Put your foot down for luxury

Updated: Mar 15, 2020, 08:59 IST | Anju Maskeri | Mumbai

While made-to-measure clothes are commonplace, you now have the choice to build a customised shoe, layer by layer, at a footwear lab in Khar

Pic/ Pradeep Dhivar
Pic/ Pradeep Dhivar

Payal Kothari likes to call herself a shoe sculptor, and her bespoke footwear store, a laboratory. It's not a misnomer. That she allows you, the customer, to involve yourself in every stage of the shoe's making means that every pair created is an experiment with equal commitment from the maker and the wearer.

The suede loafers, embroidered boots and kitten heels with nude mesh that she offers, among varied designs, are all made with what's known as the last, a foot-shaped wooden block that acts as a template to determine the shape, fit and comfort of the shoe. Kothari offers the canvas and the wearer fills it with colours. "I'm not creating a need. I'm only catering to it," says Kothari, who is trained at the L'Accademia Riacci, Florence, and has a degree in accessory design from the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.

Fifteen years after launching her label, Veruscha by Payal Kothari, she decided to go brick and mortar with the Khar-based Veruschka Shoe Lab. And, for good reason. "I used to be flooded with requests for customisation, not just from women, but men too." While interaction and feedback was robust online, where Kothari retailed, the charm of working on a dream pair in person was something she missed.

"I wanted to be in touch with the customer, from start to finish," she says. It has been a little over a week since the lab opened, and the response has been encouraging. "In India, buyers exhibit individual style; it's as if people wish to wear a piece of their own story," she says. The requests Kothari gets are as diverse as the pairs she makes. Recently, a to-be bride wanted to replicate the embroidery from her mother's wedding trousseau on to a sandal. The men, she says, like their loafers, but the lines between genders as far as taking a risk goes, are blurring. "Men are wearing a lot more pink, and even some sequins, beads and bold prints. It's a good time to be a shoe designer."

The creative process at the lab begins with an idea which is put on to a sketch. The final product takes 15 days to make. A more elaborate design could take up to 21. Clients can customise the entire shoe, right down to the colour of the insole, via discussions with Kothari and her team, who take down measurements and notes as they go along. In the case of a prospective bride, the queries tend to revolve around the destination, the outfit, the sort of heel she prefers, and if she'd like an ankle wrap or support. "If the wedding is on a beach, a pair of half-wedges would be ideal for a sandy walk down the aisle. We would ensure that the bride is steady, not teetering," she explains.

Kothari, who likes working with fabric, says they breathe life into a shoe. The team uses everything from velvet and raw silk to jute, but her favourite is printed satin. "We stay away from leather and fur because I wish to support cruelty-free fashion." But fabric comes with its own challenge. If it's the type to lack elasticity, or not strong enough, there are chances of it suffering a tear during draping. "Which is why we don't use delicate fabrics, like chiffon." With regard to maintenance, Kothari ensures you don't fret. "You can wipe your pair with a damp cloth, or white petrol to get rid of stains. Pen marks are difficult to get rid of, however."

The experience is evident in the conversation, and Kothari likes to surprise her clients by using it to guess their shoe size. "You are 37.5," she says to this writer.

Bang on!

Number of days an elaborate design would take to execute

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