Renowned French footwear designer, Christian Louboutin once said, "...the way you’re going to move is quite dictated by your shoes". For a country that is increasingly looking for adding something new to their wardrobe, we often forget how important shoes can be to complete a sophisticated look.
For the past two years, London brand Heel & Buckle has made its presence felt in India by offering luxury footwear for the movers and shakers of the country. Featuring brands such as Magnanni, Church’s and Rad Russel, the store houses shoes of Spanish, Italian and English make.
Managing director, Dhiraj Bathija says, “It was a matter of filling the market gap in India for luxury footwear for men that was not fast fashion. Part of this issue comes from the fact that we don’t have luxury department stores in India. To solve that problem, we have brands that offer them the quality of a long-lasting shoe, something that they will cherish for years.”
But, what is it about these separate brands that make them so appealing to the buyers? The Spanish brand, Magnanni, ranging from ₹27,000 – ₹70,000 is available in many colours and is styled with just the right amount of flair that Spanish-made shoes are supposed to be. Bathija explains, “The shoes are narrow-toed, usually painted in the patina fashion, which means that they are hand-painted by artisans and are hence, unique in a way and not mass-manufactured. There are very few of these artisans left and the individuality and colours involved in each design is what makes these shoes exclusive.”
On the other hand, we have the Prada-owned English brand, Church’s, built in the Goodyear welt style. Says Bathija, “To put it simply, the sole is stitched onto the shoe because of which the shoe lasts for as long as one would expect a good shoe from such a reputed brand to last.” He continues, “We often have customers coming in to ask us for Church’s shoes because they have seen their grandfathers and fathers use the same for 25 years or more. Besides the legacy behind the brand, we realise that customers come back for the brand because they realise it’s better than the fast fashion where we only buy something and use it for a few months before tossing it out.”
To differentiate between the two brands, Bathija says that we could look at the difference between the countries and their culture. He says, “The English are more conservative and thus, Church’s shoes will at first glance look like a regular black shoe. But, the durability and quality makes it stand out. On the other hand, the Spanish are more flamboyant and hence, we see the styling and colour involved in the making of the shoes.”
Besides this, Heel & Buckle also offers custom-made shoes from Bologna, Italy as it is easily customisable. But, Bathija realises that sometimes, these services are not much in demand. He says, “A customer now wants things right away. Despite explaining to them that the process from the fitting to delivery takes anywhere between six to nine weeks, they’re not too happy with that.”
The custom-made designs start from ₹70,000 and work on a slightly different principle than regular shoe fittings. Bathija explains, “Since the emphasis of a custom-made shoe is on comfort, we measure the width of the foot along with the length. This is because in a room full of people, one realises that the length is fairly standard but the fitting of your shoe depends on the size of your instep and the width of your foot.”
As far as the luxury footwear market in India is concerned, Bathija is optimistic about it. “We have been lucky in the sense that people’s personal designers often order from us or recommend our store and brands to them. We find that people are thinking of shoes more than just in the utilitarian terms as was the case before. Of course, festivals and wedding seasons see more interest in the products. So, that helps.”
Ah! Well, as long as the shoe fits.