World Footwear


Catherine Hinderman: luxury isn’t just in the value of the product itself, it’s also in the story behind it

May 8, 2023 India
Catherine Hinderman: luxury isn’t just in the value of the product itself, it’s also in the story behind it
We sat with Catherine Hinderman, CEO and co-founder of the Indian-based brand Gaia Amore. Born out of a passion for culture, history and fashion, this brand stands for the concept of new luxury, that is, valuing not only the product but the hands and story behind it. And that story might have begun ages ago
It’s indeed reductive to speak of Gaia Amore as any other luxury brand when at its core the mission is that of preservation of art and culture. Art and culture handed down from generation to generation. In one word, artisanship. But also, of connection(s) between people, artisans and customers, as well as fairness. Founded in 2020 by Catherine Hinderman and Ashish Tandon, the brand offers handcrafted, unique, and luxurious pieces infused with history and tradition, making sure that 3% of every purchase goes into the artisans’ pockets.

Gaia Amore was born out of Catherine’s discovery of India and their passion for culture and history. When it comes to India, specifically, a good starting point is recognizing that the country has “such diverse cultures within itself, and it’s this diversity that creates its uniqueness”. From here, anyone should “understand why it’s so important to take the time to preserve what these artisans are doing”. After all, she adds, “the fundamentals of any culture stem from our past, not our future. We always work from today and yesterday to create our future, it’s not the other way around”.

And it’s looking into the future that the CEO of the brand points out that “we are in a big turning point within the fashion space and globally as a human race, where we have the infrastructure and resources to be able to take the time and opportunity to be mindful of the resources that we are using, especially when it comes to culture”.


Artisans play a major role within Gaia Amore precisely because they are safe keepers of traditions from ages ago. And in India alone, there are about 200 million artisans across several industries. “We believe in what they do, it’s something that we want to help preserve, it’s something that we want to help educate the world on”, states Catherine. That’s why their story is so crucial for the brand’s business model - putting a face and a name on the fashion articles can “help change the course of fashion”. 

“We don't have to focus on big fashion houses to bring us couture when couture just means one piece made by hand for a single person”, she adds. The brand is exactly synonymous with uniqueness, which means reducing the quantity produced and betting on quality, making only limited editions. “Machinery is great because it leads to optimization, but a machine can’t do human hand work. It just leads to consistency, but I think couture is really about the inconsistencies”, she argues.

New Luxury

This vision implies the realization that luxury isn’t just in the value of the product itself, it’s also in the story behind it. “The brand promise that we stand on while we are asking a customer to pay that much for a piece is that (…) we are not going to be making tens of thousands of single products. We are just never going to do that, that’s our promise. It's always going to be a limited edition”.

“When we are offering a product, we are also offering transparency, sustainability and social impact”, continues Catherine. Transparency, in her view, refers to storytelling, and how it comes first and foremost. “The storytelling of where the artisans come from, who they are, what kind of family dependents they have and what kind of challenges they are facing. That’s a lovely insight you are getting into the people behind the products, and that's something we are really thorough about when it comes to finding our partners”.


But to effectively preserve these ancient handcraft techniques, we have to look to apprenticeship and face a reality where many of them are in danger of disappearance. Sons may not be willing to carry on their past generation’s legacy, it’s a fact, however, “maybe there’s someone else who does”. So, maybe, artisans can yet employ the same type of apprenticeship opportunities they were subjected to by their fathers and grandfathers, hopes Catherine, recognizing though that the “challenge with it is that it’s not always about learning the trade, it’s also about talent. So, you have to find the right talent for the right skills as well”.

There are always ways. And ultimately Gaia Amore does not want only to “find clusters of artisans that are working on these unique products [for the brand], but also help to bring together opportunities for them to flourish”. That may either mean helping factories source artisans and bringing them into the facilities “to use their skills in a clean safe setting, perfect their skills and then help teach others the same way” or give them the “exposure and credit they deserve, so that if other brands want to work with them, they can".


Preserving this intergenerational know-how, creating pieces that are made to stand the test of time and promoting opportunities for their makers to flourish and access better living conditions by transparently telling their stories actually reflect the way Gaia Amore views sustainability. She then calls out for greater transparency among fashion brands, as she sees manufacturers struggling to comply with their demands, even – or especially – when brands themselves are not willing to implement a self-auditing process. “You can change your clothes as many times as you want, but that doesn't change who you fundamentally are. You have to start by changing who you are. Only then you can start changing everything else. So, it should start with the brands and then go to the supply chain, but they are trying to do it the reverse way”.

Artisanship vs. Technology

When asked if there is a future for artisanship in an increasingly digital world, Catherine doesn’t shy away - instead, she sees opportunities. For example, a virtual world that can display and show how artisans in any country in the world work, and display NFT articles side by side with physical ones. “I think the metaverse is going to be a great opportunity for brands to reengage with their customers in a new and authentic way if they choose to do that”, she argues. For Gaia Amore, “in a virtual store, you can recreate anything, you can show real-life footage and show real-life artisans using avatars in that space, as opposed to going and bringing customers all the way to a small, tiny little village in Peru”, she exemplifies.

Even collaborations can be amplified because many stories can be told using these resources, with big brands that may have more difficulty accessing these artisans. Partnering up with brands like Gaia Amore can help create unique products and diverse intercultural collaborations.


The priorities for the future are set. Expanding operations in India but reaching out to “other countries as well because there are so many unique cultures that we want to touch upon and take out into the world”. At the same time, continuing to expand its customer base, as “right now, we are only focusing on the US, but we want to bring the brand to the UAE and obviously Europe”, with a virtual space in the metaverse in the pipeline too. But overall, “continue to work within a transparency sustainability space to create a level of impact that makes a difference, hopefully helping to change and lead a new pathway for fashion to actually make a positive difference in the world”.

For more information about Gaia Amore please check the brand's website following this LINK

Image Credits: Art by Sofia Pádua