Cincy Chic: You went to DAAP where you focused on footwear design. What got you interested in footwear?
Alisha Budkie, owner of SMARTFISH handmade footwear: The functionality of footwear design is what really drew me to it. Also, the nod to fashion, color and someone’s personal aesthetic. But as you don’t change your shoes as often as you change your shirt, a focus on simplicity and function naturally comes through.
Cincy Chic: You interned at Adidas and New Balance. What made you want to go out on your own versus sticking with a big brand?
Budkie: Such a large part of both of their corporate cultures is working with the factories overseas. I knew that was something I would never be comfortable being a part of. I also love the “making” side of things, and couldn’t give it up for only designing. For me, they go hand in hand, and one strengthens the other.
Cincy Chic: You have a passion for handmade culture and all things sustainable. Tell me why you’re so passionate about these areas of interest.
Budkie: Handmade brings construction back to the hands of the designers, reintroducing a focus on quality and craftsmanship. I think this naturally leads to using resources more thoughtfully when selecting materials and determining construction. Hopefully we’ll continue to see more and more makers/designers making better quality products, closer to home.
Cincy Chic: The name of your company is SMARTFISH and there’s a great story behind it. Tell me about it.
Budkie: It’s about awareness. It’s rumored that goldfish have a memory of only 3 seconds, making them unaware of anything long term. We are aware of our surroundings and impact, and must to be mindful of both.
Cincy Chic: Tell me about the SMARTFISH shoes you create. What are they made out of and about how much time does it take you for one pair?
Budkie: I use sustainable materials such as natural latex and sawdust to mold outsoles, woven jute for insoles, durable hemp canvas for construction, and locally sourced vintage materials to bring in new colors/patterns. I’m usually working on a few pairs at the same time, but if I’ve already molded the outsoles, I can finish 4 to 5 pairs in a week. Still getting into the rhythm of the new style, so everything is a bit up in the air right now.
Cincy Chic: Where can someone purchase your SMARTFISH shoes?
Budkie: Actually, I took a break from making, to finally design a mens/unisex style, and sold out of everything I had previously made! But I’m back to the making side of things and will have some available at the May 7 Crafty Supermarket at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. Also, follow along on the (new!) SMARTFISH facebook page, as I’ll be announcing whenever there’s going to be a shop update.
Cincy Chic: Where do you see yourself or your business in 10 years?
Budkie: There are some very exciting changes in the near future for SMARTFISH footwear, that I can’t quite talk about yet. You’ll just have to keep watching!
Cincy Chic: What do you love most about Cincinnati?
Budkie: I adore how Cincinnati has somehow found a way to combine the culture of a larger city, with the community of a smaller one. People are really committing to the city and getting involved, as a result, there is so much happening locally for design, art, food, and music. Paired with a genuine sense of support and kindness, it’s rare. Perhaps Midwest really is best.
Photos courtesy of Claudia Susana