On her wedding day in 2013, Shirin Mann Sangha accepted congratulations on the one hand, and orders on the other.
Not a fan of stilettoes or the blingy footwear common to Indian wedding wear, she had designed her own juttis – a striking fuchsia pair adorned with tiny ghungroos and gold zardosi work. She also had a karigar from Rajasthan make them because she couldn’t find a pair in any market in Delhi, Punjab, or Rajasthan that suited her taste. “The markets were saturated with predictable blacks and browns, while the fancier ones only had zari. There was a dearth of funky juttis,” she says.
Today, juttis – the traditional north Indian slip-on, flat-soled shoes – from her brand, Needle Dust, have been worn by Sonam Kapoor, Tabu and Nimrat Kaur and are steadily becoming a bridal favourite. In pop colours like aqua, pink, yellow, peach and the more traditional gold and silver, the designs range from vintage floral to paisley prints and feature embroidered parrots and motifs inspired by Roman carnivals. “The idea is to be quirky and challenge popular taste,” says the Gurgaon-based Sangha, whose brand also has a retail space in Delhi.
Juttis come with unflattering perceptions. They are seen as old-fashioned, and because of their flat soles, their customers are thought to be mostly older women. To help younger customers find their sole mate, designers are now creating styles that are contemporary, yet inherently Indian. Pastels and Pop, an online store started by Bangalore-based Akanksha Chhabra with her two sisters, uses raw silk as the base fabric, with colourful booties, pearls and threadwork.
“We have a personal connection with juttis, having spent many a vacation shopping for them in Punjab. Today, we make almost 500 pairs a month at our workshop, and my mother and I hit the market every week, sourcing materials for newer collections,” says Chhabra, who quit her engineering job to start the label last year.
In giving these slip-on shoes a modern makeover, designers are thinking on their feet, literally. Fizzy Goblet’s popular brogue-sters, for instance, are a cross between juttis and brogues – the shoes have an extended vertical area from the toe, with cut-outs on each side and can be laced up. In colours like tan, brown and black, the prints range from ikats and checks to florals and leather patchwork.
“They have this pick-me-up vibe about them and yet, are an innovation on our heritage,” says founder Laksheeta Govil. “Juttis are quite underrated. There was a need to contemporarise it.”
Embracing a tradition
Due to their centuries-old history (juttis first found favour with maharajas and maharanis in the Mughal era), the shoes come with fascinating folklore. Sushant Sud of Chandigarh-based Jutti Choo says, “My grandmother would say the jutti is so lightweight that even a sparrow can pick it up and fly away.” Sangha looks at the shoe from a more erotic perspective. “Shoemakers believed that toe cleavage made women’s feet look dainty,” she says. The chotta panja style, in which the shoe’s top half is only two-and-a-half to three inches, allowed for subtle sensuality. It’s a feature now common to all Needle Dust juttis,
Juttis have been notorious for shoe bites, and the new-age ones are fixing the flaw, but at a price. The extra cushioning on the inside will not hurt the feet, but you’re likely to feel the pinch with the prices, ranging from `2,200 to `3,500. Brands attribute this to the leather crafting and intricate embroidery, also justifying the cost through customised packaging and details like after-care instructions.
The resurgence of the trend has also secured employment for craftsmen, many of whom have been trained in the art for generations. “The karigars had ventured into construction work and other odd jobs. Now there are more takers for their talent,” says Sangha.
Celebrity stylist Ami Patel on how you can rock those juttis -
1. Wear vintage print juttis with Indo-Western outfits, or ankle-length Pakistani palazzos.
2. Another great idea is to opt for colour blocking, teaming a bright pair with a ripped jeans and a white tee combo.
3. For a change of pace, turn to them every time you reach out for your trusted ballet flats. You can also acquire the ones with tiny ghungroos for a cute, ethnic touch.
4. Don’t be restricted by lengths. Juttis go as well with anarkalis as with full-length maxi dresses. In addition, they’ll make for a pretty sight as they pop out just a little from underneath.
5. If you’re a comfort-seeker and want to avoid the high heels drama at your wedding, opt for an embellished pair with your lehenga.
From HT Brunch, May 8, 2016
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