In recent years, there’s been a shift in men’s fashion with hip-hop and NBA players like Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and others at the forefront of a movement toward a more dapper, fitted look. Shoe designer Kabeer Arora has noticed this, as well, but footwear brands have failed to keep pace. Hence the need for Arora’s brand Kabaccha Shoes, which has thus far raised more than $250,000 in just a few weeks via Kickstarter.
“In footwear fashion, it didn’t keep up with the culture, in my opinion,” he said. “Men’s high-end dress shoes were not keeping up with this cultural movement, and if they were, it was too expensive and not affordable.”
Life+Times talked to Arora about Kabaccha Shoes, “redefining the modern dress shoe” and the success of his Kickstarter campaign.
Life+Times: What’s the idea behind Kabaccha Shoes and the idea to use Kickstarter?
Kabeer Arora: The reason why I chose Kickstarter was because I wanted the world to know about it as soon as possible. Kickstarter is crowdfunding, right? My whole idea is for the brand to be for the people, by the people and there’s no [better] way of showing that. The people fund the brand, the concepts, the colors. The concept of Kabaccha shoes is that we’re about freedom of choice and color and expression. Unfortunately for men’s shoes, unless you’re spending $600, $700, $800, you can’t get a really cool, unique shoe. There are a lot of other brand names, but it’s always the same black and brown dress shoe. Every now and then, they might have a blue or red, but there was no one brand that encompassed color. And the tag line for my brand is “add color to your soul.” So, I used Kickstarter to fund this campaign so guys like yourself and I can buy affordable shoes handmade in Italy – I should be selling these shoes for $400 or $500, but I’m going to be retailing them for [much cheaper].
L+T: How have you ben able to raise so much money in a short period of time?
KA: There’s a lot of projects that have been on Kickstarter that are great but haven’t worked out. There’s a lot of research that goes into building a Kickstarter project. People think they can just come up with a cool project, put it up there, leave it alone and the world will just fund you. There’s a lot of research that I did talking with Kickstarter campaigns that were successful and young entrepreneurs that said, “You have to be careful about this, make sure you do that.” So a lot went into making a really good campaign. At the end of the day, the product sells itself. You can make the best campaign in the world, but if it’s not a cool product it doesn’t really work out. Fortunately for me, I was really humbled because a lot of people like the shoes and it just kept going up and up and up from there.
L+T: Is this the beginning of Kabaccha Shoes? Have you designed other shoes before?
KA: Yeah, this is the beginning of the brand Kabaccha Shoes. I’m a shoe designer by profession and I’ve worked for other shoe companies. I come from a bloodline of shoemakers, my father and grandfather were both shoemakers, so we’ve been in this business for awhile. I’ve just always wanted to come up with my own line of shoes that were colorful and different and I noticed everything was the same out there. I launched Kabaccha to try and change that and give guys an option to wear cool stuff. I have all kinds of sneakers, but that’s the only thing I can really express myself in because they’re colorful and cool. But I always ask myself, “Why is there no dress shoe or formal shoe that I can wear to express myself?” Nowadays, there’s a whole dapper movement where guys are wearing cool clothes. Five years ago, you’d never catch a guy wearing red pants; now, everyone is wearing red, blue, pink, yellow pants. But the shoes are still the same.
L+T: I understand what you’re saying, especially from a hip-hop standpoint, and even a lot of NBA players now.
KA: Dwyane Wade, the Neptunes, they’d be all over this.
L+T: There are brands like Cole Haan and Mark McNairy who have tried to put a little of color in their shoes but can also be on the more expensive side. For you guys, you’re adding more color and trying to bring the price down?
KA: Yeah. I’ve gotten that before about Cole Haan. I think Cole Haan is a fantastic brand, I aspire to be as big as them one day. For me, in my opinion, Cole Haan is like teaching an old dog new tricks. They’re making a classic shoe for an older-aged person, they’re not aggressively attacking the young entrepreneur, the young businessman, the young stock broker, the young real estate agent. Young guys want to wear comfortable, extremely lightweight, good-looking shoes. Cole Haan tried that but they only dabbed in it. They made some amazing stuff, but I want to be a brand that makes only colorful shoes. I would dab in making black and brown shoes just to have them so if someone wants to go to a very serious meeting, you can still wear a simple shoe.
L+T: So, someone goes on your Kickstarter and decide they want to make a pledge. Then what?
KA: What you’re doing is preordering. There’s different levels. For $150, you get one pair. For $340 you get two pairs. Because I’m a young guy starting up, it’s hard to raise funds just with an idea. I can’t just walk into a bank and say, “I got these cool shoes, I need a half-million dollars to start this brand.” They’re going to say, “Get out of here.” So, that’s the great thing about crowdfunding, you presell your stuff. Now that I have this money, on March 14 when my campaign is finished, I go straight to Italy and I get the shoes made and ship them to all the backers. Then with all the money left over, I essentially have kick-started my business.
The Kabaccha Shoes Kickstarter campaign runs until March 13th with shoes becoming available in April 2015.