Rohan Arora mastered the art of shoe designing from local artisans and has been collaborating with top couturiers to showcase his bespoke creations on the runways
I was always fascinated by shoes. Even as a child, I would observe how people selected their shoes and was also very particular about the shoes that I wore.
I believe that you can be wearing an Armani suit, but if it isn’t paired with the correct shoes, the look can die an instant death. I always knew that I wanted to design footwear. However, I wanted to complete my graduation before that. So, I enrolled for B.Com from St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta, in 2004 and got into the footwear business soon after graduation. Shoes were always my passion and it was time to make it my profession.
But I didn’t attend a fashion school to train in shoe designing as I felt it wouldn’t teach me anything about creativity. Going against the advice from family and friends on joining a professional course was a great turning point. It was a big challenge and the decision made me more confident.
I was determined to learn the whole cycle of shoemaking. So I went to CIT Road where most of Calcutta’s shoe factories are located. Starting from cutting leather to designing, I learnt the ropes of shoemaking from artisans working there. That was a great learning experience and I worked there for more than six months.
I launched my signature label Rohan Arora in 2008 and I got my first order of 129 pairs of shoes within a few weeks. I started with women’s shoes and did a few for men on special request. I was soon known as a designer of customised shoes.
I was always inspired by Bollywood, so I started using Bollywood-related material like film posters of Sholay and Mother India on my boots making them a bit quirky.
Participating in Lakmé Fashion Week, Mumbai, in 2010 was one of the biggest turning points for me. My collection received a huge response and there was no looking back after that. Over the years I’ve collaborated with designers Rohit Bal and Manish Malhotra for their shows.
In 2014, actor and producer Sanjay Kapoor’s wife, jewellery designer Maheep Kapoor, spotted my collection in Delhi. She introduced me to costume designer Sunita Kapoor and actor Sonam Kapoor. They became regular customers.
Opening my standalone store in Calcutta last year was quite memorable. Currently we are retailing from multi-brand stores in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Dubai and London. I’m looking forward to opening stores in Delhi and Mumbai .