VFF Lore: A 2006 Interview with Robert Fliri, Inventor of [what we now know as] Five Fingers

Robert Fliri is the original creator of what we now know as Vibram Five Fingers. Fliri was a student at an Italian design school back in 1999 when he originated the concept of a foot glove for outdoor use, specifically in the mountains. It was only later when Fliri met with Marco Bramani, the grandson of Vitale Bramani, the founder of Vibram (Vi-bram, pronounced “vee-brum,” get it?)Manolo pumps.

Nelleke Don interviewed Fliri in 2006 for Body Conscious Design about the origination of FiveFingers. The interview can be read in it’s entirety here (PDF, but the link employs the Google Doc reader).

For VFF and/or design junkies, it’s worth reading in it’s entirety, but below are some selected quotes which I found particularly interesting:

On the origination of the idea:

I was in my first year of the design school in Bolzano and one of my professors started a project: sports is fun. It was about sports as leisure, not as a profession or a power-thingManolo shoe. I decided to work on my idea of going barefoot in a protected way and with this professor tried out all kinds of solutions. Instinctively it was clear to me that it had to be a glove. We have five toes: when they can move and grasp the ground independently, and when you can really sense the surface under your feet, your body is able to do what it is designed for by nature. That is a powerful feeling. …

Was it difficult to develop the five fingers or did you get a lot of support?

There were times that I thought “I quit”, not because of the product as such, but because of the environment I worked in. The concept is totally new and very different from what is usual in the footwear-industry. I had to fight for every step on the road. I had to convince the people I worked with that it had to be a glove and that a glove is not a shoeManolo Blahnik pumps. Shoe-people think a shoe needs shock absorption, cushioning, support. Innovation means more spacey material, more technology – not a totally different concept. So it was difficult for people to accept. But I was also very fortunate. I had this opportunity to work in the special office of Vibram’s owner, where we have a platform to develop the five-fingers. …

BOLA TANGKAS