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April 24, 2018

Minding Their Own Business(es): Laksheeta Govil of Fizzy Goblet

Text by Tina Dastur

Laksheeta Govil of Fizzy Goblet turns the traditional Indian jutti on its head and gives it a completely fresh look

Modernising traditional Indian crafts is not as easy as one might think. Just ask Laksheeta Govil, founder of Fizzy Goblet, a brand that turns the traditional Indian jutti on its head and gives it a completely fresh look to make it appeal to today’s market. Post studying at Pearl Academy, New Delhi, Govil took up a job with designer Narendra Kumar, which exposed her to Indian wedding wear and embroidery as an art form. Subsequently, a stint with designer brand Lecoanet Hemant honed her skills in corporate wear and couture while her time spent with sportswear brand Puma gave her valuable insights into athletic footwear. The 29-year-old conceived the idea for Fizzy Goblet when she saw a pair of shoes that were bright and funky, but which turned out to be totally unaffordable. “That was when I decided that I’d test out something similar myself, and so, I went ahead and hand-painted a pair of canvas shoes. To my surprise, they were received well by my friends. That’s when I realised that the concept could actually work,” she states. Fizzy Goblets was finally born in 2014 in New Delhi.

Of all the Indian art and craft forms, I wonder what nudged Govil in the direction of juttis at a time when millennials were more interested in aping the West. “Exactly because of that!” she exclaims, “The Indian jutti has a beautiful silhouette, but because it had been touted as uncomfortable footwear that is too traditional, women wouldn’t wear it with anything other than ethnic wear. My aim was to contemporise it — and so, at Fizzy Goblet, we added a lot of padding and gave our juttis a modern context to make them more versatile for today’s consumer. We also created the Jutti 2.0, which has a rubber sole and laces, and is a combination of loafers and jutti and sneakers and jutti.”

Fizzy Goblet’s website is a dizzying array of the brightest colours and fun patterns on handcrafted leather juttis. Their footwear is cleverly divided into specific categories — juttis, loafers, brogues, sneakers, slip-ons and lounge slippers — with each category being a unique adaptation of the quintessential jutti. While the authentic juttis are traditional in form and design with elegant embellishments, the loafer juttis are quirkier with neat embroidery; the brogue and sneaker juttis come with tie-up laces and pretty crochet work; and the slip-on juttis come with either a thin back-strap or none at all and are embellished with beautiful floral prints. The funkiest of the lot, however, are the lounge slippers, which feature playful designs on their broad straps. Asked where her out-of-the-box inspirations come from, Govil says, “They come from things I like personally, the places I travel to…and, most of the times, they come from an absolutely random idea in my head.”

Given that jutti-crafting is an age-old craft, Fizzy Goblet leaves the creating bit of it to those who know it best — the artisans. The company currently employs 90 artisans and works closely with embroiderers. Almost every Fizzy G (as Govil refers to her creations) “tries to incorporate an element of handicraft”; and this is evident in their footwear that experiments with different fabrics, embroideries and embellishments. To do away with the notion many carry of juttis causing nasty shoe bites, every pair of Fizzy Gs comes with double cushioning for added comfort. While the regular juttis and brogue juttis carry a vegetable-tanned leather sole, the sneaker and loafer juttis boast a rubber sole to weather the damage that is caused by daily wear. Interestingly enough, each pair comes with its own special moniker in order to help customers relate to the product — the Feeling Foxy Sneakers, Rose Bud Brogues and Flamin-goes With Everything Loafers. Highlighting how this level of personalisation helps her brand, Govil reveals, “I think it’s important to establish a niche. Customers are more discerning today and can recognise a good-quality product. The market is crowded enough as it is, and being another ‘me too’ out there will only get you so far. For us, the daily challenge and thrill is constant innovation.”

Fizzy Goblet’s refreshing spin on juttis has caught many an eyeball, including those of designer Payal Singhal and doodle artist Alicia Souza, both of whom the brand has collaborated with. Speaking about collaborations, Govil expands, “It’s always great to exchange ideas and create new products with different brands that appeal to both sets of audiences. Collaborations help create awareness and offer greater brand exposure to newer audiences. Just last year, we were one of 16 brands selected by Dubai-based Level Shoes as collaborators on their ‘Dear India’ campaign aimed at commemorating their Autumn/Winter ’17 season, which was inspired by the vibrant heritage of India. For this campaign, I worked with Dubai-based fashion designer Maha Abdul Rasheed of Bambah to create a collection of interesting juttis.”

Govil confesses that she has always loved being a businesswoman. But that’s not to say that entrepreneurship has come easy to her. “My first tough call came when I had to decide between opening a brick-and-mortar store or an online one — I was always more inclined towards the latter. As a brand, the primary issue was getting people to accept that footwear could be purchased online. To enable acceptance, we organised faster shipping schedules, easy returns and reverse pick-up processes and standardised sizes,” she expands. But as an entrepreneur, there’s often the worry about how to balance market demands with your own design sensibility — and though disregarding the former in favour of the latter might be ideal, it often isn’t enough to make a business succeed. “It’s important to be aware of trends, but we have our own take on it. Whether it’s a wedding collection or incorporating an It fabric in our designs, we always attempt to merge our sensibilities with what is contemporary,” outlines Govil. Other than the challenges, there are gains in living the entrepreneurial life, too. For Govil, it’s the freedom entrepreneurship brings with it and the fact that “every day is different and comes with its own unique set of challenges, so there is literally no time for monotony!” As for what her journey has taught her — “Patience and the importance of preparation, as well as the importance of failing, rising and learning from my mistakes.”

This year looks exciting for Fizzy Goblet, with a blog and loyalty programme in the works. As Govil gears herself for the year ahead, she some pearls of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs. “A dream by itself is not enough. It’s important not to jump on to the bandwagon, but instead to plan your path. And that, sometimes, you just have to keep going. You need to have grit and the will to work through problems.”

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