These three Twin Cities-designed accessories have fascinating origins and global ambitions.
Who: Ben Hertz of Minneapolis.
What: A line of colorful waxed cotton shoelaces.
Back story: While in Europe, Hertz's shoelace broke. So, in Rome, he bought a pair of red laces for his dirty buck shoes and started getting compliments on them. "I'm this kid from Minnesota and people are asking me where I got my shoes," he said. "I had the coolest shoes in Europe." The laces had the same effect at Twins games. When he couldn't find replacements stateside, the real estate developer started his own shoelace company with a variety of color offerings -- including red, purple, green and canary yellow. "Everyone is now interested in how can I take my day-to-day wardrobe and dress it up a little bit, stand out and get noticed for being individual and unique," he said. "There are really expensive ways to do that, but these $6 laces work, too."
Claim to fame: A mention on GQ's website.
Up next: A line of laces for golf shoes will launch in August.
Buy: $6 per pair, www.benjosmpls.com, Hubert White (747 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-339-9200) and MartinPatrick3 (212 3rd Av. N., Mpls., 612-746-5329).
Who: Stefan Hartung, executive creative director of Kick, a Minneapolis-based design firm.
What: Men's and women's leather sandals, created to keep your body grounded with the Earth's natural energies.
Back story: Hartung, whose firm has been responsible for cereal box packaging, computer bags for Best Buy and a bench for Target, ventured into footwear for the first time. For the sleek lines of the Juil (pronounced "jewel") sandals and to improve upon ill-fitting flip-flops, Hartung studied the high-end Christian Louboutins in Paris instead of spring breakers on the beach. Copper discs strategically placed by toes and the heel are conductors for connecting you to the Earth. "The idea is that when you walk barefoot, you are grounded at all times," said Hartung. "The conductors help you balance your energy and the positive stuff in the Earth in your body."
Claim to fame: Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, reportedly have worn them.
Up next: Additional styles with sling-backs and higher heels, sneakers and a vegan (non-leather) version.
Buy: $125 to $145 on www.juil.com.
Who: Susan Moore of Minneapolis and Mary Jane Pappas of Golden Valley.
What: A line of reading glasses and sunglasses with a line of colliers (for keeping those glasses around your neck) by local artists Helen Wang and Talin Spring.
Back story: The sexagenarians needed reading glasses, but weren't thrilled with available options. "We wanted to make really high fashion for a low cost and provide that for the general public," said Pappas, an interior designer. She teamed up with her longtime friend Moore, a color expert and former children's clothing designer, to craft a line of vintage-inspired classic frames. The duo incorporated elements of feng shui such as the octagon-shaped "Bagua" frame, which is on the mystical map that's used to lay out an energy pattern for a person or home. Lenses can easily be replaced with prescriptions.
Up next: More prototypes and colors, along with additional accessories.
Claim to fame: An extensive philanthropic effort, including a $1 donation to Doctors Without Borders with every pair purchased.