Translation: "American Lawyer Quits Job to Sell Indian Shoes"
Photo: The peddler, Michael Paratore, celebrating his birthday with a shoe-making family in Kolhapur, India
Once back in the Bay Area, I began wearing these shoes every day. I wore them literally everywhere - work, nice dinners, watering my loquat seedlings. I received an embarrassing number of compliments on my shoes from total strangers (which doesn’t usually happen to me). It didn’t take long to come to the realization that everyone needs a pair of these well-made, versatile shoes...now known as mohinders.
To do this, and do it well, I knew I wanted to source the shoes right. Visions of traveling to India, searching for the location where they were produced, trying to track down the craftsmen and craftswomen who specialized in making them, and meeting interesting people along the way - well, it sounded amazing! So amazing that I quit my job and immediately booked a flight to Mumbai.
I went back to India and zig-zagged across the country by train, where I encountered bright-colored loincloth-clad juvenile wrestlers, was spontaneously interviewed by local press, and hopped off a moving train (it wasn’t going very fast), until I discovered an amazing shoe making cooperative in a village in Northwestern Karnataka. This cooperative is now mohinders’ primary supplier.
Since the initial sourcing trip, I’ve been back to India several more times to personally source additional materials and build relationships with new suppliers to complete the supply chain. On one of these trips, I crashed the International Leather Fair in Kolkata and met a World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) certified non-profit that now produces our handmade jute and mohinders' paisley lined dust bags. On the same trip, I dropped in on a pioneering leather tannery on the outskirts of Kolkata, which has become our heirloom-tanned leather supplier. And, I stumbled upon an amazing shoe shop on the Colaba Causeway in Mumbai where I struck up a friendship with a local shop owner who’s now running our India operations.