In the fledgling fashion industry of Pakistan, customisation has become an increasingly popular factor in giving an edge to something. With brand loyalty on the low and growing demands, brands, such as Nike, Burberry and Louis Vuitton, are now offering customers the opportunity to design their own products. Up until recently, customisation was a luxury only high-end brands revelled in, but the latest crop of start-ups is changing that. Penguin Pop by Saadia Gardezi is one such venture, catering to men, women and children who have a penchant for hand-painted shoes.
A journalist and cartoonist by profession, Saadia explained that the name of the brand is meant to reflect its lighthearted nature. “I painted a shoe for myself about a year ago. A friend really liked it and asked for one herself,” she said in an interview with The Express Tribune. And so began Penguin Pop, offering customers the opportunity to create the shoes of their choice. According to Saadia, the freedom of being able to paint the shoes as they like is what appeals to her clientele. “They can have anything from unicorns to dragons — anything you like,” she said. “I myself really enjoy painting and the idea is to make something unique to represent one’s style and identity.”
The process begins with in-depth discussions between Saadia and the customer, so that she may gauge the type of shoe, quality and artwork they’re looking for. Some are comfortable with giving their own shoes, while others ask Saadia to source them as well. “Sometimes, people want original Vans or Toms, so I have to order them online,” said Saadia. There are ballerina flats, heels, wedges and sneakers on offer, with everyone’s favourite animated characters Minions as best-sellers. “Anything with the Minions is always a big hit, although my favourite one is the Up-themed shoe,” shared Saadia.
“The painting is intricate and detailed. Every shoe is a labour of love and takes many hours to complete. My aim is that the artwork should look beautiful and satisfy me as an artist, as well as the customer.”
One pair is generally ready for delivery within two to three weeks. Saadia also uses a water-proof varnish to maintain the longevity of her work. “The shoes are durable. The cloth and canvas are the best surfaces to paint on as the shoes can be wiped or scrubbed even if they get dirty. They’re also comfortable and functional.” Prices range from Rs4,000 to Rs10,000, depending upon the style and artwork requested.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2015.
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