Tarun Oblum once loved sneakers enough to have about 45 pairs, but since he started crafting leather shoes, he wears leather to meetings and even treks. “Sneakers, with their synthetic materials, can only create an artificial sense of comfort. There’s nothing to beat leather that shapes to fit your foot perfectly,” says Oblum, showing me around his fashionable little store, which he launched a couple of years ago, at the co-working space Jxtapose in Hyderabad.
Twenty-seven-year old Tarun Oblum is the founder of the eponymous shoe label, Oblum, known for its unisex, hand-welted (or stitched) leather shoes; he is one of perhaps only three or four designers in India who crafts leather shoes using hand tools. Thoughtfully created and boasting the highest level of chic, his styles include penny loafers, brogues, and oxfords, in different high shine patinas and various shades of leathers. Apart from perhaps two pairs of formal black shoes, we spotted designs in shades of blues, burgundy, and green, which he says is his trademark contemporary touch. There was an embroidered pair as well, and he has also incorporated ikat into his designs.
All designs are customizable, and available in sizes starting three to 14. There is also the instantly recognizable plain slip-ons, nicknamed as Falaknuma, and ones with a bit of design on the front tip, called Chowmahalla. “I am deeply inspired by Hyderabad – its culture and architecture,” he says. There are also card holders in a typical green reminiscent of various monuments and buildings around the old city. These, he calls Golconda.
Priced between Rs 13,000 and Rs 30,000, Oblum’s shoes are more like investments – unusual, classic, stylish, and durable. “I used to be a big fan of hip hop and was fascinated by the white sneakers. It prompted a love for shoes in general,” says the designer who was always inclined towards the creative arts. He joined London College of Fashion in 2012 to study footwear design and development, and then at Crockett & Jones, a fifth-generation shoe company learnt the art of making traditional English dress shoes. Although he studied sneakers and women’s shoes initially, he later discovered a passion for hand-crafted shoes. After he returned to native Hyderabad in 2016, he looked for hand tools and skilled craftsmen, going even to Agra, a town full of third and fourth generation shoemakers. Eventually, Oblum taught himself the skill of handcrafting shoes with superior quality. “All the hardware including the nails and screws in my shoes are made of brass as it does not rust.”
Tarun Oblum sources full-grain crust leather (not chemically treated and with naturally occurring faults that add character) from 100-year-old tanneries in Argentina and Italy. Adhering to a minimum wastage policy, he uses the leftover bits to create cardholders or spectacle cases. He also crafts wallets, duffel bags, watch straps, camera straps and even bike seats. Best of all, he also offers a maintenance programme to clients that includes re-soling services.
Since his shoes are hand-dyed, he does not follow a colour chart. “We could create 50 shades of burgundy or blue.” Oblum will offer a customer a pair in a shade of burgundy to match a navy wedding bandhgala, and later on, dye it to brown for casual wear. Unless it is a pair of black shoes, Oblum feels leather shoes in his unusual shades can be paired with anything from denims to chinos or shorts. The toecap is usually high shined in a black or brown wax so that it can be paired with a black or brown belt. “Since these are formal shoes with a contemporary touch, there is quite a bit you can do with your style statement.” A step in the right direction.
All Images Courtesy: Tarun Oblum