says Fluevog.

“It has just banded everyone together," says Vancouver designer John Fluevog of the release of the Dr. Henry Shoe. "Honestly, I had no idea what a big deal it would become.” (John Fluevog)

"It has just banded everyone together. Honestly, I had no idea what a big deal it would become."

But not only is Henry a big fan of Fluevogs; it turns out that, like so many other British Columbians, Fluevog is a big fan of Henry too.

"She says some wonderful things — like she says, 'Be kind.' Who says that? 'Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.' Those are things that we need to hear because it's a time of fear. I think fundamentally we're fearful because things have changed so much — and we as humans don't like fear. It's as if she kind of nails down what our human needs are," says Fluevog.

"It's not like, 'Do this, do that.' She's telling us to care for each other and be calm and be part of a community — and in times like this, I find that very reassuring. It's great."

Written and produced by Jennifer Van Evra.

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