In a world of over seven billion people, who wouldn’t want to carve out a little nook of unique existence. With a global market that is increasingly favouring the generic, it takes a little effort to express your individual personality. Some customization magic if you will. LACED – a local business in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa – aims to make your shoes do just that.Dhiantha Achary started this sneaker customization project to create evocative gifts for her family and friends. A trained architect, Achary uses her drawing as a creative outlet. But when she created her first design for her friend’s 21st birthday – a dandelion with floating seeds – she had no idea that it would spark the demand that it did. The online response, that has seen her garner attention from Australia, Canada, Germany and USA, led her to officially start LACED in July 2015. In an interview with House and Leisure SA, she expressed, “People are really attracted to the concept of wearable art…My designs are like tattoos – they’re external expressions of the wearer’s personality and individuality.”
The key element of LACED is personalisation, thus the progression begins with the customer. After consultations with the customer, she will work on pattern design options for about two hours that’ll suit the personality and quirks of the client. She then embarks on the hand-crafted process on canvas shoes (typically Tomy Takkies) to make the footwear completely customised and original. Each pair takes a minimum of nine hours to complete, depending on the complexity of the design. Although her favourite designs thus far are the more detailed pieces such as henna patterns and sugar skulls, her architectural background has influenced her doodles to some degree. They lean more to clean lines, which incorporate texture and blotchy colours.
Her tools of choice include fabric markers, pens and paint, which are colour-fast and durable; thus, the shoes can be washed. In addition, she applies a spray-on fixative and waterproof spray once the artwork is completed. She can make a maximum of three orders a week but they are all exclusively on order basis. Whereas she does create some design to sell at markets, that you can pre-order, she does not keep a large stock on hand. Once a client has contacted her via the LACED Facebook or Instagram page, then the process can begin. She liaises with the client through every stage to ensure the footwear truly represents them.
Though she has already gotten the attention of Tomy Takkies (of course) and KZN’s Street Gear, as well as, being featured as one of Design Indaba’s 2016 Emerging Creatives, she hopes to collaborate with other artists, in the footwear and fashion industry as a whole. Making personalised art, as an artist, can be challenging. After gauging the customer’s taste, Achary works on incorporating her own style in a way that reflects her design aesthetic that compliments the buyer’s vision. Not to mention, make her client’s feel good about their footwear. To quote one of her patrons: “Now I can wear my heart on my sleeve and art on my feet”.
Fashion over the years has been an avenue of self-expression. And with more brands mimicking each other’s product-aesthetics, it’s normal to crave individuality. Something that says, ‘here I am, recognise me’. Practical, wearable art that’s tailor made is difficult to come by; especially with a pocket-friendly price tag. While this series so far has focused a lot on construction and innovation design, LACED is a reminder that there are many levels to fashion. That graphics and collaborations could be the element that sets your design apart from the masses.