A handmade tale: Meet the women who are giving good, old Kolhapuri footwear a contemporary touch
A classic fashion export to the West, the Kolhapuri slipper has stood the test of time. Having originated from Kolhapur, Maharashtra, these slippers are considered a summer favourite and can be easily paired with ethnic and Western outfits. Sensing how the love for footwear could resonate among the UAE residents, a brand new venture called The Marigold Story is giving the traditional Indian footwear a contemporary touch while not compromising on its ethnic elegance. Brainchild of Sai Bhagwat and Rupal Panjani, the brand is slowly and steadily carving a niche for its quirky designs. Edited excerpts from an interview with the duo...
Sai Bhagwat and Rupal Panjani
What led you to start The Marigold Story?
We are friends first and became friends at a workplace. We realised that we are bound by a mutual love for handcrafted items and indigenous arts with a modern take. We decided at around the same time that we wanted to try our hand at business and collaborated quite naturally. The Marigold Story was born out of our need to bet on ourselves, channel our energy and create something that would make us happy.
Can you talk a bit about the background of Kolhapuri chappals?
Kolhapuris are a well-loved pair of footwear, available across bazaars in India that originated from a district named Kolhapur in Central India (Maharashtra). Like all things stemming from the wisdom of our forefathers, crafting a pair of kolhapuris using traditional techniques involves no artificial materials or processes, it is almost entirely organic and results in minimal waste. This was as fascinating to us as the design which appealed to our combined aesthetic.
Sai's family are from Maharashtra and we both belong to a generation that wore a pair of inexpensive, trendy Kolhapuris with virtually any outfit for years. We knew there were others like us that might be in the market looking for a new pair quite often.
What does your creative process entail?
At The Marigold Story studio, we've come to appreciate a combination of creativity and customisation. Every design that we sell was imagined at our studio before we placed our order. We've procured several pairs of this traditional footwear, created by a group of grassroots-level artisans based in Kolhapur. These are crafted by hand, using an authentic technique and through leather that is a result of mass production of the small scale leather industry.
At our studio, we give these 'blank canvases' a fun twist by upcycling and custom-designing each pair. We use fabric swatches that come from pre-owned garments that can be repurposed and kept alive, combined with embellishments bought from street markets in India.
Each pair is unique, entirely handmade and designed exclusively for the customer when we receive an order.
For a lot of customers, identifying real Kolhapuri leather is often tricky. Are there some pointers one ought to keep in mind while choosing good Kolhapuri leather?
A traditional pair of Kolhapuris should be flat and relatively hard at the beginning, but like any good leather, it takes the shape of your feet when worn a few times. It should sound like a loud clap when the soles are hit each other. Above all, an authentic pair should have visible, contrasting thread work that pops.
What, according to you, is the main reason behind the lasting allure of Kolhapuris?
They are beautiful, versatile and inexpensive. They can range from the simple to the most intricate patterns and be subtle accessories or styled to make a statement. They've evolved over the decades to remain relevant to new generations of customers.