Love Jules Leather steps into shoes
Life is pretty sweet for Josh Blodans and Jules Vagelatos. The young, indie-spirited couple spend their mornings carving up Whistler Mountain and their evenings carving up one-of-a-kind leather goods for their accessories label, Love Jules Leather—which they run out of Vagelatos’s parents’ garage located in the world-class ski resort.
They started out crafting smaller pieces, such as the totally rad artisan belts that they still carry to this day. But Vagelatos, the creative force behind the business, soon grew bored of the limitations that such a small canvas offered her and her trusty wood-burning pen. That’s why they made the decision to expand into shoes, but first they had to figure out what shoe to do.
“We were like, ‘Man, we kinda wanna do something footwear-wise—but not a moccasin and not a finely handcrafted men’s shoe, either, because to do a finely crafted men’s shoe, you really have to apprentice in cobbling and Jules is a leathersmith,” says Blodans, who handles the business end of their label. He recently sat down with the Straight at a Vancouver café during one of his work-related day trips to the city. “We wanted to start off easy and not bite off more than we could chew.”
With that in mind, they created a funked-up version of the topsider they’ve coined the Westsider. And it’s gorgeous. The red acid-washed Italian lambskin leather style ($250), for example, is cut like a classic Sperry but way more rock ’n’ roll.
For more of an Aboriginal vibe, the Navajo-inspired tan-and-light-brown shoes with hand-etched images of bald eagles on the upper toes ($275) are pretty awesome, too. Then there are the lace-up high-tops. Among my faves here are the distressed tan-leather boat booties with turquoise Pendleton fabric detailing on the sides and western pistol imagery hand-etched on the upper toes ($350). Each style is a unique piece of art in its own right. But that doesn’t mean the twosome have mastered shoemaking quite yet.
“Things still go sideways,” says Blodans with a laugh. “Like, I’m not going to lie to you—there’s a lot of wonky shoes in the studio right now. Because everything is so hand-everything and there’s so many working parts in these shoes, there are inconsistencies. I mean, everything is hand-cut and hand-stitched. So there is pressure. It’s really time-intensive.”
But people seem to appreciate all the work that goes into each pair. In fact, the addition of shoes has taken their “two-person leather factory” to another level.
“It was kind of like a game changer for us,” says Blodans of Love Jules Leather, which you can buy online or at several local boutiques, including Sitka Vancouver (1864 West 4th Avenue). “Over the last eight months, we’ve really started to feel a momentum. Every month we get more and more online sales. The One of a Kind Show [last December] was amazing—it gave us a lot of exposure. And just more and more people are talking about us. We’re at that tipping point where demand is almost exceeding supply, which has never happened before.”
So now the challenge is to keep up with orders without sacrificing all their ski time. After all, what’s the point in living in Whistler if you don’t have the chance to take advantage of the surrounding slopes?
They’re not complaining, mind you. As Blodans points out, even if they only get a little bit of skiing in in the morning before heading back to the studio to work well into the night, they’ve still got it pretty good.