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Salmon-skin boots win Dimond grad a shot at national prize

Michelle Brown, a Dimond High School graduate, shows off her design for the "Frontier Boot," a finalist in a contest to see the shoe manufactured by upscale clothier Allen Edmonds. Photo courtesy Michelle Brown

Dimond High School graduate Michelle Brown has become a finalist in a national search for stylin' footwear with a design that makes ingenious use of salmon skin.

Brown, who will graduate from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City this month with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in women's ready-to-wear, has one of four designs competing in an online contest sponsored by the upscale Allen Edmonds company.

Brown said she was drawn to use remnants to create a striking design by how the company found ways to make shoes during World War II, when leather was rationed. In that history she found parallels with how Alaska Natives made efficient use of materials.

"Being Native American myself, and from Alaska, I was attracted to the Natives of the Northwest and their own unique approaches to solving design problems," she wrote in her contestant statement. "I was inspired by their conservative use of materials and wanted to emulate the idea of using resources in a meaningful way. I thought that their use of strips of material and other remnants was a great way to make use of every piece."

In an email, she describes her "Frontier Boot" as "a classic men's boot with a twist on the fabrication because of the use of salmon leather. Function was also important, so I finished with the metal lace hooks mounted on cognac-tinged Dublin horween cowhide."

That sounds fancy, but Brown has also factored in practical features. "The boots are recraftable," she said, "meaning that the soles can be replaced at least three times through the boot's life span."

People can vote on the finalists at allenedmonds.com through May 16. A link to the voting page appears every few seconds in rotation with other links at the top of the home page.

The winning design will be produced and sold as a special edition later this year.

Contact Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com.