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Sole Survivor

Redesigned Earth Shoe is making strides in niche market


Fashion's retro infatuation has become a long-lasting love affair. The latest relic to resurface is the Earth Shoe, that funny-looking, sunken-heeled phenomenon of the 1970s.

The brand was relaunched for the fall 2001 season, after a 25-year hiatus, but without the iconic styles that made them famous. After customers clamored for the authentic looks, the Earth footwear company decided to reissue similar styles this fall.

"People were yelling at us--'How could you do this and not bring back the original designs?' " said Executive Vice President Charles Liberge. "People were sending us pictures of their original '70s shoes and asking us for copies."

The shoes aren't exact replicas, but are modernized versions of the stiff, original design by Danish yoga teacher Anne Kalso. New styles borrow materials and technology from athletic shoes and include an innovative solution to the problematic width question--a set of insoles, one thick and one thin, that helps customize the fit. The toe boxes are less square and the overall look is more European athletic, less granola-eating geek.

The new shoes still offer Kalso's "negative heel technology," which positions the heel about 1/4-inch lower than the toes to create a stance that mimics bare feet walking in sand.

The fall collection offers 31 styles for women and 23 for men; retail prices are from $99 to $159--far above the 1974 prices of $23.50 to $42.50.

The funky little shoes earned their moniker on April 1, 1970, when importers Raymond and Eleanor Jacobs opened their first shoe store in Manhattan, coincidentally in the midst of the first Earth Day celebration. Eleanor hand-lettered a sign advertising "earth shoes" and the name stuck. The company grew to 110 shops, and competitors cashed in with millions of imitations. By 1977, the company had gone out of production.

The new Earth Shoes are selling in nine countries and 500 stores, including the Walking Company in Santa Monica and Fine Kicks, Boulevard Footwear and Neo 39, all on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. The company doubled its $1-million sales goal in its first season, and the 2002 sales are expected to be $6 million. Liberge says the company is on track to make it, one low-heeled step at a time.

Letting Your Hair Down

Chaz Dean is a healthy hair evangelist who has remade many a head of straw-like hair into shiny tresses with his no-shampoo, "cleansing conditioner" Wen hair products.

When the hairstylist moved his operations from Bel-Air to an unglamorous stretch of Fountain Avenue in Hollywood more than three years ago, some loyal clients wondered if he had suds on the brain.

But Dean has become a voice for the power of rehabilitation--he just didn't stop at hair. He was one of several pioneers leading the gentrification of his end of Hollywood, just down the block from Amoeba Records.

The professional photographer and intermittent landscaper has been remaking three Craftsman houses into a beauty-and-spa compound that gives the feeling of an urban hideaway.

He has devoted an entire house to his latest project, a new boutique stocked with exotic home decorations and subtly scented body products.

The shop is full of Moroccan glassware, tea sets, sushi platters, candles, jewelry and, of course, his newly expanded Wen hair and body products.

Webby Award

Photographer David McIntyre and makeup artist Kelley Quan were presented with a Webby Award for their online fashion magazine at the June awards ceremony., which was launched two years ago, won for its originality and ease of navigation--words not often associated with anything regarding fashion.

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