Jairaj Lall has been busy since graduating from BA (Hons) Fine Art in 2016. In his final year of university his work was shortlisted for the Aon Community Arts Prize which selects from graduating students from universities in the North. In 2019 he set up ‘Jl3d Shoes’, creating unique women’s high heeled shoes using 3D printing technology.

Alumni Relations and Development Officer, Rachael Hickson Pearce met with Jairaj to find out more:

I met Jairaj in the Dot the Lions café in the foyer of Leeds Arts University. Jairaj was born with Moebius Syndrome, which effects the muscles in his face particularly, but also his hands and legs. At birth he was given very little chance of walking and talking. He tells me that he wants to be able to inspire others to overcome the obstacles placed in front of them.

After Jairaj left university he struggled to find work and started to think about going into business as an alternative. He explains that he originally began designing evening gowns but struggled to find a seamstress who would be able to make them.

Image courtesy of: Jairaj Lall

“The first two years after graduating were very hard” he explains “I struggled to find a job, I applied for general admin office jobs and I struggled to get through an interview. I’m not sure I’d be here without that period of time. It taught me to persevere and think creatively.”

It was on visit to the women’s shoe department in Harvey Nichols that he had a light bulb moment, an idea for a more sculptural shoe heel. He knew that this was something not currently available and instinctively realised that there might be a market out there. Using his skills as an artist he set to work designing prototype shoe heels, using his uncle’s 3D printer to create beautiful sculptural and practical objects.

Image courtesy of: Jairaj Lall

He managed to raise some funding for business mentoring, wrote a business plan, found a manufacturer, and through this process his project manager and brought ‘Jl3d Shoes’ to reality.

I ask him how the process works, “Each shoe is handmade, bespoke.” He says “The design process starts with a sketchbook and is then designed on CAD. The heels are made in Leeds and I then work with my manufacturer to create the finished shoe from the best quality leather, although I am currently on the lookout for a leather alternative. The material that my heels are created from is 100% recyclable. Sustainability is important to me and because every pair of shoes is made to order there is no waste stock.” I ask him if studying BA (Hons) Fine Art has helped him in this process, he said, “although I work within the fashion industry my background is in fine art and that has been a huge help. My shoes are sculptural objects.”
I ask him if he has any advice to graduates wanting to start their own business.

Image courtesy of: Jairaj Lall

“Business mentoring” he says firmly, “once I had my concept, before I did anything else, I did my research, learnt about accounting, marketing, finance, I understood my market. Launching a business is hard, but not as hard as what will come next. You have to be prepared. I didn’t do work experience before I started but I’d recommend doing as much as you can beforehand. Hard work pays off in the end, don’t let anyone hold you back.”