Local shoemaker fuses love of basketball with culture
Returning to traditional forms of shoemaking, Mathieu Vaughan is hoping to revitalise the local footwear industry with his company Kingston Cordwainers Atelier (KCA).
Launched in 2022, the handmade sneaker company came from Vaughan's love for basketball and the overwhelming interest he developed in the shoes that basketball players wear.
He told THE STAR, "I played hella sports when I was young and eventually settled on basketball, but I figured out pretty early on that I wasn't going to be a professional athlete. So I started looking at other things that I loved about what I was playing, and I just loved the shoes. I used to always look forward to getting a little money every once in a while to buy my pair of shoes to go play basketball."
After being blessed with the opportunity to study industrial and product design at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the US, Vaughan took notice of what he perceived as gaps in the footwear industry.
"Construction is a major thing for me. One of the biggest issues that we have with the footwear industry right now is things ending up in landfills and things having short product lives. So one of the things I built into my product from the ground up was that it would have an element of an extendable lifespan. We once had a rich tradition of carrying our shoes and boots to the cobbler, once we've worn stuff down. And the cobbler could just 'boom', slab new piece and you're good to go. And we lost that when the footwear industry, like most businesses, just went towards making money, selling more pairs and so on," he said.
He continued, "That interest in creation and the concept of taking things from my mind and making them tangible has always been a big thing for me."
Revelling in his freedom as a one-man operation, Vaughan said he prides himself on making his shoes sustainable and easily repairable. Using imported, Italian leather and crafting each piece by hand in his workshop in St Andrew, the 29-year-old draws inspiration from Taino and Ashanti-African culture in his designs.
"When I moved back to Jamaica after finishing school overseas, I started to look at how can I use footwear as an art form to express something that is deeply related or inspired by my culture, my home, the history of our people," he said. Vaughan told THE STAR that those musings amounted to his first prototype called 'Tai|Kan'.
Building on that, Vaughan now offers two variations of that shoe in various sizes.