RELATIVELY SPEAKING, Portland is blessed with a healthy number of talented apparel, jewelry, and accessory designers, but homegrown shoe design is a rarity. The old traditional techniques are dying out, and the few who dedicate themselves to preserving them are forced to charge high prices just to break even. So when the first style of shoes from Portland/Japan duo Nom & Ada launched, excitement spread across the Portland blogosphere.
Nom & Ada is a partnership between Kimberly Andrade and Rie Sawai. They became friends while studying apparel design at New York's Parsons School for Design, after which Sawai wound up in Los Angeles and then Tokyo—and after working in New York for Gap, a gig with Nike landed Andrade in Portland. Five years after graduating from school, they both found themselves itching to start their own project, so they met halfway in Hawaii to brainstorm. Sawai wanted to exercise her passion for footwear design, something that Andrade, herself a passionate shoe collector, was game for. Thus Nom & Ada was born, named for Sawai's nomadic nature and Andrade's adaptability.
"We wanted to make the first design be iconic to the brand name," says Andrade, who handles marketing while Sawai oversees production in Japan, which they settled on for the high quality of craftsmanship standards. The design process is collaborative, inspired by "travels and nostalgia," with Sawai more apt to find inspiration in color, texture, and details while Andrade likes to focus on function. The first result is the Holoholo, a moccasin style T-strap flat in black, white, or camel, with contrast stitching in both white and vibrant pink neon available on the camel. Although ostensibly seasonless, the shoes read as the ultimate summertime kicks, with ventilated cutouts and a slightly elevated flat sole ideal for comfortable bike rides without sacrificing style. Appropriately enough, the name Holoholo is the Hawaiian word for "leisurely journey; to go out; to walk around for fun," which perfectly captures the carefree appeal of the style.
Andrade does not seem hurried about when Nom & Ada might roll out their next style, content to see what comes of the Holoholo, which as of now is only available for purchase on the Nom & Ada website, though they're in talks with a number of boutiques. Still, she acknowledges that style number two will "probably" be another shoe, although apparel will likely become a factor, as may leg wear.
At $260 (pretty moderate among those serious about their shoes—no, really!), it's easy to envision getting every penny's worth of wear out of a pair of Holoholos, living in them as your go-to weekend wear. To have hit the mark so accurately on their first time out, Nom & Ada will have a lot of Portland shoe lovers waiting anxiously for their next pair.