'Staying strong is the only way forward'
Panchkula-based shoe designer Gurveen Kaur talks about battling a rare autoimmune disease and making it big in the fashion world.
Shoes are a girl’s best friend they say, but for 23-year-old Gurveen Kaur—who has been suffering from a rare autoimmune disease since the age of 12— shoes are her only creative outlet. Hailing from Panchkula, her brand Inara Shoes has found a place on websites such as Koovs and Ajio and has sold over 10,000 pairs in the last two years. She has had no formal design training; all her knowledge comes from working in her father’s shoe export factory. She says, “Inara is part of me, my vision drives it.” She talks to us about making it big in the face of adversity.
Tell us about your journey?
I started experimenting with art and sketching when I was in second year of college pursuing Mass communication from Chitkara University. I learnt how to make shoes while handling the sports section in my father's factory and ventured out to start my label. I do everything from designing to branding and I have a manufacturing team which makes the shoes. My first collection was sold out within a month of being launched.
What were the struggles you faced while establishing Inara?
I have had an autoimmune disease since I was 12 years old. My immune system cannot differentiate between good and bad cells and ends up attacking my body. So there are days when I cannot work because my health doesn't permit it. This is why I choose to work from home at times. I keep pushing myself because my work demands a lot of travelling. However, when I am unable to, my family steps in. My family and friends have been very supportive of me and instrumental in promoting my business.
Tell us about your design inspiration?
When I started working in my father’s factory, I realised that when it comes to shoes, quality is of utmost importance. My pieces are influenced by European fashion; I mostly design closed shoes such as brogues, oxfords, derbies and flatforms (her signature footwear). Open shoes dominate the Indian market but I feel that for the Indian climate, closed shoes are a better alternative. Synthetic shoes do not allow the feet to breathe, hence I work mostly with leather as it suits our weather.
Future plans for your company?
I am taking online master classes from shoe designers and makers all over the world to enhance my shoe designing knowledge and learn different shoe styles. I am also looking to scale up my bootstrap initiative and plan to open my own online store.
For the Indian climate, closed shoes such as brogues, oxfords and derbies are a better alternative.