“There is only one way to learn, it's by holding the guru. The guru is the needle.”
Muksed bhai sits on the floor of the shoe department, the same place he’s sat for the last few years. Stitching each minuscule pearl evenly onto a satin fabric, he recalls the time he found his calling, through the influence and guidance of his older brother.
“I was 13 when I first saw my brother sit down at a ‘khaat.’ I had never seen him concentrate so intensely on a task. He would spend hours on every rhythmic stitch. That kind of divine focus isn’t easily available to a 16-year old boy – he was lucky. I watched him wide-eyed every day and a year later, I learned the basics too.”
When comparing the embroidery of a garment to that on the shoes, Muksed bhai draws out their similarities.
“When you think of a shoe, it’s very often a simple image, something human beings need to walk out of the house. I like thinking of the shoe like an artwork for your feet, we put in the same amount of effort in adorning the heels with pearls and glass beads as the garment karigars do for lehengas. Shoes are a smaller canvas and require more precision. Of course these heels are not for everyday wear but neither is a lehenga. It’s for those special occasions, where you want to stand out.”
The coming together of a shoe is not something most people think about often. Although it does require a good amount of architecture, science and engineering.
“When I joined, we didn’t have the shoe specialists that we do now, who have studied the art and science of making a comfortable fit. Over the years the process has been fine-tuned to perfection. It starts with a mechanical mannequin shaped like a human foot, called a ‘last,’ the embroidery and fabrics are set and cut onto a 2D prototype and then cast on the 3D last. With a regimented process and specialists on board, we’re able to make shoes that appear elaborate and extravagant but are still easy to wear. There’s a lot that goes into the engineering to make the structure as comfortable as possible. Through client feedback and hundreds of in-house trials, we’re able to pinpoint the parts of the shoe that cause discomfort and rectify that.”
In the last few years, Muksed bhai’s talents have been central to many collections and over 200 shoes. Muksed bhai describes his favourite design.
“My favourite design is the Rosita, we call it the ‘bangdiwala’ because the topical embroidery is composed of gold bangles. It was a joy to make them because the end result reminded me of a fairy, with satin covering and pearl chains hanging down the back. Many people don’t realise that we offer a warranty on the embroidery of shoes. There is a lot of care and consideration that goes into intricately embroidering each shoe, it needs to be durable yet delicate. I personally fix the embroidery of any shoe that has been damaged within six months of purchase. I take pride in making the shoe look like it was when you first bought it.”
A concluding statement by Muksed bhai, highlights what we’ve been told throughout our lives. All it takes is to simply start.
“My advice to anyone young or old that wants to explore this craft is only one thing, you have to pick up the ‘guru.’ The guru is the needle, we’ve all grown up calling it the ‘guru,’ because it’s the only thing that can teach you. There is only one way to learn and that is by doing.”