Afshan Abbas is a self-described shoe lover. In 2012, while on vacation in her hometown of Karachi, she discovered khussas, a style of ballet flats local to Pakistan. After bringing a few pairs back to Seattle, she found she wasn’t the only one who loved the colorful shoes. In 2016, Abbas decided to quit her software engineering job at Microsoft and partnered with Rameez Sajwani, a fellow engineer and former Amazon employee, to create Fuchsia.
Now the duo behind Fuchsia are bringing khussas to the Seattle market. They employ skilled shoe artisans in Pakistan, who hand craft flats that make you look good and feel even better.
Cofounder Sajwani spent six months in Pakistan working with a master craftsman known as Rafik to develop and refine the shoe to be able to compete on a global market. He saw the men and women go through the 30 steps it takes to make the shoes and was able to help adapt some aspects of the design. The biggest change he made was adding ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) padding to the soles—the same padding Clark’s uses—to make them more comfortable.
Fuchsia contracts out the shoe makers, paying them one and a half times more than their typical wages. The company also provides medical benefits and shares profits. This is big. Normally people in this profession don’t have consistent income and must hold multiple jobs to make a livable wage.
Abbas says that her favorite thing about the shoes is that “they brings two cultures together.” This business enterprise was able to bring together 699 people to raise over $62,000 through a Kickstarter campaign–an average of $90 a donation. It took only thirty hours to make six times Fuchsia’s original goal.
The past year for this startup has been focused on brand aweness and pre-orders, but Abbas and Sajwani are already looking forward. Their goal is to tap into other local crafts, bring them to a global market, and always compensate adequately. While they aren’t ready disclose anything quite yet, Abbas says they are looking into trades local to Nepal, Africa, and Peru.
One thing is for sure, flats will go in and out of season, but ethical business and social entrepreneurship will always be in style.