There’s something inherently final about slipping a perfect pair of shoes onto your feet. Almost as if no designer ensemble, no sleek blazer-and-tie combination, and no amount of couture accessories that adorn your body matter at all if that final element of foot style is missing from your sartorial get-up. So let’s call a spade a spade and admit that whether you’re one of those people who’s only got three or four pairs of shoes neatly lined up on a single shelf, or one of those crazy hoarders who’s got an entire cupboard designated just for their footwear, we’ve all got a little shoe craze going on inside of us.
And buying that perfect pair involves much more than we give it credit for. Footwear experiences the added pressure of being unbelievably comfortable as well as incredibly stylish so the joy we experience in its pursuit and purchase is unparalleled to put it lightly. The only thing better than buying them? Getting a custom pair made especially for you.
We could play this footloose, fancy-free game of words all day but we’ll cut to the chase and tell you why we’re here. We rounded up the very best of the independent foot soldiers, otherwise known as a list of companies that retail—and custom make—shoes we personally love for both men and women, to make buying a pair of bespoke shoes for yourself that much more effortless. You’re welcome. Now get scrolling and pick a pair that speaks to you.
“I felt the need to bridge the gap between price and perception for designer bespoke footwear.”
Mumbai-based Nirali Ruparel founded this men’s shoe company in 2012 and christened it using the logic that ‘Achilles’ weakness in the heel signifies every buyer’s weakness for these shoes. “I always wanted to be a tastefully popular entrepreneur and wanted to launch my own fashion label. But designing shoes and especially for men was a conscious business decision as I felt the need to bridge the gap between price and perception for designer bespoke footwear and also to give the sartorial man a variety of choices,” says Ruparel. There’s a huge collection of footwear on her website, but her most popular pair remains the customisable slip-on smoking shoes. “We embroider initials, emoticons, our brand logo or any other personal logo (but not any other brands’ logo) in any colour our client wants,” she says, explaining why they’re so popular. You can buy her shoes on the website, and even on the brand’s Facebook page. Browse through existing collections or use the Style Your Own Shoe guide to make a pair exactly the way you want it. Additionally, you can make an appointment to visit their boutique at Fort as well.
HG loves: The Oxford brogue shoe in grey crackle and nappa leather. Achilles’ Heel’s ready designs range from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 10,000 and their bespoke shoes start at 15,000.
“Let’s go raw and rooted.”
Banwarey was started by four young fashion designers—Shruti Joshi, Apurva Nayal, Shrishti Jain and Ajay Singh Rawatt. From their designs, it’s clear that they draw inspiration heavily from Indian artistry. It’s also clear that they lean towards the raw side of the scale, favouring hand-made goods over mass produced factory ones. Their Kutchi shoes feature an ethnic, kutchi ajrak print and bright embroidery—and jute strings instead of laces.
HG loves: Banrwarey’s Kutchi shoes. The thick, rope soles and the colourful hand-painted canvas are refreshing and unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
III. Chalk Studio
“Chalk Studio likes to make and break fashion rules alike.”
Chalk studio has a range of young, quirky shoes for women that aim to bring out your playful side. Co-founders Nupur Nagpal and Aakash Saikia’s bold and bright creations are head turners, inspired by fashion’s most coveted trends. As such, they inject each new collection with fresh motifs, kitschy elements and witty prints making fully sure that if you’ve got these babies on your feet, you can be assured of second glances. More importantly, they consistently keep their lines both affordable in price as well as versatile and accessible in their styling, something which has made them a favourite with stylists, young bloggers and designers, as well as fashion houses who are always on the prowl for well-produced yet easy fashion products.
HG loves: Maasai Mode, a pair of platforms with motifs inspired by Kenya’s Masai tribe. Priced at Rs. 1,799
“To change the way Indian men looked at shoes, and bringing them quality handmade leather”
Naman Shah started Cuero after a trip to Dubai, when he noticed that European men wore much better shoes than their Indian counterparts. Combining his passion for shoes and business sense, he went into bespoke footwear. He’s showcased at fashion week and counts a number of celebrities amongst his clientele.
HG loves: Cuero’s newly launched leather sandals for women. For what started as a men’s footwear label, Cuero certainly knows what the ladies like, too.
“We are here to change the way you buy shoes. Our outfitter appointment makes sure you don’t have to visit stores that don’t sell what you are looking for.“
This Delhi/NCR-based shoe design portal custom makes high-street footwear for men. And the best part is that they come to you. All you have to do is fill out an appointment slip on their website and they’ll send over someone to take your measurements and show you design options. Or, if you like an existing design, you can buy it online and get it delivered to you. Easy peasy. The best things in life may be free, but when things look as gorgeous as Dnuvo’s shoes, you really can’t put a price tag on them.
HG loves: The Connors, a sleek pair of crocodile-skin shoes. Dnuvo’s shoes cost upwards of Rs. 8,000
VI. Love Is Mighty
“100% handmade, vegan shoes.”
Did you ever think shoes could be vegan? Well, they can. Monisha Raja’s Love Is Mighty makes 100% handmade, vegan shoes. She started the brand when she realised that India’s centuries-old traditions were facing the very real threat of extinction as thousands of skilled artisans were abandoning their traditional crafts and leaving their villages for India’s big cities in the hopes of earning more money in fields such as construction. In a bid to help keep their craft alive, Raja designs her shoes using the inspiration she draws from India’s traditional crafts and combines them with her knowledge of modern shoe making.
HG loves: Koel, ballet flats with bronze metal wire embroidery on the front. These will set you back by a cool Rs. 14, 680.
VII. Fizzy Goblet
“We are for the curious and experimental, for the light hearted and the passionate, we are for everyday adventures, taken one step at a time.”
This shoe brand is all about bright colours and bold prints. And its origin story is all kinds of rad: Laksheeta Govil, a graduate of Delhi’s Pearl Academy of Fashion, saw a pair of shoes in a boutique window that she wanted very badly. But the exorbitant price tag felled any hopes she had of slipping them onto her feet. So she decided take matters into her own hands, rolled up her sleeves, grabbed a paintbrush and got down to work on a pair of white sneakers. The result? The first pair of what would later be known as Fizzy Goblet was born. Eventually, she and her partner Abhinav Mehra did what any talented, plucky youngster with a dream and a boatload of courage would do—they started a company.
HG loves: The Brogue-sters, priced at Rs. 2,500, are a crazy fusion of brogues and juttis. Innovative, trendy and very en pointe, we think.
“GUSH is young, strong, confident, yet relaxed and trendy. The best way to describe our label is boho-chic.”
Launched in 2013 by Vrinda Gupta and Manav Shah, Gush describes itself as ‘boho-chic’. In 2012, Shah was dismayed by the lack of good options for men’s footwear, and along with Gupta, realised that there was a serious void in the market. “I just ran the idea of starting our very own shoe and accessory label for men past her. Her technical expertise in the field and my business management background seemed like an ideal match, and that sowed the first seeds for GUSH,” he says. Soon, they realised that cutting out 50 percent of the market was not a good idea, and developed a women’s collection as well. Three years later, they’ve collaborated with designers for fashion week and worked on a men’s collection for SVA’s runway show—apart from retailing on e-stores like Nete, Scootsy and Zohraa. Soon, GUSH!’s shoes will be available on Amazon, Flipkart and KOOVS. So you know where to go if you want a pair.
HG loves: Gush’s trendy platform shoes. All of GUSH!’s products cost between Rs. 1500 to Rs. 4,000
“Bringing unconventional footwear to the public”
A Portuguese word meaning style, Janota is the brainchild of Angela and Edwin Pinto of Goa. Angela has been dabbling in handicraft since she was 15 years old. She used to make clothes for herself and her family and after marrying Edwin, who is trained in pattern making and garment construction, the two of them put their combined knowledge to use and started Janota with the idea of bringing unconventional footwear to the public. They draw inspiration from Goa’s bohemian lifestyle and the joie de vivre of their fellow Goans.
HG loves: Nobu, a pair of tan leather boots with a standout flap and visible stitching lines. These lovely boots are priced at Rs, 4000.
“Combining modern elements with India’s local crafts”
Initially, The Sole Sisters started out as a blog, but today, it sells handcrafted shoes. The woman behind it, Chondamma Cariappa, quit her advertising job to pursue her passion for shoe design. All her shoes are handcrafted and combine modern elements while drawing inspiration from India’s local culture and crafts.
HG loves: Their chikankari collection, made from handmade leather and gorgeous chikankari work. They cost Rs. 3,000
XI. The Shoe Factory
“Each pair is handcrafted by skilled artisans”
Delhi-based model Arjun Dutta started The Shoe Factory in 2013 when he discovered that he didn’t like anything in the market. “I could seldom find anything that appealed to my street style sensitivity, neither in terms of colour nor styling. So I decided to design my own,” he says. Over the years, Dutta has collaborated with numerous designers and showcased his collections at fashion weeks. Today, his most popular style is the Wholecut Brogue, while his personal favourite are the Monks with removable fringes. If you like Dutta’s collection, email him ([email protected]) to place an order. You can choose from existing styles or get Shoe Factory to make you your very own pair—show them an image of a shoe you like and they’ll make it from scratch.
HG Loves: The Olive Green Long Wing Derby. It’s hard to make a pair of green shoes look good, but The Shoe Factory manages perfectly with these babies and they’re priced at Rs. 8,500.
XII. Nappa Dori
“Our shoe designing process is quite an intricate one, with severe attention detail in unexpected places”
While most know that Nappa Dori makes amazing handcrafted leather bags and accessories, not everyone is in the know that they also make great shoes: the journey began when one of their artisans asked if he could make a classic Calcutta leather chappal, and the owners agreed. Soon after, Nappa Dori launched a limited edition collection of women’s shoes and received a great response. Now, they’re planning to release their next collection—but this time, for men and women. Their most popular styles are brogues and oxfords. You can place an order via email ([email protected]) or visit their stores at Meherchand Market or Hauz Khas Village.
HG loves: The oxfords. Priced between Rs. 6,000 and Rs. 7,000, they’re sleek and androgynous. Was there ever a more versatile shoe that looked this good? Probably not.
XIII. SS HOMME
“Bespoke shoes in India, especially for men, are a rarity. Much like our bespoke garments, our shoes also undergo the same meticulous process.”
SS HOMME began as a bespoke luxury men’s suiting store in 2012. Since then, the team has been overwhelmed with the positive reactions from Mumbai’s dapper gentlemen, who understand the importance of dressing well. After expanding to include a prêt-á-porter section, SS HOMME has now moved into the realm of handmade shoes. “Bespoke shoes in India, especially for men, are a rarity. Much like our bespoke garments, bespoke shoes also undergo the same meticulous process of amalgamation. The process begins with choosing the design and the right type of leather for your shoes,” says Sandeep Gonsalves, one of the co-founders. If you want a pair of snazzy shoes courtesy SS HOMME, book an appointment through their website, or email them ([email protected]) to schedule an appointment for shoes.
HG loves: Their burnt orange Brogues. It’s the perfect pop of colour needed to add some excitement to your outfit. SS HOMME’s bespoke shoes start from Rs. 18,000.
Words: Neville Bhandara
Research by Diva Garg