I can’t imagine how much work goes into starting a dance shoe company, but add a pandemic layer of difficulty and it goes into the realm of incomprehensible. Applejacks‘ proprietor Jenna Applegarth and her regular teaching partner Jon Tigert have been having weekly live Facebook chats and, luckily, the day I was able to tune in Jenna had an update on her line of shoes. Two important updates:
1) The Greenwood is finally here! The prototype has been photographed and passed around, salivated over, and loved in advance as Jenna worked on launching this shoe for what seemed like an eternity, but quality is paramount and I trusted that Jenna would bring us this shoe when it was ready for dancer consumption. It’s one of those shoes that has wide appeal – low heel for comfort, t-straps for security, darling cutouts, and cheerful two-tone colors (pink/burgundy, teal/hot pink,yellow/royal blue). Note that the Greenwood is named for the thriving black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was the epicenter of the Tulsa race riots (made known to contemporary pop culture in the incredible Watchmen series on HBO – highly recommended).
2) The Eldorado is a dance boot based on a pair of boots Jon owns (owned? danced to extinction?) – how incredible to fall in love with a shoe and be able to replicate it after it is no longer available? It really is a dream and I’m eager to hear reviews of the Eldorado, as it looks solid, comfortable, a shoe you can really live in. Available in brown, burgundy, and dark blue.
I believe Jenna discussed this in the Facebook live session, but all of these shoes are intended to double as street shoes, which is what the original Lindy Hoppers and Balboa dancers did – they wore their street shoes for dancing. Obviously, you can save your shoes and they will last longer, but if you really love the comfort and look, what are you saving them for? I’ve been wearing my Re-mix shoes as street shoes for years and, unless you’re coming out of the rain, it all works out in the end. With dancing pretty far on the horizon for those of us who don’t have a dance partner in our household/safe circle, it helps to know that you can enjoy these shoes now and not be sad about saving them for a future dance event. Missing all of you terribly!
I attended my very first California Balboa Classic – aka Cal Bal – last month and I’d say I don’t know what took me so long, but I have another hobby that managed to conflict with this event year after year. I made the decision to choose Cal Bal this year and Cal Bal did such a great job welcoming me with open arms that I didn’t want to leave. It’s also the first event I’ve attended in several years that I was not hired as a musician, so there was ample time for dancing between DJ shifts, which I have sorely missed and desperately needed.
To set the vendor scene, you need to understand the layout of the hotel – this is a hotel event, but this is not your typical hotel. The Hyatt Regency Newport Beach is more of a complex, with lovely outdoor spaces connecting separate buildings, taking advantage of what are usually mild temperatures in southern California. The ballroom was a separate building within the hotel complex and to enter the ballroom, one had to walk down a little path and through a large covered-but-open-to-the-air space. It was a bit chilly at night, so the covered outdoor space had some temporary walls and heaters, as well as couches for sitting (basking) under said heaters, a snack station, a cash bar, and all the vendors for the event. Had the temps at night been a little warmer, the vendor location would have been truly ideal – during the day it was lovely.
Cal Bal had some great merch this year – you’ve already seen my post about the Kendra Dandy designed scarves and pocket squares, and there were also pins, bags, and tee shirt designs (one even featuring the Rendezvous Ballroom). I was elated to see a green tee shirt with musicians on it, so that came home with me! If you aren’t sure how to style your large Kendra Dandy Cal Bal scarf, Cleveland dancer and instructor Alexis Davila posted an awesome/adorable/creative video on Facebook of several different ways to wear it on your head – I believe you can still order one, it looks they are up on the Cal Bal web store.
At this point, I’m blessed that Re-mix Vintage Shoes owner Philip Heath knows me by sight and always gives me a little tidbit to keep me coming back for more. This year, the buzz was the production of a gold Opera model, which had previously been relegated to suede (which I don’t prefer to try to maintain) – since metallics are my go-to neutral, this was a delightful new development and I was excited that this particular model fit my particular feet, having never previously tried on any Opera model.
I didn’t notice the new addition to the men’s shoes (maybe a Fairway or a variation thereof? I’m not seeing it on the website) until Nicholas Centino posted the photo below of their gloriousness, but there’s a new two tone brown oxford with perforations that is so subtle and lovely. I’m also not seeing them on the Re-mix website, so pick up that phone…
Next stop in the circle of vendors was the new-to-me Swankys Vintage, who appeared to have mostly menswear and some women’s items, with a mix of Swankys reproductions and vintage clothing, with a very 1940’s/50’s California aesthetic in terms of styling and color palette. The reproductions were almost seamless with the vintage at first glance, the textures, fabrics, and colors were so spot on. Lots of clothing that evoked comfort, ease, and fun, as well as some really nice looking classics, like tweed trousers with a buckle back. It was so nice to see more of a focus on menswear, which tends to be minimal to non-existent in terms of vending at events.
I’ll also give an honorable mention to the gent who set up a mostly vintage men’s shop for Saturday night, who I asked for a business card and he said this was his last vending spot ever and that he was liquidating his collection and selling it to another vintage seller. It is hard work running these vendor spots/booths at events, carting around inventory, being present to run the shop, paying vendor fees and for hotel rooms, so my hat’s off to all the vendors – whether you’re still in the game or getting out, this is an important part of events and I’m appreciative of everyone who shows up.
I’m always excited to see Jenna Applegarth‘s Applejacks shoes at events, as I’ve probably learned more from her than anyone about the extensive and often frustrating process of designing, producing, and shipping dance shoes – I’m completely invested in this storyline and here for all subsequent chapters. Remember that this is a labor of love each time you buy a dance shoe made by swing dancers for swing dancers! I know several of us are eagerly anticipating the new models (I swear I saw green on Instagram), but the models out right now are particularly well-suited to Balboa. One of my friends noted that she didn’t necessarily know what she’d wear with the rose gold shoes, but that they felt so good on her feet that it didn’t matter. Good thing metallics are neutrals!
Next up in our tour of vendors was Swingbird Fashions, who I have previously blogged about in terms of an Etsy shop, but since that post this brand has expanded greatly and wonderfully. I am terribly sad that I was not able to meet the creator of these garments, Leea Kuronen from Denver, Colorado (it’s hard to be at your booth at every minute of the day, I completely understand) because I was smitten with everything – the colors, the fabric selection, and all the lovely details. There’s this one green dress with white soutache detail that is absolutely to-die-for – I saw both Teni Lopez-Cardenas and Heather Ballew had purchased one of these dresses and wore them in competitions that very weekend. It’s an I NEED TO WEAR THIS NOW kind of dress! Lovely trousers, skirts, blouses, and dresses all around – this corner of the room made me smile.
Across the room Loco Lindo represented with their line of crepe printed dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, and, of utmost importance, their Venice Beach clip dress, recreated from the one worn by Genevieve Grazis in said clip, she of the many gored twirly skirt. It’s honestly super gratifying to see a whole line of them on a rack, knowing the history behind the dress and the process of getting this dress reproduced – get your twirl on and your shuffle on, let’s do this! On a related note, I’m sad I missed the crunchy sound of shuffling on sand the Monday of Cal Bal where everyone met on the beach near the site of the former Rendezvous Ballroom – living that beach clip dream…
Sharing the space with Loco Lindo was Jen Gomez of Bandini St., who typically also shares a space at Camp Hollywood. It’s a great idea, to share space, share labor, and have that symbiotic relationship of pairing dresses with hair accoutrements immediately. This is probably going to be super personal to my preferences, but I was particularly happy to see pairs of hair flowers that were an ideal size (Goldilocks here, not too big, not too small…), flat – but with enough texture to be interesting, and a color gradient so that it goes with various shades of whatever color it represents. VERY SPECIFIC. I need to go through my closet to see what I might need, as these are available on the Bandini St. Etsy shop in several colors.
Finally, we’ve reached the lovely Saint Savoy booth at Cal Bal, with a candy colored array of heels and flats. While their Riviera model remains the most popular and is available in a wide array of colors, I heard lots of talk about their oxfords for women being particularly comfortable. A few other notes: 1) I’m pretty sure their Grace shoe in Neptune is one of the most beautiful dance shoes ever made. I own a pair and I only wear them for singing because I would Gollum-style freak out if anything ever happened to them; 2) I’m having feelings about their The Whip oxford in Mulled Wine because I had a pair of Doc Martens in high school with a similar color gradient and broguing (a whole different level of nostalgia); and 3) it was nice to see their Grand Prix t-strap dance flat in person – loving all the variety in heel heights, thank you, more of this from dance shoe makers, please. 🙂
And that’s a wrap – I hope I haven’t missed anyone! I loved all the vendors, thank you again for your time and energies in attending Cal Bal and creating products with the swing dance community in mind.
This post may be premature, but I have been eagerly anticipating Jenna Applegarth’s line of swing dance shoes since I first saw her post about this business endeavor on Facebook. A lot of people ask me about shoes and visit this blog for information about dance shoes, but Jenna is THE source, the person I know who knows about all the brands popping up all over the globe because she is traveling to teach at these places and trying out the shoes, but also because she has excellent taste, she cares about the shoes, and gives detailed feedback about the fit, look, materials, and functionality shoes.
I say premature because the Applejacks website does not have any shoes listed for sale, but Jenna has slowly been releasing posts about her work and, this week on the Applejacks Facebook page, photos of some of the shoes she has designed. I couldn’t wait, you all need to know about this, and be sure to follow the Applejacks Facebook page for release updates.
From the Applejacks about page:
“Applejacks shoes are designed by dancers, for dancers. We want you to not only look good, but to feel good. To be able to stay on the dance floor all night and still walk back to your hotel. Our shoes are designed to help your body stay aligned and balanced. Room for your toes, secure on your ankles and happiness on your feet. We believe that Applejacks represents a fresh take on comfort and design.
We know feet are as unique as personalities, which is why we don’t believe in “one size (style) fits all.” That means we know our shoes may not work for everyone. But that is ok, because we founded this company to help fill in the gaps from the other companies already in business. Fit the feet that weren’t being fitted 🙂 Which means if our shoes don’t work for you, that is ok – they may fit your friends and family instead! And you can always check out some of the other great shoe companies out there with a different fit.
We have a goal to help reduce unnecessary waste, maintain high industry standards and choose sustainable durable materials. What that means for you:
Simple labels – It gets thrown away anyway, so we only label what we need to.
Minimal packaging – From the factory to you, we do our best to only use what is needed.
No shoe bags automatically – but 1 free for every pair on request!
Leatherwork follows German PCP Regulations
Fair working conditions
Non-gendered/Non-roled sizing and styles
We are still working on building our brand and identity. We appreciate your feedback, and we hope you travel along with us on our journey.”
I love this approach and I can’t wait to see more from Jenna’s company. I also have some nerdy glee about the company name being so perfect with Jenna’s last name and being one of my favorite jazz steps. Here are the three previews released this week, from L-R: the Greenwood in teal, the Seneca in rose gold/silver, and the Seneca in purple.