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Toehold Artisan wearing kolhapuri sandals.


Athani, India

The South Indian kolhapuri footwear is a sandal that fits tightly onto the foot through an instep strap, it has a thin sole made of vegetable-tanned buffalo leather, typically with a very thin heel offset consisting of an extra layer of the same leather.

The sandal originates from the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra. For example, the kolhapuri artisans at Toehold, a not-forprofit organization in Athani, Karnataka, promoting rural women’s empowerment with an emphasis on social accountability, are noted for their skill. Characteristic of the Kolhapuri chappal is the initial stiffness of the outsole. The parts touching the ground become more supple while the rest of the sole retains its stiffness, together ensuring mobility and the protection of the foot on rocky clayish terrain. The summer months in the region are extremely hot.

his sandal proves to be the best footwear with regards to local conditions and available materials, giving protection against heat and humidity. The country’s small-scale footwear industry traditionally employs the traditional Hindu cobbler caste, known as chamars. Individual shoemakers and shoemaking families continue to supply footwear to local communities and their own families, as well as for export purposes.

Most artisans work in family-based establishments, transferring skills and knowledge from one generation to the next.  The origin of kolhapuri chappals can be traced back to the twelfth-century rule of King Bijjala II of Bidar and his Prime Minister Basaveswara, who wanted to create a casteless society and remove the stigma associated with the chamar community

Find out more about the Toehold artisans collaborative here.

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