A few years ago, when Uday Kak was spending time in Puerto Vallarta, he became enchanted with the atmosphere. “The town has a understated luxury vibe that really attracted me,” he said. “And the people there are very nice and open.” To add to the mystique, he also noticed that the people he met all seemed to be wearing the same style of slip-on shoe, a Moroccan design that made its way to the western Mexican beach town in the ’60s. The simple construction had about a dozen variations — some with heels, others with multiple seams — which fascinated Kak.
“In my love for the shoe, I ended up finding the one shoemaker, Fernando Santana, whose family has made these shoes for generations,” said Kak, who soon created his own brand, Vayarta in the summer of 2014 with a friend, Sarada Ravindra. “[Santana and I] worked together to design the shoe as it exists right now, making something new but still related to the original.”
Vayartas — minimalist slip-ons featuring an all-around welt — are individually made from hand-dyed leather. They also have a natural-leather sole that molds to wearer’s feet over time, providing a completely individual fit. “They are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn,” noted Kak. “And I love that about them, especially when I travel.” The shoes hit shelves in May of 2015 and in September, Ravindra, looking to meet growing demand, began to explore production methods outside of Puerto Vallarta. “While we needed to increase our volume, it was important for us to maintain our quality and keep the product local,” said Ravindra. “We visited Leon, Mexico and established a relationship with a family of shoemakers, who now continue to hand-make the shoes with the same quality and skill we require.”
To frame the product, the brand’s initial artwork and imagery (which appears on the packaging, website and the shoes) were created by Alice Lancaster and photographed by Kak. “It’s always fun to work with Uday because he has a very free way of working and I am more regimented,” Lancaster said. Their collaboration resulted in a playful mix of cabana-esque product shots with an imaginative use of props (faces made with fruit and found objects). “Alice was the fundamental creative voice outside of the design of the actual shoe; she gave the brand a unique visual identity for the first few seasons,” said Kak. Lancaster’s work for Vayarta also included a sketch of a face (featured on Vayarta’s website) and a unique illustration of an eye (which was stamped on the insole of the debut collection).
The slip-ons are unisex and are offered in a range of colors, from the saturated Pigment (blue) to the earth-tone Terra (brown), the seasonable Tile (off-white) and black. They land at the intersection of stylish and versatile and, as Ravindra observed, “They are a great alternative to a sneaker, loafer or sandal, and can be can worn with nearly everything.”