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Clog Designer Looks to Make 'Grandma' Shoes Trendy

By Sonja Sharp | July 20, 2012 7:12am | Updated on July 20, 2012 1:58pm

CROWN HEIGHTS — Forget the strappy sandal and the espadrille — the hot fashion item of a Crown Heights summer is becoming the wooden shoe.

Neighborhood designer Nina Ziefvert's line of clogs is being sold at markets and stores around the city, and they're stomping their mark on the season's fashion.

"I think women see functionality, because you can pretty much wear them throughout the day," Ziefvert said of the clogs she designs in her Brooklyn apartment and sells at the Brooklyn Flea and city boutiques.

"They’re sturdy, they won’t crack on the subway."

Despite the shoe's humble origins, clogs appear to be having a mini moment. And Nina Z is having her best summer yet as a designer.

"Things are just flying of the shelves," she said. "This last quarter has been my best sale quarter ever."

Business wasn't always so good.

Inspired by the shoes her mother wore in the '70s, the Swedish-born, Fashion Institute of Technology trained artist-turned-cobbler started making clogs three years ago, using craftsmen in southern Sweden to recreate the shoes her friends swooned over when she brought them back from trips home. 

Her first production — a simple summer sandal — debuted at the Brooklyn Flea to decidedly little fanfare. 

"That summer, people were like no, this is a little too grandma-ish," she said.

"People still wanted stilettos in plastic. But I kept going — I showed up every Saturday, even if I didn’t sell one pair." 

Now, clogs like Nina Z's are showing up at Opening Ceremony and Anthropologie  — not to mention all over the borough. 

"Brooklyn is my stomping ground," she said.

"Most of the time, if you see people wearing clogs in Brooklyn, it’s a good chance they could be Nina Z’s."

What makes her so popular here? Ziefvert credits the Flea for helping launch her line, which now encompasses sandals (starting at $145) and boots (as much as $265) as well as more traditional clogs.

But she thinks what her neighbors appreciate most is that her shoes are entirely handmade. 

"The leather is cut by hand individually for each piece. It's not machine cut," she said.

"They’re still adjusted and molded by hand. The nails are done by hand with a nailgun, and they’re all individually packed."

It's an approach in line with the zeitgeist of the Brooklyn Flea and the ultra-authenticity increasingly associated with the borough's brand. 

"I think there’s a universal trend of going back to basics and craftsmanship," Ziefvert said.

"I want to stay true to the craftsmanship."