Footwear Plus | February 2022

Page 46

EDITOR’S PICKS

Rag & Co

D E S I G N E R C H AT

KAMLESH CHANDIRAMANI, CEO of Rag & Co, is a third-generation shoemaker who knows the business of design inside and out, but that doesn’t mean he dictates what women should wear. His approach blends decades of shoe experience “entwined in his DNA” with feedback right from the source. “What we learn from women in terms of the look, feel, comfort and affordability of our styles is how we make footwear that’s relevant to today’s customer,” Chandiramani says. “The combination of our DNA and that feedback results in the perfect storm of the best styles season after season.” Rag & Co, based in Santa Fe Springs, CA, launched in 2015. It has since added an upscale collection, Rag & Co X. The overall aesthetic blends innovation with purpose. “Our shoes are designed for comfort with everlasting designs, statement cuts and patterns that transcend seasonal fads,” Chandiramani says. “Our aesthetics reflect quintessential details of shoemaking as a heritage craft. Rag & Co is fun yet classic, bold yet poised, comfortable yet classy.” Signature details include leather uppers, latex insoles to absorb pressure and treated rubber outsoles that extend the life of the shoes. Sustainable features are a growing aspect as well. They include ethically procured leathers, which are biodegradable and reduce the impact on landfills, organic cotton and latex in replace of polymers. “All hangtags, linings and shoe bags are made of organic cotton, and we use recycled packaging,” Chandiramani adds, noting the fashion business must change its ways. “It needs to be corrected at fundamental levels, and we’re on constant endeavor to minimize the friction between environment and our products.” As for Fall ’22, Rag & Co is delivering a broad range of styles, from “statement-making” stiletto boots for the holidays to sneakers, loafers, peep-toe and stiletto sandals, and mules. Clogs are another big focus, a silhouette that Chandiramani says is comfortable, sturdy, classic and transitions well between seasons. Last but not least, a new collection of organic cotton sneakers and flats. As for the palette, burgundy and other red shades for dressier styles make outfits pop. “We also have nude, caramel, latte and mocha,” he says. “And we add texture with velvet, faux fur, crinkles and patent leathers.” Who is the Rag & Co woman? She seeks quality first and runs away from the mess that’s fast fashion. She is stylish and confident. She’s poised and bold. She believes in comfort and style. She wants it all—no compromises! Where do you look for design inspiration? Customers! How people

E D I TO R ’ S P I C K S P H OTO G R A P H Y BY T R E V E T T M CC A N D L I S S

KAMLESH CHANDIRAMANI • RAG & CO

Rockport Andre Assous

WI L D T HI NG S Faux skins unleash textural appeal.

live is the first note for any designer. In addition to seasonal trends, it’s all about crafting in the needs of contemporary life. Women are moving fast, juggling all aspects of life. The least we can do is give them comfort under their feet to do all these tasks, but look great doing so. When might dressy heels make a comeback? While flats have become acceptable at formal events, heeled and wedge sneakers are already trending, as are block heels. So heels never went completely out. Maybe it’s gladiator heels next? Women are daring; they’ll always surprise you. Any supply chain issues? Sourcing ethical leathers and ensuring high quality is more challenging than ever. But every challenge has opportunities, so we took this time to review what we could be doing better. Sustainability, for example, is the future, be it recycling, re-use, redesign and natural and durable materials. Supply chain is now also about the reverse—it’s about refurbishing or recycling products and redelivering with agility. With ongoing advancements in

technology and blockchain, we look forward to maximizing this shift. Any golden design rules passed on from your father? Practicing a craft takes time, and skills are never mastered, they’re enhanced. My father always told me to focus on perfection, and that’s why we never compromise on quality. Also, design is to serve according to the buyer’s need. Storytelling is crucial, and the design process must be reflective of that. It should be relatable. Any designers you admire? Jeffrey Campbell. His style evolution and details push new limits, which is so refreshing. Is there a perfect shoe? Yes. Perfect shoes make you feel spontaneous, give outline to your look and fit like a dream. Personally, I love leather sneakers. What do you love most about designing? I love everything—sketching, handcrafting, stitching, etc. And when your idea comes to reality and the result is a masterpiece… that’s what I love most.

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