Monday, May 25, 2009

Bernardo: The Father of Modern Day Sandals




Strolling down Magazine Street in the heart of New Orleans on a sunny, warm Sunday afternoon with my 15 year old daughter, popping in and out of the many boutiques and galleries that line this historic rue ... heaven. One gem stood out among the many.


Bella Rouge is a fun, flirty, trendy boutique which stocks collections from designers like Martinez Valero, Charles David, Sam Edelman, clothing by Lauren Conrad, jewelry by local designers, and finishing touches from Rebecca Minkoff handbags & travel sets by Stephanie Johnson. In their display of chic shoes, however, one designer prominently draws your attention over the others - Bernardo. I left without buying a pair (why do we do such things), but I'm going back for them, that I can tell you with much excitement.


Bernard Rudofsky (1905 – 1988) was a noted architect and structural engineer, but what few people know, is that this architect changed the fashion world.

Rudofsky spent many years designing and building structures in Europe and later spent decades as an academic serving at Yale, MIT and other universities. He also authored 10 books, covering the subjects of architecture, design and travel.

But it was his work as a social commentator and critic of modern day cultures that led the way to his best selling book Are Clothes Modern. This book is an essay on contemporary apparel of the 1940’s and it eventually led the way to the advent of today’s modern day sandals.

In 1944, Rudofsky’s book became the subject matter of an exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was through this exhibit that the public first saw what was considered, at the time, REVOLUTIONARY sandal designs.

Rudofsky believed that the, so called, “modern contemporary” apparel and footwear were actually not modern or contemporary, but were rather restrictive, even deforming to our bodies and feet, much like the body transformation practices of ancient cultures.

Appearing, of course, in this exhibit were Rudofsky’s “alternative” designs. These designs incorporated his “freedom and lifestyle” concept. The clothing most certainly freed the body, but his sandal designs not only freed the foot, they also opened the eyes and minds of those who loved fashion. As a result, Rudofsky’s sandal designs soon enjoyed tremendous commercial success while launching a “sandal revolution”.

Rudofsky designed 3 to 4 collections a year while his wife Berta ran the company on a day to day basis and together they ran their company “Bernardo” for a number of years before eventually selling it. By that time the sandal revolution was in full swing. Bernardo, the company they started together, became the country’s most successful sandal company throughout the 1960’s and 70’s.

Recognizing Rudofsky’s work and contribution to the sandal world, Rudofsky was credited for the advent of the modern day sandal by Harper’s Bazaar magazine in an article appearing in March of 1967 entitled “Rat-a-Tat-Tat Shoes on the March”.

Published in 2003 was the biography Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky written by Andrea Bocco Guarneri. This biography chronicles Rudofsky’s life, his works and contributions to design and fashion.

In 2007 The Getty Center in Los Angeles, in association with Architekturzentrum Wien in Vienna, launched the opening of an exhibit entitled Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky. This exhibit opened in Vienna during March of 2007, then traveled to Canada before opening at The Getty Center in Los Angeles on March 11th 2008. This exhibit not only chronicled Rudofsky’s life and work, it led the way to a second biography, Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky Life as a Voyage.



Bernardo's iconic sandals: the miami, the mistral and the milly

As documented in both biographies as well as the exhibit, Rudofsky’s concepts, theories and criticisms are as relevant today as they were in the 1940’s. The same is true for his sandal designs, which have stood the test of time. He not only designed the traditional flat sandal construction, that Bernardo is so famous for, but three of his original sandal designs are still amongst Bernardo’s top volume styles each year. These styles, the Miami, Mistral and Milly are a testament to Rudofsky’s design genius. Over 60 years later these designs are discovered each and every year by new generations of young woman believing they have just discovered the “latest fashion” and the truth is, they have.

Check out Bernardo footwear online. There you'll discover the love numerous celebrities share for the brand as well, including Reese Witherspoon, Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner, Faith Hill, Hillary Duff and many more. These shoes rock!

1 comment:

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