Slippers are how Ariana Bohling got her foot in the door (yes, literally) of the shoe industry. Fresh out of Pratt Institute’s fashion design program, she took a job making the soft slides for a footwear company, even though she was much, much more interested in getting her hands on some leather. To satisfy the shoemaking urge, she started crafting sandals in her Brooklyn apartment in 2010, with the simple goal of making designs “that felt like me, and could be worn season after season and never go out of style.” Her line of sleek, soft-like-buttah leather boots and sandals was snapped up by local shops, and her apartment was soon buried in piles of in-process pairs (which might sound like a dream come true, but is actually pretty inconvenient).
“I had heard South America was a good place for small independent designers to do production, so I took a vacation in Peru to check it out,” says Ariana. That was five years ago, and now she and business partner Alyson Kurtz spend half their year in Lima overseeing manufacturing (and squeezing as many beach trips as possible). The pair work closely with local artisans and hunt down the best materials for Ariana’s minimalist shoes, and, surprise—a whole array of colorful, cozy slippers. “I’ve come full circle,” notes Ariana. Just goes to show, going in circles isn’t always a bad thing.
BEHIND THE SCENES
With the woman who lived in her shoe factory.
Get Outta Town Take on Lima, Peru, with a Local
Set your sights on South America.