DULLA: OFF BEAT PROFESSION
All of us have turning points. In life, there is always something or the other in store for each of us. But, isn’t a transition from a below average student and a passionate basketball player to a Footwear Designer quite an unexpected one? Footwear has been a necessary component to fully clothing humans for thousands of years. It’s also popularly said that the shoes tell the most about a man/woman. As such, over the years, field of studies have developed which further nurture this traditional art of shoemaking in a modern scenario. So, we had to catch up with Ahmed Dulla Nepali, who is now a certified Footwear Designer and has just recently started selling shoes under his own brand name ‘DULLA Shoes’, to learn more about his interesting career path.
During his entire years at school, Ahmed Dulla Nepali was never an academically excellent student. Ahmed vividly recalls, “Back in school, I failed and repeated class in three different grades. There was a time when I really wanted to give up studying. It was only after repeating in the seventh grade that I was suddenly determined to try harder. Then I never failed after that and managed to keep myself afloat amongst the average students.”
But he was very fond of basketball and wished to become a professional NBA player in the future. However, it was only after passing out from high school that he came to his senses and realized that it was perhaps quite a far-fetched dream.
“I used to play a lot of Basketball. But for me, Basketball wasn’t just about honing my skills with finding the hoop. I was equally fascinated by the variety of stylish sneakers that many top players from the NBA League wore in the competition. Every time I returned to the hostel from my holiday, I would always have a couple of new sneakers to show off. Of course, with my parents based in Tibet, stocking up on these shoes was easier with most of them being cheaper Chinese knock-off replicas.”
Ahmed Dulla Nepali is now a certified Footwear Designer and has just recently started selling shoes under his own brand name ‘DULLA Shoes’.
Ironically, from a wannabe NBA player he is now a certified Footwear Designer. Ahmed though still insists that this sudden transition in life is still rooted to his NBA dreams.
“After finishing high school with a Humanities & Arts background, I literally had no idea what I should do next. So as I sat down on Google and discover my options, I came across this graduate degree on Footwear Designing. With my fascination for shoes, I knew it then and there that this course was tailor made for me. So if not as a player, I can now still aim for the NBA as a Shoe Designer!”
Footwear Designing is a subject of study where you are taught everything about shoes, from the initial designing process, making techniques, right material selections to the final execution. One is theoretically as well as practically educated on every component of a shoe and well professed to use all the machines.
“It took me three years to graduate with a Diploma in Footwear Designing from Footwear Design and Development Institute, India. During the years at I learnt the designing and construction of different types and styles of shoes, under a variety of technologies. We were exposed about the past, latest technologies and modern practices of shoe-making, to determine the aesthetic appeal of a shoe. Our course ranged from leather costing, leather identification, cutting techniques, seam closings, binding treatments, soles developing, hand lasting to machine lasting, etc. I have also done a year in designing specialization from pattern cutting to last selection and material costing to sourcing of materials. I have completed my 2D and 3D CAD as well”, says the 27 year old Ahmed.
Considering his obsession for shoes, the idea that he could now design and make his own shoes was obviously very fascinating for him. But many people still assume that a shoemaker and a cobbler are the same, which is a misconception. So taking up this unheard career path definitely must have had its share of hurdles.
Some of my customers have even compared my shoes with other big brands in the market and it’s a huge accomplishment for me to be preferred over those brands.
“My dad started off as a taxi driver during his younger days in Kathmandu. In fact, when I once told him that I too wanted to be a Taxi Driver, he wasn’t surprised a bit. He rather assured me that, regardless of whatever I do, I should always be hard working and sincere. So when I convinced him of sincerely pursuing Footwear Designing, he didn’t object and I easily got the green signal from my family. But, a lot of my friends and relatives still hadn’t heard about a course in Footwear Technology. So while pursuing my degree, I did have to bear with some new nicknames like high-tech cobbler, mochii, etc. Then there were the occasional jokes in social gatherings, being asked to mend people’s shoes. But today, when the same people appreciate the outcome of my work, it further inspires and justifies my career path.”
Presently, Ahmed has managed to establish his own brand ‘DULLA SHOES’ with his own resources and knowledge. He outsources his designs for production to a factory in Delhi and sells the shoes through various outlets in India and Nepal. In Nepal, they are available online through www.UpandSass.com and will be soon sold at the upcoming Trendsetters Store in Durbar Marg.
“I am someone who is heavily inspired by shoemakers like Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and Aldo Bensadoun. So treading on their path, I decided to stick to my surname for the brand name rather than coining up some other fancy names. My shoes are all hand-made and they are made from all genuine leather, in limited pairs only. Some of my customers have even compared my shoes with other big brands in the market and it’s a huge accomplishment for me to be preferred over those brands”, claims Ahmed.
Ahmed’s career path is a fresh change from what most of us commonly opt for ourselves like business, medicine or engineering.
Though he is still yet to ascertain his specific genre of focus, for now, it’s in designing women’s shoes. He states that there is so much to experiment with women’s shoes than men’s. He believes that shoes are like drugs for girls, as a good pair of shoes easily makes them feel good and confident. But men, according to him, generally don’t tend to invest much in shoes and have lesser demand for different varieties. In the future, Ahmed hopes to see more people walking down the street in a pair of ‘DULLA Shoes’ and ultimately aims to earn a global recognition amongst other giant shoe companies.
Ahmed’s career path is a fresh change from what most of us commonly opt for ourselves like business, medicine or engineering. Similarly, we hope that more Nepalese people begin to explore their career options and invest their time and money in what they genuinely love doing. Ahmed agrees, “You have to remember that if you follow the crowd, then you will never get further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been. So take up what’s best for you and execute with utmost sincerity. At the end of the day, there really is no substitute to hard work and having faith in oneself. Life’s beautiful; you either choose to give up as a loser or stand up, dust yourself and make it happen no matter what!”
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