Tuesday, June 16, 2009

spotlight on Barefoot Bling: toe rings, anklets, and more!

by frédérik sisa

Amy was sitting in a pedicure chair one faithful day when the lady next to her noticed her fitted toe ring. Then came the (friendly) inquisition. Is it comfortable? Where did she get it? And so on. A toe ring wearer par excellence, Amy found herself surprised by just how enthusiastically she was answering the lady’s questions. Out of that surprise came the idea that if she was going to work at selling people on the idea of wearing toe rings, she might as well do more than that and sell the real thing. After much planning and research, Amy launched Barefoot Bling in early 2007.

The result is a webstore that stands out for its refined and varied selection of toe rings, anklets, and barefoot sandals, with a good number of choices ranging from single metal bands and stacked rings to barefoot sandals made of lava beads and mother of pearl. Unlike those wholesalers overstuffed with cheap, mass-produced jewelry, or other, more opportunistic boutiques, Barefoot Bling focuses on a smaller number of distinctive pieces that fit within their philosophy.

“We love handmade, Artisan jewelry,” Amy told me. “And we truly enjoy collaborating on designs with the jewelry makers featured on our site. We are, personally, big indie shoppers. We like things that are not your typical ‘big box’ offerings. Ideally, we'd love it if the answer to the question ‘where did you get that really cool anklet/toe ring, it’s so different,’ is “Barefoot Bling!’”

With collaborators like Michele Roberts of Beach Bride Jewelry and Amy Steinberg of Charming Sam Studios, both of whom create custom pieces for Barefoot Bling, and a great eye for attractive design, the ambition is entirely justified.

If I can wholeheartedly recommend Barefoot Bling, beyond a lovely catalogue, it’s because Amy and her associate Meg obviously know their bling and love what they do. I had the opportunity to play around with samples they’ve considered for their men’s line. It was a fun experience that led, unexpectedly, to a discovery; when the selection is limited to plain bands, a unique option for those who want a bit more spice is to find thinner patterned bands and stack them. This isn’t a new option for women and Barefoot Bling offers a good number of stackable delights for ladies. But for guys, where a single band will most likely look too flimsy or dainty, two stacked rings have presence. In the photo below, I stacked two bands with oxidized black zig-zag patterns that Meg and Amy kindly sent me. (The shoes, incidentally, are Aldo slides from way back when the brand wasn’t stuck in a rut.) I love the result.

But since we’re on the topic, what about guys? While there are websites out there that offer foot bling for men, there aren’t that many – for the obvious reasons that more women wear foot jewelry than men by far and popular fashion etiquette doesn’t find men wearing sandals very often. With a few exceptions, these websites aren’t that satisfying for guys who actually want some quality and imagination and not just plain bands or condescending gimmies. As of yet, Barefoot Bling doesn’t have anything for men owing to a variety of factors. In fact, they had scaled back their plans into a holding pattern until recently inspired to take another look at creating a men’s product line. But things change. “As foot jewelry moves more into the mainstream,” says Amy, “we would like to be on the forefront and grow/evolve with more unique artisan offerings.”

If enough men show an interest, hopefully that will play a part in Barefoot Bling’s exciting evolution. In the meantime, ladies, summer is here and Barefoot Bling has the goods on dressing up – bedazzling! - your feet with all sorts of pretty things.

Barefoot Bling

Note: Many thanks to Meg and Amy for their generous assistance and providing free samples for me to review.

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