Local footwear company Fuchsia Shoes is about more than reinventing “khussa” shoes — traditional leather ballet flats from South Asia — for today’s Western fashionista. It’s about making environmentally responsible shoes that benefit the artisans who make them. It’s been two years since the company’s impressive Kickstarter campaign — raising $62,000 in one month — so 425 magazine caught up with CEO and co-founder Afshan Abbas to learn more about its latest developments.
425: Your company’s journey began in 2013, when you purchased handmade shoes in your hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, and then integrated them into your wardrobe when you returned to Seattle. How did this lead to the creation of Fuchsia Shoes?
Abbas: I was repeatedly asked in Seattle where I purchased the shoes from, and I had nowhere to point them. They were nonexistent in the U.S. This initiated me to research the source of the shoes, which is when I learned about the struggles of the artisans making them. I also realized how much people appreciate it in the West, which led me to form a team and conduct market research. Together, we launched the shoes at a global level.
425: The embroidery and shoe assembly are completed by hand in Pakistan and modified slightly for the Western wearer. Tell us more about what makes Fuchsia Shoes unique.
Abbas: We are not just a shoe company making quality shoes. With every Fuchsia flats purchase, our customer feels connected with the native artisans who have poured in their individual creativity and passion and have made a unique pair of shoes in a responsible way. Apart from that, Fuchsia leather flats have rounded toes with no predefined left and right. The leather molds to your feet after a few wears, conforming to your feet for the best fit. We’ve worked to evolve the shoe from its local origin to make it more durable, functional, and comfortable for longer wear.
425: How has your company grown?
Abbas: We’ve launched multiple shoe collections and have been looking into enhancing our product line from other artisan groups from Guatemala, Nepal, and Africa. We have also built a logistics team on the ground, which helps us tighten quality control and reduce shipping times in moving shoes from villages to our customers’ doorstep. While creating this beautiful product, we have managed to create sustainable living for 25 artisans, their families, and their communities. Our business model is very different from other handmade brands out there. We are not purchasing products from artisans and selling them to customers. We are involved in their manufacturing process at a much deeper level — helping artisans understand fashion trends, quality control, and product evolution.
425: You’ve also expanded your product offering to now include a line of cashmere scarves from Nepal. Tell us more.
Abbas: Fuchsia’s mission is to empower socially marginalized artisans and, with that in mind, we ventured out to Nepal in early 2017. Nepal turned out to be a great place for small-scale industries, and we came across several jewelry, jute bags, and accessories artisans. We also came across hand-loomed cashmere/pashmina scarves and learned about how difficult it is to find authentic cashmere in Nepal. The group of artisans we are working with uses high-quality cashmere yarn acquired from “changtangi” or cashmere goat. This breed of goat lives in the higher altitudes of the Altai Mountains of Tibet or Mongolia. We used nonpolluting, eco-friendly dyes and lab-tested Grade A cashmere to guarantee the highest standards of purity and integrity. This one-of-a-kind embroidery is done using intricate needlework. The embroidered scarves we have in our collection, Olivia and Mulberry, take up to a week to finish. Each piece is a work of art that you’ll admire for years.
425: What’s next for Fuchsia Shoes?
Abbas: Our vision is to build an ecosystem where ethical shoppers can connect directly with the makers of their products and pave a new path for the e-commerce shopping experience with complete transparency.