Afshan Abbas: Shoes From the Soul

When Afshan Abbas walked through the public market in her hometown of Karachi on the south coast of Pakistan three years ago, she was moved to bring a beautiful piece of her heritage to America. She created Fuchsia, and began selling beautiful, handcrafted shoes from Pakistan in the States. With her business being supported and growing from the start, she’s now investing in training programs that can employ additional female artisans and provide preventative health care to sustain the true cottage industry. Check out her full story and contribute to her cause here.

The Fuchsia story begins with a trip to my hometown of Karachi, Pakistan. Spring time was wafting through the air when I noticed several of the local women wearing funky, attractive sandals. These Kolhapuri sandals, as they are traditionally known, are a beautifully crafted flip-flop style sandal. Using bright thread work to represent trendy traditional designs, these handmade sandals were particularly eye-catching.

After seeing them for the first time, I just knew I had to have a pair. Heading to the local bazaar, I treated myself to these exquisite, hip sandals. With so many designs to choose from, I couldn’t make up my mind! Each sandal was so unique in its own individual characteristics that I simply could not settle on just one pair, so I bought several. As I continued looking for myself, I realized these would also make wonderful gifts, so I brought a few pairs back for my girlfriends in Seattle, Washington.

Once I returned to Seattle, I wore my new Kolhapuri sandals everywhere I went — out shopping, at work, a night on the town, strolls in the park. And every time I wore them, I was bombarded with compliments on my unique shoes. With all of the extra attention I received, I began to realize how incredibly happy it made me to discuss these fun sandals with different people.

It was from these interactions and positive comments from different women that the concept of Fuchsia emerged. I quickly realized I needed to share these exotic sandals with the world. With the help of my three closest friends, who happened to share the same passion for fashion as me, we founded Fuchsia. These Kolhapuri sandals, or “khussa” — the traditional name for embroidered ballet flats — would represent what can come out from our home country of Pakistan. Being a seller of Pakistani made shoes is a dream come true.

We began our sandal development by conducting a pilot study with girls in Seattle. They wore our Fuchsia sandals throughout their day and gave us great feedback. People loved the look and feel of the sandals and could not wait to see them being sold in their city. Encouraged, we returned to Pakistan, where our obsession over quality led us to a small town called Sangla: the home of the Kolhapuris. Here they are handmade by expert local artisans, who have honed this art for generations. After a few iterations on design and quality with a local khussa maker, we finally settled on our first batch.

Fuchsia, the name of our company, did not come just from being a vibrant color, but because every woman is unique with her own personality and specific taste in design. Besides, since these shoes are handmade, no two shoes will ever be exactly alike — with a wide variety of styles, designs, and colors, even the most laid back woman will be able to find a shoe to fit her own unique style and bring out the vibrant personality present in us all.

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