The story of the peddler
A chance discovery
In April of 2012, Michael Paratore purchased a pair of shoes from a street vendor in Mumbai, India. Back home in the Bay Area, he found himself slipping them on almost every day—they were easy, versatile, and comfortable.
Over the course of four months, he'd been stopped on the street by hundreds of strangers, all asking about his shoes. This intense interest fueled his growing desire to discover the shoes' true origin. In August, he quit his job as a corporate lawyer, bought a ticket back to India, and embarked on the journey to find who had designed and made his coveted shoes.
Upon arrival, Michael began the initial, wild, question-asking to anyone who would listen in the streets of Mumbai. A few questions spurred him on:
- Who was making these shoes?
- Where were they made?
- What were they made of?
- Who was being compensated?
The amazing thing about approaching strangers on a shoe-fueled mission, was that people seemed to genuinely want to help out. It was encouraging and humbling, and led to a new spontaneous and rewarding mode of travel.
Finding the village
After an overnight train ride from Mumbai, a day wandering the streets + temples of the leatherworking town of Kolhapur, and an impromptu birthday party with a shoemaker's family, he finally found the place he was looking for.
People in Kolhapur directed him to a village in India's Karnataka region, where he wandered to the outskirts of town and started to see trimmings and shoe components scattered around houses. He was invited in for a cup of sweet, milky tea by one of the residents, and discovered these houses were the homes of artisan families, and the people here had long been creating the shoe style that had caught so many eyes back home.