BucketFeet is an American online retailer specializing in artist-designed footwear. The company exists to connect people through art by collaborating with emerging artists from around the world to design each shoe. All artists receive a portion of the profits made from their designs. The company is headquartered in Chicago, IL and was founded in 2011 by Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein.
Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein first met in 2008, while volunteering in the favelas of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nemani had recently quit his job in finance to travel the world for one year, while Firestein, a California native, had gone there to study Spanish after graduating from the University of Oregon in 2007. The two became friends, and upon Raaja's departure from Buenos Aires, Aaron sold him a pair of shoes on which he had drawn an artistic design. Raaja continued his year-long journey and cites the shoes as an easy conversation starter; he says people from all over the world would comment on their unique design and that several friendships were sparked from these initial conversations.
Aaron had been drawing on canvas sneakers since his college years. His designs had garnered the attention of his classmates, who began offering to buy his hand-designed shoes. Aaron's friends at the University of Oregon had nicknamed him "Bucket," so he began calling his creations "BucketFeet." This is the inspiration for the name of the company he founded with Raaja Nemani years later.
After Raaja had completed his travels, he sent Aaron a Facebook message asking if he would be willing to move to Chicago and create a business around the idea of artist-designed sneakers. Aaron agreed, and the two moved to Chicago in 2010 and officially launched the business in 2011.
BucketFeet's business model is based on the premise that a different artist designs every shoe. BucketFeet states its mission is to connect people around the world through art, and the company collaborates with painters, designers, illustrators, and more to create each shoe design. The business aims to grant the emerging artists in its network, which includes 12,000 people from over 100 countries, exposure on a global scale. BucketFeet purchases each artists' work upfront, and also pays a royalty for each shoe sold back to the artist who originally designed them.
BucketFeet sells shoes through their online store, independent boutiques, and several brick-and-mortar locations. As of 2015, BucketFeet has one retail studio location in downtown Chicago and one in the Nolita neighborhood of New York City. They will open a second Chicago studio in the Wicker Park neighborhood in June 2015. Additionally, the company's international presence continues to grow: they plan to open three retail studios in Asia later this year. Pop-up stores in London, Amsterdam, Taipei and Hong Kong are also likely.