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The Story Behind Your Footwear

There is a A LOT of effort behind that quirky pair

By Maha Asif Rizwan

From tassels and embellishment to sky high heels, our favourite shoes come in all shapes and sizes. But who comes up will all the designs? And more importantly, how are they made? Since we take our shoes very seriously, we picked the brains of the latest footwear successes to find out the fascinating story behind our summer sole mates.

Here’s everything you’d ever wanted to know.

A little inspiration goes a long way

Zehra Adams, from Soma International, says that any interesting detail that catches your eye can be turned into a pair of shoes.

“Places, people, travel, food, paintings, stories, experiences – just everything that is Appealing in the slightest of ways can inspire a design.”

Watching their inspiration turn into an actual fashion piece is a process Marium Rahman, of Stratford Street, describes as fascinating.

“The mere fact that you are designing a pair which will hold the weight of an entire person, give them comfort and carry them places is what excites me the most.”

Image source: Somaintl

Every single shoe is hand-made

Unlike global footwear brands, the Pakistani shoe industry hasn’t yet entered the machine era. All the shoes manufactured in Pakistan are made from scratch with hand.

“Internationally, the shoes are semi handmade – machines assist their manufacturing,” Amna Baber from Cocoon describes the process. “Over here, from cutting the fabric, to repetitive stitching, to pasting the shoe together, everything is handmade. Unfortunately, there is little appreciation over here for the handmade – which is much appreciated internationally.”

Your shoes are weather proof

Image source: Cocoon By Amna Babar

The actual manufacturing of a shoe, while interesting, is also extensive.

Marium Rahman tells us that it all begins with a simple sketch on a paper, “The first step is visualizing a design. Then the materials and embellishments that compliment it are decided. After the sketch, the pattern is roughly drawn onto the shoe. The structure of the shoe is decided at the end, to check the practicality of the design.”

Here’s the process:

Step 1: The leather and material used in our shoes is treated for weeks to make it suitable for manufacturing.

Step 2: Next, the pattern is cut out of the actual material and sewn together.

Step 3: The required comfort padding is added to the insole and the logo is embossed.

Step 4: The bottom sole is shaved and shaped and the entire shoe is then put together by fixing all the separate elements together.

The shoe is then checked for quality, comfort, and durability through sampling within the factory.

What’s most fascinating is, that each pair at Soma is tried several times through different weather conditions before it’s sent out to customers.

Pakistani artisans are some of the best in the world

“Pakistanis have to be one of the most skilled artisans in the world. From having artistic attributes to the steadiest hand and a clear vision of the final product, our craftsperson are one of the best,” Zehra Adam gives us an insight into the world of talented workers behind the trendy Soma shoes.

While these artisans have little to no education, their skills and hard work more than compensate for it.

Usually from interior Sindh, they work day and night to perfect their technical training in cutting soles, working with different materials and cutting various patterns. Even though their livelihood depends on the shoes they make, Marium Rahman tells us that the artisans prefer working on per piece basis, avoiding being on any one brand’s pay roll.

You can upcycle your footwear

A single shoe comprises of more than one manufacturing material.

“Quite a lot of different material is required to make the upper, sole, and insoles,” Marium Rahman explains how the fabric and leather used to make shoes varies. “The top – the part that holds the foot – is a separate material while the sole, insoles, padding are different materials that are used according to the design requirements.”

However, a lot of this material includes basic fashion items, “Recently, we have worked with lace and patent, patent and suede, soft satin etc. The options are endless,” says Amna Baber.

Once a shoe wears out, it can easily be recycled using household materials like printed fabric, crochets, sharpies, and even embellishments, making the basic shoe last longer than usual.