Khadi footwear could comfort its makers and wearers
As “vocal for local” gains currency, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is pushing Agra’s shoe manufacturers to try khadi as an alternative to natural and synthetic leather.
“You can’t completely replace leather but in a world which is increasingly becoming conscious of ethical shopping and when being vegan is no longer an uncommon practice in India, khadi is a functional option we can work with,” said Puran Dawar, chairman, Agra Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Chamber.
Less dependence on leather, he added, would make the shoe-making business a more vibrant space. “Right now, many creative people stay away because we are dealing with leather,” he said.
“It is breathable, provides variety and can be used in the mass market as well as in the fashion industry. We have seen designers often don’t give enough focus to shoes when they create their collections,” said Mr. Dawar, whose Dawar Group, along with the Trishuli Group, have made some samples of footwear that features khadi.
Designer Shruti Kaul of the Trishuli Group said she has been exporting jute shoes for some time. “In India, there is less demand and respect for handmade products but tastes are changing. Khadi shoes could be an ideal eye-catching option for bridalwear. Girls look for matching shoes with every dress at an affordable price and khadi shoes provide that option. They could be washed at home with a light detergent,” she said.
The use of fabric in shoes, particularly for the summer months, is not new. Mr. Dawar pointed out how Vietnam has been a centre for canvas shoes and how major sports shoe brands use woven textiles for uppers. “Khadi shoes are essentially a summer product for the female clientele but could be used in light winter by lining the upper with artificial fur,” he said.
To provide strength, Mr. Dawar said the soles were being made of polyurethane systems, and expanded and other types of rubber.
Ms. Kaul said the KVIC had provided them the fabric with batik, tie and dye, and Madhubani prints, and they used embroidery to embellish them. “Workers accustomed to working with leather easily adapted to it. They just had to be extra careful as you can’t afford to stain the fabric with adhesive or dirt,” she said.
Mr. Dawar said the lockdown and the clash with China had impacted the shoe industry in Agra.
He added, “We get most of our export orders for winter between March 15 and July 15. We have already lost 50% of the orders. Now, we are trying to salvage the rest. The good thing is that our labour is local and has already returned to work.”
The industry uses buckles, zippers, and other embellishments that come from China. “It is like in a shoe of ₹1,000, a part of ₹50 is from China. In future, these could be procured locally as well but the government should ensure that the delivery of these Chinese parts, for which payment has already been made and are lying at different ports, should reach us,” Mr. Dawar said.
He said the government’s “intention was right” but it should be “followed by instruction and implementation.” “At this point, it seems, they are not aligned,” he remarked.