Bengaluru's sneaker artist, Mana Santhanam, customises a pair of sneakers for Virat Kohli

To make it extra special, she put in the date of Test match, Captian number 269, and the silhouette of Virat in action on the field
Virat Kohli and Mana Santhanam
Virat Kohli and Mana Santhanam

Even if Mana Santhanam, a sneaker artist, currently has a packed schedule and is not taking orders, exceptions can be made if the client is Indian cricket team’s ex-skipper, Virat Kohli. Santhanam recently customised a pair of sneakers for Kohli, dedicating it to his 100th Test match which concluded recently. To make it extra special, she put in the date of Test match, Captian number 269, and the silhouette of Virat in action on the field. 

It came in as a pleasant surprise for her when Kohli shared the video of him thanking her for the effort. “In the video, he says he will definitely wear it,” says Santhanam, adding that her parents are bigger fans of him. Santhanam’s parents are not just cricket followers but have also played for the state of Tamil Nadu. “I grew up watching not just India’s matches in almost all matches of all formats. Cricket is like second nature in my house,” says Santhanam, adding that it is a huge deal for them.

The opportunity came to Santhanam, a city-based marketeer, when cricketer was in the city for a photoshoot before he joined the bubble. “There was a small window where Virat was in town for a brand shoot and it coincided with the 100th Test match,” says Santhanam, who knew someone who was also part of the shoot and got in touch with her to make some time for it. Her friend had a blank canvas shoe sent home and, “I had only 24 hours to work on it, which was crazy,” says Santhanam, who normally takes upto five days at least. 

Santhanam, who is preparing for her upcoming wedding, hasn’t been taking orders. “But it was for Virat Kohli and it was a milestone,” she says. 

Though a relatively new concept in India, sneaker customisation is huge in the United States. “Sneaker customisation is also picking up in India, maybe not at the same rate as in the US but there is a huge audience. It’s a movement now with people calling themselves sneaker heads,” explain self-taught Santhanam, who usually takes orders on her Instagram account. 

While the sneakers are sent by the client, she charges R8,000 for her art. “Both old and new shoes are welcome, it’s a nice way to recycle old shoes but since people get in touch with me for gifting purposes, they’re usually new,” she adds.

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