It was in the wake of major trends for trainers and less formal work clothing that men began looking for a more versatile, comfortable and modern style of shoe design. They wanted dress shoes for formal and informal occasions that trod the middle ground between traditional oxfords and trainers, while still walking to a different beat. Herein, the dynamic duo of Abhishek Chopra and Sagar Sarin upped up the ante, and brought forth Churchill & Company. Since a successful career in footwear requires a breadth of creative, commercial and technical expertise, we speak to the non-conformists behind the label to understand the ideology behind the brand. Edited excerpts...
You both have come a long way from — Abhishek earning a business degree from Warwick, UK and Sagar working as a B-Tech engineer who dabbled in automobiles. Somehow, both of you were caught by the entrepreneurial bug. What made you want to start your own label?
Abhishek: I loved the classic style of dress shoes but always wanted shoes that were less regimented, and which could seamlessly work for every occasion. When Sagar and I did our research, we couldn’t find any suitable product that fits this description. We wanted shoes that were versatile in appeal yet modern in feel, which could take you from day to night without a hitch.
What is your design philosophy? What are the unique attributes that your label brings to the world of footwear?
Our design philosophy can be classified as ’deconstructivism’. It’s about building with your own vision and not relying on traditional norms. We ensure that we maintain a fine balance between form and function. We have trademarked the ‘Softheraphy’ technology, which delivers a softer foot strike to the ground, devoid of any stiffness.
The footwear market for men is still quite niche in India. What is your creative process while designing for the modern gentleman?
Shoes are practical accessories, but we see them as an original and innovative work of art as well. The interesting part is to gather the knowledge of the latest fashion trends, different types of materials and design techniques; to help conceptualise and develop unique footwear designs.
The fashion industry is highly competitive, because of which it becomes extremely important to make the right connections. Thankfully, we work with a top design house in Northampton, England who have built their reputation and expertise over generations working alongside some of the best luxury design houses.
Do you ever read fashion or design magazines for inspiration?
We do keep a close watch on trends and trend forecasts when it comes to fashion and design, both for men and women. It is critical to be on-trend when it comes to not only design, but materials, and the latest technologies, which can help us upgrade the product quality and aesthetics. It is our constant endeavour to improve upon all aspects, specifically the ones which our customers and critics write to us about. We believe in strongly collaborating with experts and designers from across the spectrum.
Many people have passion projects, but they lose steam after a certain point. What has been the biggest factor motivating you to keep going with this venture?
Abhishek: Four years ago, I decided to quit the corporate life so that I could embark on an entrepreneurial journey with something I truly loved and believed in — dress shoes. The biggest motivating factor for us is that we are at the cusp. Trends indicate that the premium and luxury end of the Indian fashion accessories market is expected to grow at a higher rate than other segments; as the affluent consumer group is increasingly considering fashion accessories as a means of reaffirming their identity, and distinguishing themselves from the masses.
What have been the challenges and struggles in your entrepreneurial journey till date?
Every entrepreneur faces their own share of struggles and challenges. For us, the challenge is delivering high-quality products, and we have converted it into an obsession; spending close to 18 months perfecting the craft. This zeal sets every pair of Churchill Shoes apart from the rest, as every single shoe undergoes 252 steps to get the right fit, balance, and finesse.
A team of more than 75 experienced craftsmen work to prepare each new collection, which takes more than 2,500 hours to design and manufacture. The other challenge has been making sure that we build the brand in a phased manner, for which we are deploying the ‘create-build-expand’ marketing strategy, wherein we address the core needs and insights of our target audience, as we move into the build phase of our venture.
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming collections?
We have laid the roadmap for our brand, whereby it builds a strong connection with our core target audience, by harnessing the power of socially savvy brand advocates who are inspired by a shared sense of purpose. Keeping this in mind, we have the following collections lined-up for our journey ahead — Spring Summer 2020, Sneakers 2.0, and the Softheraphy Deck Shoes.