Sashaying over gender stereotypes
Updated: Jul 21, 2022
In My Experience… Jeetinder Sandhu, Founder and CEO, Jeetinder Sandhu
*Growing up he was exposed to different art forms while living in different cities that comes out in his designs.
*With a flair for the arts, Jeetinder Sandhu decided to pursue fashion designing from Istituto Marangoni in London.
*His first collection was lauded after he graduated encouraged him to foray into menswear.
*Later, when he found it difficult to find shoes that went with his collections for shows, he decided to create his own.
*Soon he started designing men’s shoes and women’s shoes.
*He does not believe in differentiating between men’s and women’s shoes, and he calls them just shoes that everyone can wear.
*All his shoes are bespoke and made to order to ensure each shoe is unique to each customer.
*According to him, Indian luxury brands are becoming more clear and have started placing more emphasis on their individual stories which are reflected through their designs and aesthetics.
Inclusivity is the new black. Many luxury brands claim they have embraced this concept, but how many actually follow it is the question.
Designer Jeetinder Sandhu wholeheartedly practices this concept through his bespoke luxury shoe label. On his website, there aren’t separate sections for men and women. They’re just shoes for everyone.
His shoes stand out for their individual designs that showcase his roots in India. In this interview, he discusses his journey and some tips on how Indian entrepreneurs can enter the global market.
Q: Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a shoe and fashion designer.
A: My father was working with UNICEF so I grew up in different cities in India. These cities had a profound influence on my design sensibilities. My mum had a handicraft business. For about six years, I remember being in her shop, surrounded by these handicrafts. My parents always encouraged me to express myself through art.
After finishing high school in Delhi, I decided to pursue design. When choosing my path, I was instinctively drawn to fashion design. After some research, I studied fashion design at the Istituto Marangoni in London. My designs were showcased in the graduate fashion week and were among the most talked-about that year. After that, I started designing menswear.
While doing shows, I was always looking for shoes from different designers, but not many gelled with my designs, so I thought I’ll create my own. I found the shoemaking process very interesting so I decided to focus on men’s shoes. In 2019, we started creating shoes for women after repeated requests.
Today, we have stopped differentiating between men’s and women’s shoes. We just call them shoes. We believe our shoes are gender-neutral and gender-fluid for all.
Q: What is the brand purpose of Jeetinder Sandhu that makes it relevant in the long run amidst all the fashion brands?
A: I would say individuality. My brand is like an extension of who I am. That reflects in the products I make. It’s this uniqueness that sets it apart from others.
Secondly, a global outlook for design is something that is relevant to my brand’s purpose. I look at things across the world and do not limit myself to just India.
Q: Your brand truly values customisation. You take personalisation requests — making ‘made to order’ shoes. Is that your way of saying that the brand is more about creating unique designs for an individual as a form of luxury?
A: Think luxury and personalisation is the first thing that comes to mind. Given that I work with such small quantities of products, I have the freedom to customise and make sure each customer gets something unique to them. The customer can get shoes that have so many memories attached to them.
We create something unique for each and every customer. We have customers who come to us with special fabrics, for example, heirlooms that have a strong emotional value. This gives us the responsibility of creating something valuable from it that will stay with the customer. We have no stock and everything is made to order as customers place orders. This gives us the option to ensure the size is right.
Q: You have always taken inspiration from your roots in India and fused it with modern designs to create a fresh and bold design aesthetic. How important is it for Indian brands to adapt to modern sense and sensibilities to become more acceptable in the global space?
A: I think a balance between your cultural roots and what you’re trying to say is very important. You also need to understand your customer along with what your brand is trying to say.
These are the basics you need to get right. You just can’t take what is happening domestically and put that on the global market. Adaptability is extremely important.
Q: What are three things that you wish you’d known when you were starting the brand?
A: Being patient and giving yourself time. I wish I had a better understanding of the Indian fashion ecosystem. I was used to the UK market as I started working in London right after I graduated. Indian customers are budget conscious. They want a budget-friendly product as compared to a fashionable product. They tend to forget the time and effort that went into creating these things.
Q: What do you see happening in luxury in the future, especially looking at the Indian market?
A: I think a very important thing is what the brand is trying to say. The narratives and storylines behind these brands have become clearer. If you look at these brands, the narratives have become stronger that shows in their products and campaigns. Every year, the designs of these brands are getting more and more distinct.
Q: What would you give as advice to an entrepreneur wanting to get into the luxury world today?
A: Believe in yourself. If there’s something you believe in, go for it. Listen to your gut and instincts. I wouldn’t have been here if I didn’t listen to my instincts.
Inclusivity is not just about tall claims and campaigns but it’s a concept that needs to be enforced through concrete steps. Jeetinder Sandhu’s brand is an example that more brands should emulate to embrace inclusivity.
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