George Esquivel's quest for the perfect shoe may never cease. He enjoys blending extremes, and he never differentiates between classic accessory and statement, modern and vintage, masculine and feminine. Esquivel's pursuit of balanced footwear has attracted quite a crowd: his two-toned oxfords stole the scene in Janelle Monáe's much-hyped "Tightrope" video, while his toe-exposing lace-ups took center stage for Juan Carols Obando's Fall 2010 presentation, and Esquivel's Zero Maria Cornejo collaboration appears this spring. Esquivel enjoys the multi-gender appeal, he says, "I find it rewarding when all of the challenges of designing a shoe for both men and women are overcome." The CFDA-Vogue Award nominee has made a name for himself as the go-to brand for the discerning dandy—boy or girl—by adding bright, youthful colors to classic menswear shapes.
For Winter 2010, Esquivel set out to create a capsule collection that united dapper daywear men crave (and women covet in a crisp, unfussy look) with a unisex "Elkhart" boot, laced up and featuring a gently rounded toe that neither gender could claim. The boot comes in solid colors and without much ornamentation, but the hues are picked to suit both men and women: sage green, rust, cognac, shiny black and teal. "By combining both the shape and slightly feminine colors, I think we achieved the goal of a true unisex boot," Esquivel explains. The neutral sole and multiple heights make this capsule all-purpose, like a hiking boot for an urban explorer.
And spring isn't far off, and Esquivel's attention is drifting from his hand-burnished boots and into warmer weather wear. "Spring is filled with a lot of color and futuristic-looking metallic cutouts," he reveals. He is also hoping to revive the maligned gladiator sandal by adding a sophisticated T-strap. As for ever making a truly, traditionally feminine shoe, he isn't opposed. "In order for me to do a heel for my collection, it needs to be a proper progression. Just doing a heel for the sake of it is not something that interests me." But he adds, "I have been working on something for a little while, but it's not worth rushing, just to say I have heels in my collection." But the typical Esquivel woman, like Alexa Chung or Janelle Monáe, won't mind staying staying with her cheeky flats. "Sure, my shoes are sensible, but in a very sophisticated, playful and feminine way."