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!
This past weekend I experienced my first international gig performing with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at Jeju Swing Camp in South Korea. In spite of a typhoon imposing itself upon the event, the organizers and dancers persevered and an incredible time was had by all and the sun came out for the last day of the event so that we could have an epic beach party with four bands and dancing on the sand. Following the event, several of the musicians would spend part of a day in Seoul waiting for our flights to various locations – my number one request was that I be able to visit Chloe Hong’s shop, FROMChloeHong.
Over lunch with MG Chris Jung and Scully Heejin Kim, Scully made arrangements with Chloe for me to come by the shop. I found out later that Chloe’s shop is by appointment only and that I was able to get in, perhaps, even before people who live in Seoul could get an appointment! Scully is my new hero, clearly. ❤
I traveled with reed man Keenan McKenzie on all the legs of this journey and he joined me at Chloe’s shop, with a mission to obtain one of Chloe’s legendary trumpet skirts for his wife, swing DJ and dancer Allison Meeks. Scully arranged for a cab to take us to Chloe’s shop and we ended up walking into some sort of laundry facility by accident and probably amusing several Korean women with our confusion and language barrier. Around the corner and up a short flight of stairs we found the shop.
Upon Keenan’s recommendation, the soundtrack to my entrance into Chloe’s shop is Gene Wilder’s rendition of “Pure Imagination,” feel free to cue that up for the rest of this post. Keenan also snapped the photo of me going into the shop, a pleasant surprise!
I often muse about Chloe’s excellent taste – you only get a glimpse of it at the events in the US, with a sampling of the shoes, ready to wear women’s clothing, and custom menswear pieces. Stepping into her shop was personal, an affirmation of her love of vintage style and decor, quality garments and fabrics, personalized goods, and Lindy Hop. Ella Fitzgerald’s dulcet tones greeted me as I walked through the custom painted gold door. The shop was on the smaller side, yet spacious feeling, furnished with early to mid-20th century furniture, vintage haberdashery items, and artwork, including various vintage-inspired Lindy Hop event posters. The chevron stripe wood floor gleamed. A teddy bear sporting one of the reproduction Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers jackets sent me over the edge. Bolts of beautiful fabrics, racks of sample menswear garments with exquisite details, rows of sample shoes to try on, a rack of Chloe’s staple women’s items, and vintage and vintage-inspired accessories completed the offerings in Chloe’s shop. I would also characterize the space a hybrid shop and studio – there was a room to the side I could see through glass that was clearly a sewing workroom. Most of the space functions as a custom menswear studio, where one would come in to be fitted for garments, view and try on sample garments and fabrics, select various cuffs and collars on display that could also be tried on, and once an ensemble was completed or conceived, select carefully curated accessories – vintage ties, Trafalgar braces, vintage cufflinks, tie cips, tie bars, caps, etc. – to complete the look.
The front portion of the shop was dedicated to Chloe’s dance shoe line, both women’s and men’s shoes. The shoes samples could be purchased if the color and size you needed were in the sample stock, but otherwise the shoes were made to order. I purchased my first pair of Chloe’s dance shoes last year at ILHC and they have become my favorite dance shoe, so I made plans to purchase two more pairs in colors I wear most often for dancing. A few weeks ago I had come to the realization that my 1930’s gold shoes were more of a deeper, bolder gold than most modern gold shoes and, of course, Chloe had the perfect leather sample to make just such a shoe so I can now have a dedicated pair for dancing. Does one have a conversation about 1930’s gold leather characteristics with just anyone? My heart sings for Chloe…
Back to our mission, we located a trumpet skirt for Allison – I imagine Chloe’s skirts are in such demand, as there was a limited selection, so don’t feel slighted if you’ve tried to order online only to find out she is out of stock. Everyone wants this skirt! There will be more coming soon, I understand, as well as some lovely trousers that look like they will lay perfectly, move well, and be as durable as the trumpet skirts.
It must be impossible to go into Chloe’s shop and NOT order menswear, so Keenan decided it would be a good idea to order a couple of dress shirts and to get measured in case another purchase may be viable in the future. It was such fun picking out fabrics from the lovely samples, selecting collars, cuffs, embroidery, and details for the shirts. Chloe was a wonderful collaborator, discussing options, allowing for opinions, and making suggestions. The turnaround was predicted to be fast for custom garments, about 3 weeks for the shirts.
While Chloe was working with Keenan, I essentially floated around her shop, absorbing all of her good taste and beautiful things, giving me life and energy and joy. I spotted a cap hanging on the wall I had been seeking for years – black and white tweed with a rainbow fleck. Into the bag it went!
As I finish this post, I realize that Chloe has been on my radar since 2013 and I have known her since shortly after that, seeing her at least annually at dance events in the US. It was thrilling to be able to visit her on her home turf, to visit the bustling city of Seoul that she calls home, and to glimpse into her daily life at her shop/studio. If you find yourself in Seoul, I would highly recommend setting up an appointment and making your way to her shop – it felt like a home away from home.
I can’t find a record of previously blogging about this company, but I was aware of Made in Lindy shoes through several Texas swing dancer acquaintances, who purchased Made in Lindy shoes and recommended them on Facebook a few years ago. Fast forward to 2019 and former Texas/now North Carolina dancer Allison Lemley was wearing a pair of her Made in Lindy shoes at the weekly Lindy Lab dance, so of course we started talking about her shoes. I took a gander at the offerings on the Made in Lindy Facebook page and fell in love with a red pair of Mary Jane heels with a heart cutout – I mean, just look at this cuteness!
Made in Lindy is based in China and the orders are placed via Facebook page chat and payment through PayPal. I had a very helpful exchange with Made in Lindy, where I began by inquiring about a shoe and pricing – the shoes I ordered were $99.00 (including shipping) and the turnaround for an order is about 3.5 weeks for production and delivery. I was offered an array of color options and, even though I wanted the red shoe from the photo, I was even offered two different reds to choose from. I could specify 3cm, 4cm, or 5cm heel height. Customer service asked about my sizing and offered advice. I received a confirmation message when they received my payment and another message when the shoes were shipped with tracking information.
While I still find it a little odd to place orders through Facebook (even though I have done it many times now through Chloe Hong’s Facebook page) it helped to have the recommendation of a friend and that the customer service was so well-done.
Now for the shoes! They arrived a couple of days before Lindyfest (along with an adorable orange satin shoe bag with pink lettering), so of course I packed my brand new pair and a backup pair in case of new shoe blisters. I don’t often get to dance at events anymore because I’m singing, but Lindyfest was a mix of DJ’ing and singing for me, so I got ample dancing in on the two nights I was DJ’ing and not singing. The Made in Lindy shoes were wonderful for mostly Lindy/some Bal and, for the first time in a long time with any pair of shoes, I did not get blisters (which was extra great, since I had forgotten to pack my friction stick). I found the foot bed to be slightly wider than some of my other pairs of dance shoes and the 4 cm heel was comfortable and stable (photo of heel and sole after one night of dancing below). Excited to have a new pair of dance shoes I love in my selection, I may even get over the loss of my beloved Aris Allen wedges (RIP). Would buy again!
The International Lindy Hop Championships is one of those events where, even if you go into it feeling like you don’t have a lot to do, there are so many excellent people around and things to see that this feeling dissipates very quickly. While the vendor area was not as robust as in years past, there were still some new surprises as well as staple vendors to get you some things you may need and some things you may want.
I usually do a trend report, but I’m sad to say that I did not see many of the competitions this year due to both work obligations and time spent with friends outside of the dance. I WILL note that I did see the invitational strictly and, if this is any indicator of trends, white was absolutely a trend this year – white skirts, pants, and even a jumpsuit. White is one of those attention-grabbing colors for competitors and we usually point to shoes as a prime example, i.e. highlighting a dancer’s footwork, so here, let’s say we’re highlighting all those amazing swivels. I also want to give a shoutout to Remy Kouakou Kouame, along those same lines, for wearing a stellar pink suit in a sea of neutrals and for being such a great menswear inspiration to up and coming dancers – I noticed one of the Cleveland Junior Jitterbugs, Jermaine Trevon Donald, competing in pink trousers and one of the sweetest sport coats I’ve seen in a long time (it’s hard to tell from the video, but the fabric is awesome), and coach Valerie Salstrom told me that Remy is a big inspiration to him. Here’s to inspiring dancing and inspiring and eye-catching competition apparel!
Now, on to the vendors!
Victor Celania has been working in custom menswear for years and serving dancers in the Austin, Texas swing dance community, but has only recently started setting up shop at swing dance events under the name of his business, Established Sartorial (which may have the cutest logo ever). I love visiting Victor’s table and seeing and feeling all the wonderful fabric samples. I also love hearing people talk about the kids of garments they want and how they want things to fit – we all have such different bodies, different needs, and different ways that off-the-rack clothing doesn’t work for us. I’ve known Victor for a long time, he has such excellent taste and I’m glad he’s sharing this skill with the rest of the dance community.
Speaking of excellent taste and custom clothing, Chloe Hong was on site and focused on selling her not-quite-flats-not-quite-heels t-strap dance shoes that have become so popular due to their comfort and the array of colors offered – an actual rainbow of options appeared on her table, which I love and adore. This goes without saying, but being able to try on the shoes is so important for us as dancers, so having Chloe at ILHC with shoes in all available sizes to try on was fantastic. I ordered a pair in light gold and I’m so excited to try them out (following a recent purge of 10+-year-old dance shoes that were well past their prime)! She also had a selection of men’s oxfords in more subdued colors with a contrast sole, I would be interested to hear from people how they like dancing in them.
New this year to me was Lucky Lindys NYC, a brand of bloomers made in New York and created by New York dancer Julia Loving. I did not get to speak to Julia in person, but there were no less than three people at her booth, either helping or shopping, who sang the praises of these bloomers as to their comfort and construction, particularly that there is no center seam in the crotch area, eliminating THAT kind of discomfort. If you missed out at ILHC, you can pick up a pair from the Lucky Lindys NYC Etsy shop.
Finally, also new to me, was Dee’s Tees, tee shirt customization and design by Darlene Davis, who would craft, create, and cut your tees on site in any number of ways to effectuate the desired result. Maybe you want a larger neck hole or something off the shoulder, then maybe the shirt becomes an over layer for something interesting underneath. She was using ILHC tees as examples, so you could pick up a tee and walk 10 feet over to Darlene’s table for instant gratification and leave with a one-of-kind shirt. I don’t have a website, but if you are interested in this kind of service at your event, email Darlene at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, Richmond dancers Dave Barry and Cate Rauschenberger set up their Jazz Garden, an array of gently used jazz CDs which they have scavenged in thrift shops and beyond to give this music the second life it deserves in the hands of new owners. I love this idea, very much akin to scavenging/thrifting vintage clothing, and taking it to the next level by collecting a critical mass to sell at an event. Like a good vintage clothing store, Dave and Cate have curated dance-friendly jazz artists and saved you the effort of intense and time-consuming digging. I salute y’all, as I also enjoy the hunt!
I know there was also a massage vendor, but I was never in the area when they were around – I’m happy to update if someone wants to message me with their name and information!