If you love to adorn yourself with ethnic wear, chances are you must have eyed on Indian-style footwears from the label Aprajita Toor. What just started as to find a solution to her personal difficulty to find a perfect sized pair, became a well-known brand that is trusted by many fashion enthusiasts and celebrities too.
We were in a conversation with Aprajita Toor, the founder of the footwear label Aprajita Toor unfolding the pages from her entrepreneurial diary.
Where did it all begin for you?
Since childhood, I was fascinated with colours and how different combinations would help highlight the defining characters of everything around me. So be it clothes or my artwork in school, I would always look to bring out the best in them by giving them the perfect colours and hues. As a teenager growing up in a new India, more recently exposed to international fashion on a bigger scale, my efforts of playing with colours would get noticed and appreciated by friends and their parents. I was partly drawn to the advent of international couture to India and a part of me was in awe of India’s rich cultural heritage and the work done by our traditional artisans, having seen it in my mother’s wardrobe. I was always intrigued about how the rich and vibrant Indian cultural design skills not only stood strong against the sudden euphoria about foreign brands and designs but at times outshone them in respect of the artwork and skill required to turn a simple piece of cloth into something breathtaking. But as a teenager, none of this was something I thought I would ever be able to project on a canvas large enough for the world to notice. I simply went about doing my schooling and then after my graduation I completed a diploma in Jewellery designing and technology.
Having completed my MBA in 2011 and after the birth of my first child, I was looking to do something that would help channelize my creativity and would contribute meaningfully to my growth as a qualified professional. Having tried my hand at a desk job, I knew it was not the perfect outlet for my creative energies. I had dabbled in jewellery designing for a while and found some success, but creatively it felt very limited.
During this time, I encountered a situation wherein while shopping for a pair of sneakers, the salesperson directed me to the men’s section to look for the right-sized shoes. Being a tall person with slender feet, I had always struggled to find the right fit of shoes as the right fitting shoes were always a few sizes smaller. It made me wonder how many people would have to suffer a similar situation when choosing a pair of perfectly fitting shoes because the shoes were of standard sizes, whereas our feet come in different shapes even if the length may be the same. That was when I decided that I would try my hand at making custom-fit footwear.
Can you tell us something about you?
I am a vagabond at heart, a designer by the day, and a mother, daughter, partner for every moment in between. Professionally, I have completed MBA and a diploma in Jewellery Designing and technology.
Please share What, When, & How of starting your brand Aprajita Toor?
As I mentioned earlier, I started designing shoes more as a challenge to create perfect fitting shoes for those who were struggling with standard-sized footwear, which would neither fit correctly nor be comfortable to walk in. As I set about making the first batch of footwear, I wasn’t thinking of branding them under my name. The first designs I created carried the name “WeDesi”, which was my effort at amalgamating Indian skills and craftsmanship with contemporary, stylish & comfortable high street designs. The initial response to my first creations was positive and encouraging, something that helped me create more designs. My focus from the beginning was always to ensure that shoes should be very high in comfort and quality. To further cement the trust of those who loved our designs, I decided to put my name on every shoe that was made at my studio. And that is how the shoes started sharing my name.
Can you walk us through your journey so far?
Since starting my Label 10 years ago, my journey through the years is filled with trials & tribulations, success & failure, euphoria & depression. Without sounding too philosophical or preachy, no two days in these years have ever been the same. While the appreciation, acceptance, positive feedback, etc. are like music to the ears, commercial pressures, deadlines, demanding customers, staff issues, etc. can at times push one to the brink. At times people question “Why is your footwear so expensive?” without realizing that to make something unique, luxurious & comfortable requires a huge investment both creatively and financially in creating an atmosphere & setup, where each piece can be handcrafted with attention to detail without compromising on the quality of every little material that goes in the making of the footwear.
What are some challenges that you faced while running Aprajita Toor?
The biggest challenges always lie within our own minds and once we overcome those, the world around us cannot create an obstacle big enough to stop us. My biggest challenge was to never let commercial reasons dictate my creative thinking. And although the initial years were filled with doubts and questions about how I could sustain and grow keeping such a strong emphasis on making high-quality footwear at an affordable price, I never compromised on the quality or design of my products. I had ascribed my name to the brand and that itself was an epitome of my belief in the shoes that we made. With the love and support of an ever-growing client base, I was able to overcome those initial fears and continue making designs that offered contemporary aesthetics, customization, and comfort.
What according to you makes Aprajita Toor stand out amongst other brands?
I never wanted to stand out against or amongst anyone. My journey is mine alone, and I work each day to get better than I was yesterday. I am humbled each day with the love and acceptance that I have received in the last few years. I wish to continue making footwear that is a true reflection of my belief in comfort, luxury, style, and quality. I used to get affected earlier when so-called brands started copying my designs, but then I have come to accept that even if they can copy my designs, my creativity is mine alone.
How are you using Social Media to promote your homegrown brand?
Social media has been an important part of our efforts of reaching out to a far wider audience both domestically and internationally. Facebook & Instagram have most definitely helped us grow faster than a traditional business would in the ’90s. Also, a large part of our growth in the last few years has been by word of mouth and the trust our customers have come to place in our brand, which they most happily share on different online platforms.
What is your 5-year plan for Aprajita Toor?
When I started this journey, it was not with a plan and till today I have not planned where and how I want to reach in the next one, two or five years. The plan was always to make customized, bespoke, hand crafted, luxurious shoes in contemporary designs using the skills of traditional craftsmen of India. Having said that, it does not mean that I do not have a vision for my brand, I do. I want to make shoes for anyone and everyone who has all along believed that their feet are weird or different and for those who have accepted that shoe bites or heels hanging outside the shoes or loose fitting shoes are normal. I want to make shoes that compliment not just the outfit but the overall persona, shoes that are comfortable yet stylish. Also, without putting a time window, I want to be accessible both online & offline to anyone wanting to put my designs on their feet, anywhere in the world.
Can you share your business model with us?
Currently, a large part of our sales happen through online channels, which include our own website and those of our E-commerce partners. We are also available offline with a few luxury multi brand retail outlets. The designing, manufacturing & marketing of our products is done in-house at our studio in Mumbai.
One advice/suggestion you’d like to give aspiring entrepreneurs out there.
Someone wise has said, “Nothing succeeds like success”. No amount of reading quotes or biographies will make you successful. What worked for someone will not necessarily work for you. There is no shortcut to success; it takes sweat, hard work, dedication and belief in your dream, for it to come true.
And yes, there is nothing called free lunch in this world.