How 2 Friends Who Met In Buenos Aires Are Turning Shoes Into Art

Jill Comoletti

Bucketfeet sells canvas shoes featuring designs by artists from all over the world. It's a way for the artists to share their personal stories with consumers, says Raaja Nemani, Bucketfeet's co-founder and CEO. 

“We try to be very authentic in who we are and the products we create, and we try to provide something really different that allows people to make a very intimate purchase that speaks to who they are as a person,” Nemani said.

A Connection Forged In Argentina

Throughout his travels, Nemani noticed a pattern. No matter where he went, whether it was Australia, India, or Nepal, people would comment on his shoes. The shoes became an icebreaker, an easy way for Nemani to meet new friends on the road.

“Art is one of those platforms that everyone can understand; it’s a universal language, and it can bring people together,” Nemani said. “Bucketfeet is inspired by our travels, the idea that we wanted to meet all these people, and the idea that people want to feel connected to something. Sometimes it’s hard to get that, but we thought, ‘What if we created a brand that could connect people through real products?’"

The Growth Of Bucketfeet

This connection is exactly what Bucketfeet managed to accomplish—to tell artists’ stories through their shoe designs.

Artists submit their designs to Bucketfeet, and the company selects some of these designs to print on its shoes. The company has grown from a tiny venture running out of a house in Chicago working with four Brazilian artists to a business with nearly 3,000 artists from more than 40 countries. Today, artists connect with Bucketfeet through its social media platform and website.

“We’ve worked with everyone, from Japanese artists who have worked with companies like Coca-Cola and Disney, to stay-at-home mothers of two from Atlanta who have never done art professionally, but we feel that they’ve created—even if it’s just one thing—something that would look great on a shoe,” Nemani said.

The company launched nationally with Nordstrom and has pop-up shops in Chicago and Manhattan, which Nemani is considering turning into permanent storefronts. A significant portion of Bucketfeet’s sales also come from its website. A pair of Bucketfeet shoes costs between $65 and $68 for adult sizes, and $45 for kids' sizes.Since its launch, Nemani said Bucketfeet’s sales have more than tripled, and its return rate is under 3% — a strong indicator that the brand is doing well. The company recently raised $3.7 million in venture capital, with Bridge Investments and Jumpstart Ventures leading the  financing. 

What Comes Next

Bucketfeet doesn't plan to limit itself to footwear. Artists can also design wall art, which Nemani said was a great way to bring new artists into the fold. He did say he'd like to mostly “stay around the feet” for the time being, though he believes with the company's roster of artists there's huge potential for new product categories. 

Nemani said the website will also start hosting regular design challenges, where people can vote on their favorite designs. Not only will the votes help decide which shoes are created, but they could also be valuable for retailers who are deciding which designs to order.

With the new round of venture capital, Nemani said he plans to create new products, invest in Bucketfeet's artist network, ramp up the company's website, and raise brand awareness. 

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