APHA
In Design—Fashion Designers, Trendsetters

Steppin’ Out

Bold style, fresh perspectives and handcrafted care make Rocketbuster a can’t-be-missed choice for cowboy style.

By Rachel Florman

 

A narrow, sun-bleached brick building in El Paso, Texas, contains—barely—the wildest boots to walk the Earth. On Rocketbuster Boot’s green-and-yellow shelves, boot toes tipped with flames, laced with florals or covered in exotic hides line up like flamboyant dancers ready to stir the imagination of perusing admirers. Peacocks, pin-up girls and dragons dance across smooth-as-stain leather boot tops, each in vibrant hues designed to catch eye and shout, “Look at me!”

Surrounded by retro cap guns and Hollywood Western memorabilia—gifts from thrilled customers—fireworks, dog portraits and tattoo-style Elvis lie in draft form on Nevena Christi’s desk, waiting for the finishing touches to transform them from artistic visions into wearable masterpieces under the expert eye and skilled fingers of the New York designer-turned-boot-diva.

“I like to say we have a space-age vintage style for folks who just aren’t boring,” Nevena said. “The one thing you can say about all our customers is that they’re interesting, whether they’re CEOs, celebrities or school teachers; boring people don’t want our boots.”

The characters who walk through Rocketbuster Boots’ doors are far from ordinary—each with unique paths that converge on the steps of Rocketbuster headquarters. They’re all seeking the same thing: an emboldened accessory that showcases their innermost life stories on a functional, go-anywhere canvas of leather mixed with a healthy dollop of creativity and love. These boots can’t be caged in a closet, taken out only on special occasions—they’re made for living life to the fullest, wherever it might take you.

Though impeccable quality and fierce individuality brand every Rocketbuster boot, each pair takes on new life as it leaves the store on individual journeys infused by the road-worn experiences of their new owners.

The Boss Lady’s Boots

Swimming lazily across deep brown leather, rainbow-colored koi fish encircle the boot tops of Nevena’s prized personal pair of Rocketbusters. Their metallic orange, yellow and blue scales shimmer in the light as if reflecting beneath the still waters of a crystal-clear pond.

“I don’t care who wants to buy that sample, those koi fish are mine,” she said with a grin. “My husband, Marty, is under strict instructions—no selling those boots. Every time I leave the booth at the National Finals Rodeo, he sells one of my samples. That’s OK, I guess, but nobody touches my koi fish.”

Marty Snortum launched Rocketbuster in 1989, trading his 1953 Cadillac hearse for boot supplies, an unforgettable name and a wild dream. Nevena stepped in 20 years ago, took the shop all-custom and never looked back.

The “boss lady’s” creativity runs wild when crafting her clients’ dreams or developing her own muses. Her fine artist’s training lends an arsenal of versatile design skills, and her hands can deftly sktetch cartoon-style 1950s pop art with the same ease as elegant, looping lace punch-outs, roaming far beyond traditional Western motifs.

“I’m not looking at what the world is doing; it’s all about what I’m into,” Nevena said. “People like it when you mess with them and stretch their ideas of what is what. It expands their horizons.”

Though the men of the shop first snickered at Nevena’s wild koi fish boots, she pulled them on for an upscale New York City dinner, and the complements flowed her way all night long.

“The editor of Vogue even stopped me—‘You have to tell me about those boots,’ she said—the next day, I was having breakfast with her in her apartment. All because of my beautiful fish boots,” Nevena said.

The koi and other elaborate samples encourage customers to think big, Nevena says, and the inspiration often helps them look beyond the traditional to dream up their own wild pair.

 

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2017 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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