Trishla Surana’s footwear brand Colour Me Mad makes customised shoes and is introducing, for the first time in India, footwear made using cork, which is helpful in improving body posture and reducing knee and ankle pain.
Are you in the market to buy flip flops that have a custom-made doodle on them? Or made-to-order shoes for a diabetic patient? Thanks to Trishla Surana’s innovative venture Colour Me Mad, which offers customised footwear, this is now possible. Trishla, a 36-year-old artist-turned-entrepreneur and mother of two, had no idea she would be founding her own business when she tried printing her daughter’s doodles on her footwear for fun. The child was beyond herself with joy when her designer mother gifted her shoes that carried her own drawings.
“The idea had a spark to it and it must have stayed somewhere at the back of mind. I realised that any art can be translated into footwear. So when three years ago, I decided to start a venture of my own, my mind immediately jumped to the idea of making customised shoes,” says Trishla, a Commercial Arts Degree holder from Rachana Sansad, Mumbai.
Entrepreneurship isn’t exactly new to Trishla. She was always a work-from-home artist who would design things like hair accessories and straps for kids’ footwear and display them mostly at exhibitions.
However, going all out to enter the footwear industry wasn’t an easy prospect for her.
“In India, the footwear industry isn’t organised at all. Many were of the opinion that making everything from scratch here was a bad idea. They told me my business wouldn’t sustain itself. There’s a lot of competition and with the Chinese imports a lot of cheap options are available in footwear. I was told my business would never do well,” she recollects.
But it was the challenge that made the idea more interesting for her and Trishla and her attorney husband Rajeev took their time to test the waters before jumping in.
“I started researching footwear, its history and the characteristics of the Indian market. Though the initial thought was to help children express their thoughts and drawings through footwear, it was only after research that I came up with the idea of making customised footwear of the kind that Color Me Mad now offers,” says Trishla.
During her research, Trishla came across the ‘perfect material’ for the kind of shoes she had in mind: cork. Cork is a versatile material obtained from the renewable bark of the cork oak tree, which is primarily found around the Mediterranean Sea. It is used to make a wide variety of products like wine bottle corks, coasters, footwear, as well as flooring. “The natural properties of the material make it perfect for footwear; it is light in weight, soft but durable, expandable, flexible, and anti-static. Due to these properties, it’s widely used in orthopaedic footwear. Cork footwear is very popular in Europe but it’s a new concept for India,” says Trishla.
An admirer of the German footwear brand Birkenstock, which invented cork footwear a century ago, Trishla decided to bring cork to India. She started working with a partner in Delhi and developed her brand titled ‘Comfee’.
“Comfee can help improve body posture, reduce knee and ankle pain and take the shape of one’s foot, providing extreme comfort,” says Trishla.
Three years of dedicated research may seem a lot to some, but not to Trishla. She took over one year to design the website for Colour Me Mad.
“I needed to develop a website where people could design and customise their own footwear. That required perfection. I needed a platform where people would be offered dummy footwear and they themselves could customise it. It had to be really open-ended – they could upload any picture or doodle or even Google wallpaper and get it printed on their footwear. The idea was that they should be able to create something that’s very personal to them and therefore very close to their heart. We often find these kinds of websites in Europe, for several brands. I wanted the website to be bug-free and of international standard,” says Trishla.
Colour Me Mad is now also foraying into formal footwear. They have two designs in formal footwear currently and plan to offer more soon.
“Usually, formal footwear is very uncomfortable. It often happens that people wearing stilettos and wedges at parties end up taking them off eventually. So, naturally, cork-made comfortable footwear will certainly be welcomed by people,” says Trishla.
Her flip-flops are handcrafted from scratch by skilled artisans at the brand’s workshop at Marine Lines in Mumbai. Made one piece at a time, the footwear offered by Colour Me Mad is a Made in India brand through and through.
Though Colour Me Mad has only been around for a few months, Trishla wants to do her bit in giving back to the community. “We are associated with Goonj and various NGOs where Rs. 10 out of every sale made is donated towards providing footwear to the underprivileged,” she says.
To launch her brand, Trishla represented India at the Turkey International Festival in March. And she will soon be participating in the upcoming L’Artigiano International Crafts Fair at Milan, Italy, in the handcrafted segment.
“Our unique products garnered a terrific response in Turkey; it was amazing. And now we’re going to Milan. It’s like a dream come true,” concludes Trishla.
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