Be it clothing or accessories, Bohemian style pieces always work their charm. Even when it comes to Indian footwear, you can opt for a boho-chic look with fun and colourpop sandals that suit your needs and tastes. That's what designer Deborah Malik has set out to offer to her Indian customer base with her recently launched footwear label Sandalwali. A connoisseur of fashion and after successfully running her export company All That Jazzz since 2002, Deborah is now determined to offer handmade customisable footwear in India with designs that transcend occasions as well as quality and comfort.
With a penchant for footwear and design sensibilities that amalgamate Indian craftsmanship with global aesthetics, Deborah Malik's collection of sandals are all about being fun, quirky and boho-chic. We at NDTV Swirlster caught up with the designer to talk about sandals and what dared her to launch her footwear label in the midst of COVID lockdown.
Tell us about Sandalwali?
Deborah Malik: "Sandalwali is a one-stop-shop for the contemporary Indian woman who is comfortable in her own skin, independent, knows what she wants and lives a lifestyle set on her own rules. It is here that the contemporary Indian woman can find a sandal that fits many occasions whether it is a formal meeting, a wedding or just casual wear. We believe that our sandals hold the power to metamorphose and exemplify one's statement of expression."
What styles of sandals do you design? What would you say sets them apart?
Deborah Malik: "At Sandalwali, we have taken the proverbial 'Indian Chappal' and worked on it with many modern twists. We offer open toe flats in various forms for example sliders, tie-up sandals and more. Each sandal has a different technique; some use materials like denim, jute or pony hair while some of the sandals are hand embroidered or embellished with beads. Punch-out detailing, hand-embroidery, hand-plaiting of leather and thread are some of our most used techniques."
"What sets the sandals apart are their unique designs that take influences from the East and the West along with fine craftsmanship that is not commonly found in footwear in India. Each sandal can be customised to suit individual needs in terms of colour, style, size and more. We also offer the choice of vegan sandals in our existing style templates. Comfort and usage is key, and at Sandalwali each sandal comes with butter-soft cushioning."
Tell us about your Sea Star Series. What was the thought behind it?
Deborah Malik: "Mid lockdown, most of us, especially my team and I were itching to go for a vacation. I love the beach and who doesn't? This is when the idea of launching a sea collection came to my mind and so the Sea Star Series was born."
"Our Sea Star Series was designed keeping in mind the love that we have for the beach, the sea and the creatures of the marine ecosystem. We took inspiration from sea stars around the world such as the captivating Blue Linckia Sea Star, the friendly Sugar Sea Star and the formidable Black Brittle Sea Star. We wanted to create a line of statement footwear and the Sea Star Series served that purpose. This collection features sea stars that are created with hand embroidered beads of different sizes and colours, which give them a 3-D effect and also make them look very real."
What materials do you explore while creating your sandals?
Deborah Malik: "We experiment with and explore materials like fabrics, beads, leather, thread, PU, suedette, pinatex, banana silk, bamboo silk and pony hair for our sandals. We also have collections wherein we make sandals using leftover fabrics or beads in a bid to do as much as we can to recycle materials and hence produce almost no waste during our manufacturing process."
Each sandal has a name, as though a person like Arya or Naira. What inspired you to do so?
Deborah Malik: "Each of our sandals have a unique name. Before we launched Sandalwali, I wanted each sandal to have a name so that I could personify my sandals. Sandals are an integral part of my wardrobe. I have a huge collection of them myself and one can almost always catch me browsing through different websites in search of more footwear and hence just like some people name their plants or their pets, I wanted each of my sandals to have a name and a personal identity, which defines who they are and how they can transform your wardrobe."
Is denim footwear as versatile as denim clothing?
Deborah Malik: "Definitely! Denim footwear is no different from denim clothing. Denim footwear exudes the same vibe as denim clothing and our Gabby Frayed Denim Sandal has proved to not just be our bestseller but also been praised for her unique design embellished with dull silver beads. Moreover, in terms of versatility, you can pair her with just about anything; I usually just slip her on with my jeans or an A-line skirt.
You launched your brand during lockdown. What has been the response?
Deborah Malik: "Yes, we launched our brand just as the lockdown took place. Our dates were already pre-decided and I did not let the pandemic deter the set timeline. We took this positively within our stride and with determination moved forward because I had faith in my designs and believed that they had the potential to surpass this obstacle as well. We used the lockdown to our advantage by doing creative shoots and stories and being consistent in displaying our story and sandals on our social media handles. We knew that while the market is down we would get maximum visibility during this time and rightly so. Even during lockdown, as a newly launched brand, we received an overwhelming response initially from friends and family and thereafter from our target audience as well."
What made you introduce vegan footwear in your collection?
Deborah Malik: "As the world progresses, an increasing number of people are switching to eco-friendly products and are becoming conscious of what they consume or buy. Vegan footwear is one such option that we offer. As of now most of our vegan footwear comprises PU and fabric, but my team and I plan to venture into more adventurous materials such as pinatex, banana silk, bamboo silk and more."
What are some of your most popular sandals?
Deborah Malik: "The Gabby Frayed Denim Sandal for a go-to cool and casual daily wear vibe. Our newly released Andrea Leopard Print Sandal is for the non-conformist woman who likes to set a statement making her an irresistible addition to your shoe rack. The Purvai gold and silver multi-strap sandal is a day to night sandal and very versatile. For a boho Indian chappal appeal, the colourful Naira is just perfect. Now if you want all eyes drawn to your footwear then I would definitely suggest one to opt either for the Lucy Black Sea star or our pretty Lucy Pink Sea Star.
Tips to take care of sandals and maintain them through different seasons?
Deborah Malik: "Sandals do not require a lot of care. However, keep your sandals in their fabric bags when they aren't in use. Under any circumstance if your sandals get wet, then first dry them out completely before putting them back into their fabric bags."
In the near future, Deborah plans to launch matching handmade bags with sandals along with a line for little girls as well.
Also read: Shoe Away Your Blues With Hot New Sneakers To Your Collection