Interview: Vijay Nainani, Co-founder & CEO of Legwork

Vijay Nainani, Co-founder & CEO of Legwork

An exclusive interview with Vijay Nainani, Co-founder & CEO of Legwork, India’s First Hybrid Dress Sneaker

As the co-founder and CEO of Legwork, Vijay Nainani stands at the forefront of innovation in the footwear industry. With Legwork being India’s pioneer in hybrid dress sneakers, Vijay has demonstrated remarkable vision and entrepreneurial prowess.

His journey from ideation to execution reflects his dedication to blending style with functionality, catering to the dynamic needs of modern consumers. With an extensive background in design and business, Vijay has steered Legwork towards becoming a trailblazer in the Indian footwear market. In this interview, we delve into Vijay’s insights, inspirations, and the future trajectory of Legwork.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting Legwork and what sets your brand apart in the world of men’s dress shoes?

Vijay Nainani: I have always been a crazy shoe fanatic, a sneakerhead of some kind I guess. I have always aspired to buy some of the best shoes in the market, kept a tab on the different types of shoes available in the market and even saved up to buy the ones I wanted.

The first step in this direction actually happened when my uncle, recognizing my e-commerce acumen and experience, asked me to become a distributor for shoes they sold. I like to believe that’s when I tasted blood for the first time. But even when I decided that I want to sell shoes, I was sure I didn’t want to be part of the crowd.

I wanted to solve a problem with Legwork. In discussions with friends and drawing from personal experiences, a recurring problem surfaced—men’s dress shoes were notoriously uncomfortable. The discomfort endured during long hours at the office, attending weddings, and various events became a glaring opportunity for innovation.

Our unique proposition lies in crafting shoes that offer formal elegance but provide the comfort of sneakers. At Legwork, we redefine the expectations of traditional footwear by seamlessly blending style and comfort.

What specific elements or features do you prioritize when designing your bespoke shoes to ensure both comfort and style for your customers?

Vijay Nainani: First and foremost, our focus is on creating an ergonomic design. We meticulously consider the natural movement of the human foot, ensuring ample toe room, cushioning, ankle space, and other vital aspects.

Our commitment to all-day comfort is reflected in the use of high-quality leather imported from Italy and Argentina, prioritizing both durability and a luxurious feel. Shock absorption is a key consideration and our insoles are crafted to mold to the shape of your foot after just a few wears, enhancing overall comfort.

Equally important for us is style. Legwork seamlessly blends comfort and style, offering shoes suitable for various occasions, from office settings to celebrations and events. Essentially, our shoes are a fusion of a sneaker’s comfort disguised in a formal aesthetic.

Attention to detail is ingrained in every step of our process, from stitching and finishing to quality checks and packaging. Our goal is to ensure that once someone experiences the comfort of a Legwork shoe, they won’t look elsewhere for stylish and comfortable dress shoes.

How do you manage to maintain affordability while still delivering high-quality, stylish shoes to your customers?

Vijay Nainani: Well, direct-to-consumer is a big reason for being able to maintain affordability. We have technically eliminated intermediary costs – no rents, no wholesalers, no retailers, no retail space. Directly from the manufacturer to the customer.

The supply chain we have built over the years also pays off and allows us to purchase raw materials at competitive prices. Also, with the brand growing and increasing production value, the cost of the resources is also being optimized.

We constantly have an eye on the bottom line, so we make sure we don’t spend on unnecessary frills. We also believe networking and building relations proved to be invaluable. Collaboration over competition with fellow businesspeople allows us to pool ideas and resources, fostering mutual growth over time.

Could you walk us through the process of creating a bespoke shoe for a customer, from the initial consultation to the final product?

Vijay Nainani: While the core of our business at Legwork revolves around ready-to-wear shoes, we also specialize in crafting tailor-made bespoke shoes for customers seeking a personalized touch. The process begins with an initial consultation where we delve into the customer’s style preferences, the occasion, outfit considerations, and the overall look they envision.

From there, we collaboratively design the perfect shoe, carefully choosing the shoe type (such as Oxfords or Brogues), pattern, finish, colours, and the most suitable leather. Working closely with the customer, we gather precise measurements before finalizing the design and starting the construction phase, utilizing a last—a foundational tool for shoe construction.

Depending on the budget and preferences, we employ techniques such as Goodyear welted, Blake stitched, or cemented constructions, ensuring a customized and high-quality end product with a suitable outsole.

What materials and craftsmanship techniques do you utilize to ensure the durability and longevity of your shoes?

Vijay Nainani: To ensure the durability and longevity of our shoes, we prioritize the use of premium materials, investing in some of the finest raw materials available, including exotic leathers, Italian leather, and full-grain calf leather.

High-quality leather, known for its ability to age beautifully and maintain durability over the years, forms the foundation of our craftsmanship. In terms of technique, we have the Goodyear welted technique, a centuries-old construction method renowned for its durability.

This intricate process requires highly skilled labor and allows for the replacement of outsoles, ensuring the shoes can last for an extended period, essentially becoming a lifetime investment. Our artisans, or kaarigars, bring extensive experience from working with global brands, and we leverage a global patented technology in collaboration with a partner to stay innovative and ahead of industry trends.

Quality control is paramount throughout our shoe-making process, with dedicated team members overseeing every detail, from the type of leather and adhesive to the intricacies of design, to ensure each pair meets our stringent standards.

How do you stay updated with the latest trends and preferences in men’s fashion, and how does this influence your designs?

Vijay Nainani: As a brand committed to sustainability and enduring style rather than fast fashion, our approach is to create designs that transcend fleeting trends. Unlike brands that launch new designs monthly, we focus on crafting timeless products with lasting appeal.

Our strategy to stay attuned to changing preferences involves gathering insights from customer feedback, participating in trade shows, and analyzing market reports. The emphasis of our research is on building a legacy through products that stand the test of time.

Can you share any challenges you’ve faced as a Jaipur-based brand catering to a global audience, and how you’ve overcome them?

Vijay Nainani: There have been a lot of challenges on our route and we work every day to find innovative solutions wherever possible. One of the significant hurdles I remember is when we envisioned creating formal shoes with the comfort of sneakers, we encountered resistance from factories.

Typically, formal shoes and sneakers are manufactured in separate facilities due to differences in raw materials, processes, and required resources. After numerous attempts and many rejections, we found a small-scale operation where the owner was willing to collaborate, providing the resources needed to bring our unique vision to life. And that’s how we started.

Looking towards the future, do you have any plans for expanding your product line or reaching new markets?

Vijay Nainani: Yes, expansion is a key aspect of our future plans. We consistently explore new markets, engage in year-round product sampling, and only launch products when we are confident in their exceptional quality.

Our commitment to growth extends to collaborations with businesses, we recently delivered an order for the Italian Embassy as well. Looking ahead, we’re also excited about introducing hybrid dress shoes for women, hopefully featuring comfortable heels.

We’re working on it as we speak. Expanding our offline presence is also a priority, with recent collaborations with select retailers. We aim for a strategic approach, maintaining a limited number of stores offering Legwork shoes offline to ensure exclusivity.

What are your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?

Vijay Nainani: There are no shortcuts on the path to entrepreneurship; it involves a substantial amount of legwork—pun intended! To thrive, find your passion, something that truly excites you and keeps you motivated. For me, the world of shoes has always been a source of excitement, and Legwork is where my heart lies.

Embracing failures is integral; view them as learning opportunities, adapt, and keep moving forward. Surround yourself with the right people who can inspire, challenge, and add value to your journey. Agility is crucial for new businesses, enabling swift adaptation to changes.

Leverage the advantage of being nimble in the face of challenges, a privilege bigger corporates don’t have. Whatever you build, ensure it adds value and solves a problem for your customers. Keep a keen eye on the bottom line, minimize overhead costs, and cultivate a team that prioritizes success and growth. Perseverance and persistence are your allies in staying focused on your goals.

Vijay Nainani’s entrepreneurial journey with Legwork exemplifies the fusion of creativity, business acumen, and a deep understanding of consumer needs. Through his leadership, Legwork has not only introduced India to hybrid dress sneakers but has also set a precedent for innovation in the footwear industry.

As we conclude this interview, it’s evident that Vijay’s passion for design and commitment to quality continue to propel Legwork towards greater heights. With a focus on sustainability and customer-centricity, Legwork under Vijay’s guidance remains poised to redefine the boundaries of style and comfort in the Indian market and beyond.

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