Atlanta-based Ukies reaches new heights with comfortable high heels

Umaesh and Kavita Khaitan offer gel-enchanced, classic pumps
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When I first slipped on the Arianna, a nude patent pump with a gently pointy toe, it was clear it wasn’t your average heel. It had shock absorption, a roomy toe box, and stability. I have blocky feet with such high arches that my best friend calls them hooks. I’m neither easy to fit nor quick to please on podiatric matters. These were comfy.

Umaesh and Kavita Khaitan of Ukies
Umaesh and Kavita Khaitan of Ukies

Photograph by Alex Martinez

I was visiting the offices of Ukies (pronounced yoo-kies), recently launched by Umaesh and Kavita Khaitan, a couple from Calcutta who relocated to Atlanta a decade ago. When asked why they started a shoe company specializing in comfortable heels, Kavita lights up. She says that moving to the U.S. and seeing the opportunities for women inspired her. So what’s up with those torturous shoes professional women are expected to wear?

Umaesh, whose background is in engineering, figured he could develop a nanogel layer to build directly into a shoe. So they hired a polymer chemist, consulted with a footwear professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, brought on a local podiatrist, and rebuilt the interior of the high heel. A Georgia Tech professor mapped the pressure points of the new gel-enhanced shoe, which showed significant improvement in comfiness over a typical heel of the same height. The technical process took two years. Now they hold four patent numbers for Ukies, including one for the gel system.

Photograph courtesy of Ukies
Photograph courtesy of Ukies

Style was the other prime consideration, and this fell to Kavita, who has a background in art and design. She draws the sketches herself, then sends them along to a technical designer in Italy who’s worked for the likes of Via Spiga and Kate Spade. The name Ukies is a mix of their initials, and the logo is a white Bengal tiger in a nod to their heritage—and, Kavita says, her belief that women should be the “big cats.”

This first collection includes just two styles—the Arianna (pointy toe, three-inch heel) and the Paris (rounded toe, 3.5-inch platform), each in four colors. They’re not trendy—nothing groundbreaking—just classic all-leather Duchess of Cambridge–style pumps. But Kavita brought out a swatch of cool floral leather she’s using in the next collection, as well as some crystal-laden prototypes. Next month, Ukies expects six more styles in several colors each, ranging from 1.75 to four inches and including open toes, wedges, and block heels. Hear that? It’s the sound of women rejoicing. $199–$209, ukies.com

This article originally appeared in our February 2015 issue under the headline “New Heights.”

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