“It’s all about Shoes. Or, as Marilyn Monroe put it — ‘Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world!’,” says fashion designer Sanchita Ajjampur.
The graduate from the Domus Academy in Milan has indulged her passion for shoes by designing a line of her own.
A peek into Ajjampur’s collection reveals signature sari shoes with antique sari borders and some snazzy embroidered sandals. For men, there are open sandals in specially treated leather.
Unknown to most of the fashion forward crowd, Indian designers have been quietly designing signature footwear on the side. And it’s not just for display on the ramp — they are for retail in their tony stores. The best news is that they bear modest price tags and are exclusive. What’s more, they can carry you from a day look to a glam evening look and anything else in-between.
The Abraham & Thakore collection (Rs 2,500-Rs 4,500) by designer duo David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore is characterised by contemporary mules that are slip-ons, with and without heels. They come in leather, suede and various fabrics that are textured with Trapunto quilting — an Italian technique of quilting that gives the fabric a raised surface.
“The inspiration for our mules are the Indian mojris and other Eastern slippers that we have re-styled,” says Abraham. Few know that A&T has been creating them nearly as long as the label has been designing its ensembles. The idea is for the shoes to reflect the design aesthetics of their collections.
Call it eclectic, psychedelic or kitsch. Manish Arora, the enfant terrible of Indian fashion, under his label Fish Fry is dishing out a range of daring shoes that he launched in partnership with Reebok in 2008. Easy-to-slip-on boots with sequinned toe fronts and fiery neon sneakers (Rs 6,000-Rs 60,000) are sure to arrest your attention in any Reebok store.
If Gaurav Gupta is synonymous with draping and three-dimensional embroidery, his footwear is — in a word — experimental. In high quality leather, the shoes (Rs 7,000-Rs 15,000) are layered with straps and often embellished with metal studs and chains. Recently Gupta added Swarovski elements too.
“I took apart Rajasthani jutis and used them as Indian elements in my collection of cowboy boots. I also played a little with sequinned leather in shoes before moving on to space-age wedges,” says Gupta.
His latest designs include towering stilettos with Swarovski embellishments and leather straps twisted and knotted to double as ornamentations. He’s now aiming for plastic shoes.
The overwhelming need to sync the perfect pair of shoes with their collections has led most of these designers to branch out into the business of shoe-making.
“It all started with shoe malfunctions. Models would often walk the ramp barefooted for lack of good shoes or they would trip on the sky-high heels. I’d had enough and decided to experiment with footwear,” says Anupama Dayal, who’s known for her affordable and wearable collections. She’s been in the business since 2006, keeping the selling price of her footwear between Rs 700-Rs 1,500.
Dayal’s colourful flats in her Resort 2010 Jaisalmer Meets Ibiza line — made perky with graphic stripes, bunches of pompoms and tassels — were a huge hit with fashionistas.
Nitin Bal Chauhan, on the other hand, teamed designing shoes with his love for Indian craftsmanship. It egged him on to create the colourful Chamba Chappals for which he worked with the craftsmen of Himachal Pradesh. Having kick-started his shoe business in 2007, he diversified into stilettos and gladiators (available between Rs 4,000 and Rs 8,000) which are all about an edgy look blended with a Gothic touch.
Designing shoes, according to the couturiers, is just as difficult as creating lingerie. Ajjampur, for instance, trained with names like Romeo Gigli, Giorgio Armani, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli in the footwear department before launching her own lines along with her label Sanchita in 2004.
While Gupta experimented with them in couture shows in London and the Altaroma Altamoda Couture Show in Milan, he first designed shoes seriously only with his Spring/Summer 2010-’11 collection.
Meanwhile Rajesh Pratap Singh, known for his tailored look, has been in the business of turning out shoes (Rs 3,500-Rs 9,500) for the last eight years. But he too underwent a week’s intensive training in shoe construction while at design school. He says: “I learnt the intricacies on the job, out of necessity.”
He’s been catering to demands for the classically crafted khadau (wooden slippers) for men and women. And a new style for men that’s a fusion of the traditional Oxfords/brogues (men’s dress shoes with lace-up detailing) and Peshawari sandals (worn by men with the salwar kameez).
But do they consciously follow any trends? The answer is a resounding no. Smiles Dayal: “The idea instead is to set our own trends.”