Swap Your Sneakers for the Perfect San Francisco Shoe

Make a low-key fashion statement with Mohinders.

Ashley Batz Photography

Let’s be honest: if you live in San Francisco, you’re not wearing heels on a regular basis. In this laid back city — with lots of hills — you’re more likely to see women wearing sneakers than stilettos. But if you still want to make a fashion statement that fits the city’s vibe, look no further than Mohinders. These ethically-sourced water buffalo leather shoes are handcrafted in India by master artisans and packed with character.

You need a shoe that will take you from day to night — aka from Dolores Park to your favorite restaurant on Valencia.

“The climate in SF is Mohinders-friendly almost year round,” said Kristen Morabito, who runs creative and design for the brand. She pointed out that the shoes are right at home in the casual, outdoors-leaning style scene here. “Plus, one of my favorite things about SF is bicycling through Golden Gate park, which I do all the time in a pair of our flats,” she continued. “They’re functional enough for city rides, and nice enough for almost anywhere you’ll end up.” In this city, you need a shoe that will take you from day to night — aka from Dolores Park to your favorite restaurant on Valencia.

A Heritage Design

A centuries-old design from India inspired Mohinders. “When founder Michael Paratore stumbled upon it about six years ago, he was enamored with its ease and versatility,” Morabito explained. “We do make a design tweaks, including a crepe rubber sole to make them grippy and comfortable for all-day meandering.” Added bonus: they can be re-soled.

Women who love Mohinders tend to desire an easy, eye-catching, yet seasonless wardrobe.

Morabito said that the women who love Mohinders tend to desire an easy, eye-catching, yet seasonless wardrobe. “They want shoes that can go anywhere,” she said. That could mean scrambling over rocks in Joshua Tree (like The Assembly designer Sara Combs does in her Mohinders), wandering city streets, working in the art studio, or kicking back at a cocktail bar.

The Range of Shoes

The Solid Leather City Slipper is Mohinder’s best seller for women. Morabito credits its minimal aesthetic that works for dressed-up vibes, too. “The quality of our veg-tanned leather also shines in this style,” she said. “Each pair is a little different, with a unique grain and color tone ranging from caramel to chestnut.” Morabito told me that Mohinders are made with handmade water buffalo leather, using an age-old process. It’s how leather used to be made. “We use tree bark and a local nut called Myrobalan, which explains the rich colors,” she said. This leather also ages and patinas beautifully, darkening and getting better with time.

“The Solid Leather Flat — my choice for bicycling — is probably our most risky shoe,” Morabito admitted. “We designed it as an experiment during our last trip to India, weaving our ideas with the shoemakers’ technical skills.” The risk comes in the break-in process. “Because the leather is tanned in such a pre-industrial, simple way, it can also take a lot more break-in than you might be used to.” Morabito noted that this can take commitment (and some weird break-in tricks). But, she promised that it’s worth it when the shoe forms to the shape of your foot, getting super comfy.

Ethical Practices

Mohinders are mindful about how it sources materials. “When Michael began, he never considered taking this style of shoe, that evolved in this particular place, and making it somewhere else. That would have felt like design appropriation,” she told us. Unfortunately, this kind of appropriation happens often, especially in fast fashion. Retailers will pick up a traditional style and replicate it somewhere else in mass. The makers and designers of origin will see no benefit, Morabito explained.

When we collaborate with the artisans, we try to retain the integrity of the shoemakers’ traditional techniques.

“When we collaborate with the artisans on product design updates, we try to retain the integrity of the shoemakers’ traditional techniques,” Morabito said. Mohinders work hard to highlight the shoes’ place of origin, and makers of origin, in India-based storytelling.

Mohinders also strive for an equitable business relationship with the shoemaking cooperative. “This group of people, whose parents and grandparents were mostly shoemakers as well, function as entrepreneurs. They also work in a cooperative structure facilitated by a local NGO.” You can read more about Mohinders’s values and how they work with the cooperative here.

Mohinders have a lot going for them. The shoes are ethically made, stylish for San Francisco — and did we mention that members of The Assembly get discount? Be sure to check out the perk page for more details.

logo logo
The Assembly arrow
The Assembly
arrow