Founders of Ina Grau Shoes Meld South American and Midwestern Influences

There is a simple, classic elegance to Ina Grau’s shoes. Using materials such as denim and vegetable-tanned leather, the derby-style shoes give a nod to bygone eras.

Two artists, Crystal Quinn and Luisa Fernanda Garcia-Gomez, run the Minnesota-based company. They met while participating in the same art exhibition, quickly forming a bond and eventually a business out of their mutual desire to create shoes.

Ina Grau’s shoes are handmade in Colombia and America. As a result, each shoe is individual and unique. The shoe styles are influenced by the creators’ Midwestern and Colombian backgrounds.

One shoe that exemplifies the collaboration of cultures is the Mompox, which is inspired by the vueltiao hat, prevalent in Colombia’s Zenú culture.

We had a chance to ask Quinn and Garcia-Gomez a few question about their business and inspiration.

How did Ina Grau get started?

We were in an art exhibition together and got to know each other over pizza with friends. We had similar interests and found out quickly that we both have always wanted to make shoes.

That’s all it took and within weeks we were meeting up weekly to discuss our appreciation for everything beautiful in art, life, and of course shoes.

Tell us the story behind the shoes. What differentiates Ina Grau shoes from other shoes?

As artists, we feel the nostalgia of old traditions and the appreciation of working directly touching the materials. Ina Grau was born with the desire of coming back to handmade traditions as a response against these industrial times — we take all our time to conceive, make and finish our shoes. We want to give to our customers the same fun and joy that we also feel during the process.

It’s very important for us to emphasize the charm of this practice and how we can still be competitive in such a crowded field as footwear.

We work in small collections; each one is composed by 15 to 50 pairs of the same design. Even if we repeat one style several times, we build one by one from scratch, meaning that we are working on a large production of unique pieces.

Where do you find your creative inspiration?

From everything! Art! Life! Plants! We’re inspired by the springtime and even the winter if you can believe it. We love to people watch. We love to shop in thrift stores and find the treasures that sometimes get overlooked. We tend to go with what we like and not necessarily what we see in magazines.

How would you describe Ina Grau’s style?

Happy-classic. Our designs are a bit androgynous, yet feminine, kind of like us! We have found a nice canvas to work with based on our individual style and interests combined with our backgrounds.

What famous person can you picture wearing your shoes?

We are sending off a pair to Miranda July in a few days! She is probably our favorite artist/famous person, period. We are so extremely excited for her to be wearing a pair.

Other than your shoes, what object do you love?

Crystal loves the color salmon pink and Luisa loves to eat pickled herring.

Who is your favorite artist or designer?

To choose just one is impossible, we have so many…Judy Chicago, Méret Oppenheim, Ray Johnson, Mark Manders, Margaret Kilgallen, Kathleen Hanna, Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys, Cy Twombly, Hannah Wilke, Mike Kelley, Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg and so many more!!

Where are your favorite places to hang out in the Midwest?

So many treats to choose from! We frequent the Bryant Lake Bowl, Farmers’ Markets, Sea SaltThe Walker Art Center and thrift shops. The best place to people watch is on Bus 21 and for some peace we would suggest the white sands beach on the Mississippi or some river road biking. We love it here.

Make sure to stop by Ina Grau’s website and follow their tumblr blog to learn more about their business and shoemaking process.