InnerViews: A Creative Interview with Ann Roth
This InnerView features Atlanta-based actor and designer, Ann Roth. Ann creates custom designed shoes for women and was voted best local designer in the SP Sunday Best Reader's 2007 Choice Awards. Her unique shoes are available exclusively through nationally selected boutiques.
JJLJ: Hello Ann - Welcome to this session of InnerViews!
AR: Thanks so much, Jennifer. I'm honored that you picked me!
JJLJ: How did you become a shoe designer?
AR: Well, shoe design sort of found me. I was in a play several years ago, and my dance shoe came apart. My dance partner gave me some super-strong glue to fix it, and that night I thought it might be cool to also glue buttons and bows to existing shoes in my closet. That led to covering a pair of old leather mules in fabric, and then taking apart a few pairs to see how they were made. Shoe design and learning about shoe construction became an obsession of sorts, so I spent every free moment researching and reading anything I could about it. During these months of experimenting and research, I came across a pair of fabric shoes in a magazine and fell in love. I woke up several days later with a vision of blue toile espadrilles with silver sequins. I went to the fabric store that day, bought some blue toile, and went to work creating what I had envisioned. I wore these shoes everywhere I could, and soon friends and family were asking for their own creations. One of these friends (Sabrina Sexton) suggested I go into business and offered to create my website and take some photos (she is unbelievably talented). I never questioned it- I just knew that was what I was supposed to do, so I went for it. I quickly learned that I needed manufacturing help because my grandma's sewing machine just couldn't do everything I wanted it to. So, after several more months of research and talking to everyone I could, I found a manufacturer and sent them my prototypes. I launched my website in March of '06 and quit my full-time office job that June. It's been an amazing ride ever since.
JJLJ: What continues to be a source of inspiration for your work?
AR: EVERYTHING. My method in shoe design as well as acting is to keep my eyes wide open and try and absorb every experience and sight that I can. Then, when it comes time to do the 'work', I just allow what's inside me to come out and be translated into whatever it is I happen to be working on. It's always surprising to see what happens. But as far as tangible inspirations, I have met so many other designers and artists whose passion and positive energy totally keeps me going. I love reading biographies and trade journals, so I'm also inspired by most any kind of entrepreneur. And of course, I look up to so many shoe designers throughout history: Salvatore Ferragamo, who created his first pair of shoes for his mom when he was twelve because she didn't have any nice shoes to wear to church. That is my favorite and reminds me that humble beginnings often lead to the greatest discoveries and creations.
JJLJ: Is there anyone who has played a significant role in your career?
AR: Oh my goodness - who hasn't? If it weren't for the wonderful encouragement from family, friends, customers, boutiques, the press --- pretty much anyone who has liked my shoes has helped me get to where I am now. I am so thankful for each and every one of them. But I must give a special shout-out to two people: Sabrina, my friend and web designer/ photographer who not only believed in me from the very beginning, but has also contributed to my success because her pictures and web design are just so darn good. And also my husband Randy who believed in me enough to encourage me to quit my day job last year and pursue shoes full-time. He has been everything from my box painter to my accountant, business partner and coach, and best friend. He's one in a million.
JJLJ: What are you currently working on?
AR: I'm currently partnering with Coleccion Luna on a shoe made of vintage fabric recycled from skirts and clothing in Guatemala. Each pair is unique and slightly different and 20% of all the sales will go to WIN NOW, a non-profit organization that supports charitable causes in Latin American countries. Right now they are teamed up with CARE International to help stop the cycle of poverty in Guatemala City. We're calling the shoe 'Cha-Cha Chica' because it's fun and sassy but with Latin roots that help a great cause.
'Cha-Cha Chica' © Ann Roth Shoes
JJLJ: How do you see your work influencing others?
AR: I hope that I inspire others to pursue their creative dreams in one way or another. Not everyone has to start a business (I wouldn't wish it on just anyone), but I try to encourage folks to find a way to take that art class, learn to belly dance, or travel to India if that's their dream. You only go around once in this life, and I believe we are meant to live each day to the fullest.
JJLJ: What is the strangest or funniest comment or question you've ever gotten about your work?
AR: Hmmm... I guess I haven't had a whole lot strange or funny questions. My favorites though, are the custom design requests that are really personal and unique. Like one lady wanted a shoe with a southwest theme, so I used a serepe fabric and embellished them with leather ties and turquoise beads. When a good friend got certified for scuba diving, I did a pair of 'divers down' shoes with the red and white flag on the toe and little glass fish dangling from the heel. I've done pirate-themed shoes, owl shoes, even a 'rhinestone cowboy' shoe of faux python with a huge feather and a rhinestone buckle on the toe. These one-of-a-kind creations are my favorite and I think it's absolutely endless what can be done.
JJLJ: What is your idea of personal success?
AR: I feel most successful when I have had a productive day, have inspired someone or have been inspired. That and having some money in the bank, some to enjoy, and some to give away - I'd call that success.
JJLJ: Are there any links you would like to share?
AR: Wow - how many can I list? For starters, www.beehiveco-op.com is a store in Atlanta that carries all local designers. Everything from shoes to clothing to lamps, jewelry, belts, home decor - there's even a girl who makes homemade cupcakes everyday and delivers them. It's a pretty neat store and a lot of my fellow designer friends were introduced to me there. Katriesa Raines is a good friend and fantastic clothing designer - she introduced me to the Beehive. Her line is Olive - www.olivestyle.com - and she does the most adorable dresses and jackets I've ever seen. There are a few other designers not at the Beehive I'd like to share: www.coleccionluna.com - she has her bags made in Guatemala from vintage dresses and hand-loomed fabric. She supports several sewing co-ops there and has even started a non-profit called Word In Need Now that supports charitable causes in Latin American countries. There's also www.barijonline.com out of San Francisco - super cute handbags made from patchwork and fabric strips - she adds vintage brooches to every bag so each one is unique. I also just met Lynn of www.lyloudesigns.com. She's in Athens, GA. Fun, user-friendly bags made of cool fabric. I like the slightly bohemian vibe of them since I am a closet hippie myself! Gosh - I seem to be doing all handbags. I guess I like fabric a whole lot! And of course I have to repeat - www.sabrinasexton.com - my fabulous photographer and friend - she is hands down one of the best photographers I've seen and so humble about it.
JJLJ: Thank you, Ann for contributing to InnerViews. We wish you continued success and look forward to following your career (and wearing your designs!)....
AR: Thank you so much! I can't wait to read the future InnerViews! What a great idea.
For more information on Ann's work, please visit her website.