Armed with a pioneer spirit and with the eye of a seasoned stylist, Texas Native Sarah Lewis recently opened Austin's newest shoe boutique, BOOTLEG, in a 30-foot airstream trailer. Given the city's South Congress Avenue is pretty much the epicenter of the food truck boom, it's natural that a retailer would jump on the bandwagon (literally!) sooner or later. With neighbors hawking tacos, crepes, cones and more, BOOTLEG is stationary for the time being, but Lewis tells Chris Frey, a regular contributor to The Inside Source, eBay's digital style magazine, who wrote this article in its original form: "I can take it anywhere; I have the title; the lights work; and I can drop it on the ball hitch of my truck in ten minutes."
Lewis, who divides her time between New York City and Austin, spent almost a decade in New York styling for magazines, celebrity clients and the runway. She has a penchant for sky-high platforms, clothes that are, in her words "sculptural, dramatic and odd in scale," and cites Balenciaga, Balmain and Givenchy among her favorite designers. Most importantly, Lewis knows shoes, claiming she owns about 250 "wearable" pairs and another 50 "non-wearable" pairs, including baby cowboy boots and pairs that she wore in high school and refuses to throw out.
The Inside Source: How did growing up in Texas shape your relationship with fashion, art, and music?
Sarah Lewis: I grew up in rural Texas, east of Austin (but not east Texas!). It shaped everything about my love for fashion. My mother is one of those audacious Texas women with lots of strange, opulent collections and I absorbed all of it. She wears huge hats to church. She has four Christmas trees a year; one is just for vintage baby shoes.
My father and I spent every weekend together from age 13 to 18, since I showed cattle competitively, and we listened to a lot of music together. Since I was raised on a ranch, most of my vinyl records are old country--it sounds good all the time, in any venue. My parents spent money on classic art like Texas sculptures and paintings of the southwest but nothing as big as a Georgia O'Keefe. I had to learn my own point of view.
The Inside Source: When did you start working in fashion?
Sarah Lewis: I truly adore words, pictures, images and magazines. Whatever I didn't have in breeding or experience, I made up for because I could work harder than most and make a $100 outfit look like it cost $2000. That goes a long way in NYC where they weed out the weak. I moved to New York in 2003 and, by the grace of God, I was asked to be a fashion director for a new magazine from Texas.
The Inside Source: After years as a stylist, why the move to shoes?
Sarah Lewis: I honestly trust a person more who is in an incredible shoe and a Hanes t-shirt. Also, shoes are money well spent and a good metaphor for life: everything else in life may be awful but a shoe will cheer me up, lift my body and take an outfit up five levels. Plus, shoes are easy to carry and fun to collect.
The Inside Source: Tell us about BOOTLEG, from conception to realization?
Sarah Lewis: I wanted a business that I didn't have to give my life to --something simple, beautiful and branded. The kind of endeavor where I could meet people but still blow people's minds with a very inspiring point of view. So, a shoe store. Austin didn't have one and it's a great place to run a business (strong economy, smaller start, lower overhead).
The Inside Source: Where do you scout your designers?
Sarah Lewis: As a stylist, you sort of naturally see and know what's special. So, I had a lot of fashion designers in the back of my mind. I chose a few shoe trade shows and a few showrooms to visit, and bam, I was done. I have 50 styles at present, which is not yet ideal for me (but maybe it never will be!), but to most people, it's a very special edit with a lot of designers they've never heard of.
The Inside Source: The newspaper is gorgeous. Tell us about it.
Sarah Lewis: Thanks. BOOTLEG NEWSPRINT is my way of feeding my journalism soul. It prints four times a year (we are on Issue002 now), so it forces me to do my own photographic projects, which I print. And the newspaper aspect is fun because its so uncommon -- fashion and newsprint.
The Inside Source: Are you a collector? Do you use eBay?
Sarah Lewis: My treasures enrich my life. My mom has collected antiques and attended shows my whole life, so I learned early on that the experience of digging for treasures is as fun as the treasure itself. I collect shoes, Victorian collars, cowboy boots, among other items...
I use eBay when it really counts, like for a very special gift, a costume piece or something to treat myself. I have a floor-length denim skirt I recently bought on eBay that everyone thinks is Ralph Lauren collection. It's actually very old Gap, and I paid $25 for it on eBay. I can wear it dancing or rock it on the street in NYC. I love eBay for those kinds of pieces.
Click here to read the full story and to see Lewis' eBay product picks. All photos courtesy of Sarah Lewis.