To celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, we asked designer Tracey Neuls, her mother Gail and her 12 year old daughter Viola questions for some inter-generational insights.
What are your earliest memories associated with shoes?
Gail: I used to especially like the navy or black and white saddle shoes that we wore in the fifties. Grandma bought shoes for us when they occasionally went across the border shopping and we loved them but so often they didn’t fit. I believe that is why I now have bunions because I would just wear them anyway.
Tracey: I remember sitting in my Mom’s closet on top of all of her shoes and trying them all on. I would swivel on my bottom from pair to pair. When my older sister went out, I would also go into her closet and have a stroll in her heels. I never did this with clothes or anything else, just shoes.
Viola: When I was three, Mum would take me on walks in my stroller. I would wear a pair of high heeled boots that poked out of the blanket.
What did your younger self want to be?
Gail: My closest friend called Star, lived across the street from us and we used to always play that we were Roy Rogers or Gene Autrey. We both especially wanted to be Roy Rogers because we love their horse Trigger who could do all these tricks etc. I was Grandpa’s boy that he didn’t have I guess. Anyway, I always wanted to be a real cowgirl.
Tracey: I always wanted to design clothes. I used to have several Barbies and they all had the most magnificent home made clothes and shoes. I would spend so many of my free hours making miniature outfits for them.
Viola: When I was younger I wanted to be a vet.
What are your ambitions?
Gail: Art was my great love as a kid too. Us girls spent a lot of time with our new colouring-in books that they bought for us in Regina when they went shopping. I remember colouring one page only 2 colours. I would still like to get a lot better at perspective. Also, if I was brave enough I would like to take swimming lessons so I can keep up with everyone else and actually enjoy going in the water.
Tracey: I think it is really important to do something that I enjoy doing. I didn’t have the idea to become a shoe designer because I wanted fame or fortune, footwear is not the vehicle for this. I am driven by a genuine passion for the design of shoes and making women who wear them as happy as I am creating them.
Viola: To become a horse trainer.
What are traits of your mother that you most admire?
Gail: Her creativity, humour and cooking.
Tracey: My Mom is always good fun. She is always bubbly and extremely kind to people. I don’t think I have met another woman who is as thoughtful and selfless.
Viola: She can make anyone laugh
Is there anything you wish you hadn’t inherited from your mother?
Gail: I can’t really think of anything I inherited from Mom as almost everything was from my dad.
Tracey: Inheriting her humour is a double edged sword. I think it’s good to laugh, but I can wreck myself laughing from the most ridiculous thing said. Because I can visualise anything, the joke will relive itself over and over in my head gaining momentum in hilarity and there is nothing I can do to stop the fits of laughter until it has run its course. Nuts.
Viola: Laughing when people trip
What is one of your favourite films?
Gail: So many films I loved but would have to say “Guess who’s Coming to Dinner” with Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, and Katherine Hepburn.
Tracey: Django is one of my favourites. The dialogue is witty and the characters are surprising. A great sound track, Tarantino style.
Who is one of your favourite Hollywood icons?
Gail: Paul Newman
Tracey: Well, I have to admit that I think Paul Newman is probably the most beautiful male to look at. So if you are asking on those terms, he is the man.
Viola: Brad Pitt.
Name a favourite song of yours?
Gail: Elvis song called An American Trilogy.
Tracey: The Cult, She Sells Sanctuary and White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
Viola: Mercy by Duffy
What is your idea of glamour?
Gail: Be unique and be yourself.
Tracey: Glamour is inside. In film when you see Vampires ‘glamouring’ people, it for sure is a state of mind. It doesn’t matter how many jewels you put on the outside, it won’t make you glamorous.
Viola: Something that makes you or someone else exited or admire you.
If you had to choose a last meal, what would you eat?
Gail: Chicken Cordon Bleu.
Tracey: Scallops on crushed peas.
Viola: I like it when my mum cooks chicken for dinner, it tastes better than any restaurant.
What do you do when you are anxious or stressed to make it less so?
Gail: Paint or go biking.
Tracey: Pilates or contrary, have a glass of wine
Viola: Fiddle with my hair
If you could time travel where and when would you go?
Gail: I would go to my teen years and take school more seriously.
Tracey: I live in the now, I don’t time travel. I seriously don’t wish to go back anywhere or for that fact too far in advance either.
Viola: I would go back to when my Grandparents had Arabian Horses at their home on Vancouver Island.
What is your favourite animal and why?
Gail: A dog of course! We have had dogs all our life and wouldn’t have wanted to be without them. They always have something to give you that you remember, lots of laughs, so forgiving and smarter then you think. Definitely your best friend.
Tracey: This isn’t the ‘if you could be any animal, what would it be’ right? I would never want to be a dog, but I do think they are the animal I would want around me more than any other. The human dog relationship is enjoyably symbiotic.
Viola: My Frenchy Bobo because he is so loving and adorable
What’s a piece of advice you would give to men about women?
Gail: Give them lots of love with enough space to be your own person.
Tracey: I think men in general could do a bit more listening rather than fixing.
Viola: Don’t piss us off because we will come back at you.
Which is a favourite Tracey Neuls shoe design of yours and why?
Gail: I really liked your early 2000’s shoes, made in the shape of a foot, So unique and comfortable. Also, the shoes that are tied with laces—probably because I like sweaters, shirts dresses that have buttons down the front, on the sleeves or on the back. Such nice finish and detailing.Unique is the word and your shoes are it. I love all your styles and it’s great that now your Dad is wearing shoes from your men’s collection too. He gets a lot of good compliments on them.
Tracey: That’s like asking a mother who their favourite child is! I am often asked if I wear any other designer’s shoes and I don’t. I do actually favourite my own designs!
Viola: My favourite is the Jazz because ‘Jazzy’ is my nickname so it’s a personal thing.