The Journey

Save the Planet, Buy Shoes
By Rachel Lynn

Ericka Prins delights in vegetable-tanned leather, organic hemp handbags, recyclable shoeboxes, and designer shoes with ethical values.

"Boutiques have gained the reputation for specializing in high-quality, hand-made products," said Prins, manager of the Ruby Slipper shoe boutique in the Garland district.

Boutiques hold an individualistic quality that department stores do not, Prins said. The Ruby Slipper lets customers take home one-of-a-kind shoes, all wrapped in organic hemp reusable bags. You can buy Cydwoq vegetable 100 percent tanned-leather shoes, Ananas organic material handbags, or a work of art shoe by Mere.

"At Nordstrom's you are not going to find the same designers or a lot of American made products. The prices you pay here are for the high-end quality and style that you get," Prins said.

Distinctively different, the designers and products found at the boutique are not sold at any other store in Spokane. The shoes and handbags represent eminence and organic materials, all environmentally friendly. Camper, a designer only found at the Ruby Slipper, prides itself with its slogan: "freedom, creativity, and comfort."

Prins said customers come to the Ruby Slipper because they are seeking something different. "The customers who shop here aren't people who want to look rich; they are people who want value and quality," Prins said.

With their hearts and clover designs, the shoes by Cydwoq represent the originality of the store. Rafi Balouzian's Cydwoq designs are drawn from his background in architecture to inspire the funky, classy, and surprising contours and angles. Each pair of shoes is a work of art, handmade with 100 percent vegetable-tanned Italian leather. The shoes are sturdy and have character. Cydwoqs are carefully crafted to ensure exquisite aesthetics. As they are worn, the leather softens and conforms to the wearer's feet.

All of the designers stand for something specific to attract buyers to their shoes. Giraudon Shoes exclaims on its shoebox: "Made for walking on pavement," suggesting that their shoes are more comfortable than most. Jose Saenz designs also advertise the unique comfort of their shoes, their slogan is: "Not style to suffer in, a style to enjoy."

A customer who delights in comfort and high-quality, Lisa Prang has shopped at the Ruby Slipper for about six years. "It's nice to be able to support your community. And the Ruby Slipper offers me designers and shoe brands that I cannot find at any mall that I know."

Spokane designer Shelby Sneva from Spokane, is the creator of don't ask designs. She uses all recycled leather for her line of clutches, wallets, and handbags. The appeal of recycled materials is another quality that draws the "granola crowd" of Spokane to the Ruby Slipper, Prins said.

"It brings in a lot of business, people like being a part of the green movement. It's very hip," she said.

Corsmo Como shoes seeks fair wages for foreign workers. Each recyclable shoebox from Como includes a brochure outlining the company's labor and environmental policies. A portion of each shoe purchase is donated to charity.

Selections of doormats are also sold at the Ruby Slipper. One reads: "Clean your feet and the environment at the same time." The mats are made from surplus foam rubber from the production of flip flop sandals. These colorful and durable doormats recycle material that would otherwise end up at a landfill. The mats are constructed by hand using galvanized metal wire.

Ananas is another designer saving the planet with its products. The company's creator Jennifer Baum Lagdameo has developed her line into a retro-chic collection of both leather and abaca. Coconut shells, mother-of-pearl shells, and polished native woods are organic materials used that show of the brand's natural roots. All Ananas are handmade in New York City.

Prang enjoys the variety and selection of products at the Ruby Slipper. "It's truly an original store. I would recommend it to any shoe enthusiast."