“After this dries a little bit, we will fit the straps on to the insole, and then fit the sole,” he explained to the audience, who watched as he made shoemaking seem like a piece of cake!
December 17, 2023, was a quiet Sunday at Pilerne, the Goan village that houses the versatile Museum of Goa (MOG).
The audience sat captivated as he hammered down the sole that had now been stuck to the jute sandal that he had just handcrafted right in front of them. Almost as strong as the tiny can of fevicol that he was using, their eyes were glued to designer and shoemaker, Edwin Pinto.
A family-owned luxury shoe brand, made in Goa, ‘Janota,’ his very own shoe company is well known for having the human touch, something that is often lost amidst the hustle and bustle of factory-made shoes.
Taking inspiration from nature, fantasy, pixies and elves, it is no surprise that the shoes are aptly named, ‘leaves’ and ‘tentacles’ to name a few.
Keeping it as natural as it can get, Janota shoes are made using materials such as fabrics, cotton, silk, etc. “I once used a slice of bamboo as a heel, just a little bit of varnish and it was good to go,” he smiled. In terms of design and structure, Edwin knows no limits!
Sharing his take on how we are often governed by society and its norms, he shared, “One of the reasons that a lot of people who have the skill and talent do not want to get into this field is because shoemaking is associated with the caste system, and the craftsmen come from the lowest caste,” he began.
I think, we as a society, have been very unfair to this community, he stated, and added, “I remember when I was a kid, we had a woman from the shoemaker community who used to come to my house, and my grand mother did not allow her to enter from the front door. She had to use the back door,”
With a background in tailoring which eventually transitioned into shoemaking, Edwin's family was not always a huge fan of his career choices. “My family was not happy, but I’m glad that I stuck with it,” he said. And, today, good craftsmanship and unique designs are the essence of Janota.
A labour-intensive task, one of the hurdles that Edwin faced was lack of craftsmanship. “All my craftsmen were senior citizens, their sons worked in banks and government offices. So, one way to solve the problem of craftsmen was to develop craftsmanship and to train people and I have been attempting to do that on many levels,” he smiled. He fears that soon the art of shoemaking will perish.
Very often, the urge to judge from the outside without having the slightest clue of the reality is strong. But, as for Edwin, who is a reformed drug user, acceptance comes from a place of empathy.
“When I was in the rehab centre, I trained a few of the recovering addicts, we set up a little unit and we did make shoes for a while,” he explained.
“More recently, I attempted to take this project to the Colvale prison. So, I went to the prison authorities but their response was lukewarm. Regardless, I went ahead and trained the five inmates that I was assigned, out of which, two to three of them were very eager to learn but unfortunately couldn’t because the logistics didn't work out, mainly because the authorities were not really interested,” explained Edwin, who went to share how ironically the inmates that were genuinely interested in learning were soon released from jail. “Good for them,” he joked.
It takes a certain amount of courage to break the taboo that hobbies like shoemaking and crochet are women centric. “It went to the extent of people questioning my sexuality when I got into dressmaking, which was considered a feminine job. And, despite there being a lot of reasons why I should have quit, I am happy that I listened to my heart all those years ago,” he reminisced, as the now-ready sandal in his hand already had five buyers.