It all started for Chondamma Cariappa, a former advertising professional, when she uploaded an album on Facebook titled ‘Fetish’ with photographs of shoes she had picked up on her travels. Soon enough, they became conversation starters on social media and she took the subtle hint that life offered to launch ‘The Sole Sisters’, a blog where she invited followers to share their own shoe stories. She quit her job, learnt the art of designing shoes and introduced her first, limited collection of Ikat sandals online.The response was overwhelming.Today, she has had more than 400 contributions on her blog and very much the next big thing on the block. Travel+Leisure India had a quick chat with the shoe designer.
T+L: Where and when did all the learning happen? One moment you were a blogger, the next, you were designing shoes.
CC: It all happened very organically. It all started with an album on Facebook called Fetish. I posted pictures of shoes I picked up from various places I travelled to. This lead to discussion among my friends. That’s when it struck me to make it a much larger platform for women to share and discuss shoes. The Blog ‘The Sole Sisters’ came about soon after. Then I wanted to figure how to monetize the blog. I introduced a limited collection of the Ikat sandals. The response was overwhelming. I quit my advertising job and started designing shoes.
T+L: What was the first shoe you designed?
CC: The Ikat collection is the first line I designed and launched The Sole Sisters label.
T+L: One of your proudest moments in your career as a shoe designer.
CC: Winning the Grazia Young Fashion Award at the start of my shoe designing career. That was very encouraging.
T+L: Do you like to travel? What’s your absolute favourite city in the world and why?
CC: I love to travel. I make it a point to travel at least twice a year. One of my most favourite cities is Granada, Spain. It’s a city that’s full of history and culture with a heavy North African influence. I love staying in the old Arab quarter of Albayzín, with its winding cobblestone streets and small squares which are perfect for watching the sunset. The people are friendly, the food is fantastic and so is the Moorish architecture. I also enjoy watching the flamenco in the gypsy caves of the Sacromonte neighbourhood. It’s intense and beautiful.
T+L: What are your travel aspirations? One unattainable travel wish?
CC: Mountains stir my soul, so Mount Kilimanjaro is definitely on my travel wish list.
T+L: What do you do for a downtime in Mumbai?
CC: Spend time at the farmer’s market, go for a walk on Bandstand, have friends over for dinner and wine.
T+L: Your style statement?
CC: Comfy chic with an element of quirk.
T+L: Are you much of a brands person? Which shoe brands can you blindly trust to save you last minute?
CC: I’m not obsessed with brands. I pick up stuff what catches my eyes irrespective of whether it’s branded or not. Bensimon is one of all time favourite shoe brands, their shoes are fun, comfy and never let me down.
T+L: Your career aspirations. One thing you think you want to be a part of in the next five-ten years?
CC: I want The Sole Sisters to be the most sought after women’s shoe brand in the country. And of course, to see our shoes in cities like Millan, Paris and Toyko. In the next five to ten years I want to have a farm for rescued animals. I feel very strongly about neglected and abused animals and would love to do something for them.
T+L: What are the must haves in your travel gear?
CC: A pair of good walking shoes, phone charger, sunglasses and sunscreen.
T+L: What one thing do most people not know about you?
CC: That I turned vegan early this year.
T+L: How does a shoe designer pick herself up on a bad day?
CC: Yoga and lounging with my cats never fail to perk me up.
T+L: Your favourite genre of shoes?
CC: Kolhapuris. They’re super versatile. Zero fuss. Can slip in and out of them easily. They go well with Indian as well as western and they never go out of fashion.
T+L: Global shoe designers you admire?
CC: Salvatore Ferragamo, Chie Mihara and Bensimon.