Durban-based drawing addict and architecture student Dhiantha Achary couldn’t have possibly known how popular her shoe doodles were to become when she mocked up her very first design – a dandelion with floating seeds – as a friend’s 21st birthday gift.
Initially, creating personalised artwork on footwear was just her way of giving special people in her life fun, meaningful gifts. But her craft was destined to grow far beyond this application.
When she posted a few photos of her work on Facebook and Instagram, she received such a positive response from the online community that she decided to start up the business LACED while she was still completing a two-year internship at a local architecture firm. It seems there’s a huge market out there for beautiful customised fashion.
‘People are really attracted to the concept of wearable art,’ explains the 22-year-old. ‘My designs are like tattoos – they’re external expressions of the wearer’s personality and individuality but without the permanent commitment.
Because personalisation is the key drawcard of the footwear, the creative process starts with the customer. After listening to her clients’ descriptions of what they want, Dhiantha brainstorms ideas and puts together a few rough sketches before getting started on embellishing the sneakers (usually Tomy Takkies) with fabric paint, markers and any other adornments that might be needed.
It’s an incredibly time-consuming pursuit, but that doesn’t mean that Dhiantha has given up on her architectural career. She is currently a Masters of Architecture student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and in fact, her shoe design process has been greatly influenced by her studies, which have taught her how to take a client’s brief from concept to reality.
Her architecture background has influenced her doodles in other ways too. As she says, ‘the graphics I enjoy creating most have super clean lines, some texture and blotchy colours here and there, much like conceptual architectural sketches’.
Her work recently earned her status as one of Design Indaba’s 2016 Emerging Creatives and it’s also received attention from a few footwear brands, including Tomy Takkies (of course) and KZN’s Street Gear.
Her hope is that she can collaborate with many more companies in future and also join forces with other artists on LACED projects. Ultimately she sees her business as an opportunity for other young creatives to experiment, try something new and express themselves.
‘In the (very distant) future, I’d like LACED to be a platform that gives young artists the chance to customise products that best suit their strengths (not just shoes) for the public,’ she explains.
For now, if you’d like to order a customised pair, you can do so via the LACED Facebook page or by emailing Dhiantha at email@example.com. She’ll also be showcasing her work at the Design Indaba Emerging Creatives exhibition at the V&A Watershed in Cape Town between 19 and 21 February 2016.