Peruvian designer leaves ‘footprint’ on Wichita with handmade shoes

Hispanic Heritage Month

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – On the corner of Douglas and South Hillside Street in College Hill you can find pieces of Peru’s rich culture.

“My whole life I wanted to make shoes, it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little child,” said Aida Stenholm, Wichita business owner and shoe designer.

It all started when Stenholm was an 8 year old. She grew up in a family of twelve with five sisters who were older than her, all close in size, which meant not always getting new things.

“Because I’m the younger one, I had to wait for my sister to stop growing or still growing and left her shoes. I had to take her shoes that she already wore,” said Stenholm. “I always said to my mother, and my sisters, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to make my own shoes.'”

That’s when her dream of being a shoe designer and maker started to manifest. But, Stenholm didn’t wait, she started dabbling in shoemaking at 8 years old.

“I made my own sandals, of course with some cardboard, papers, kind of like with tied laces all around,” said Stenholm. “It was amazing, I was so proud. Of course, everyone was laughing at me because I looked like a crazy woman who just made cardboard shoes.”

It took nearly 28 years for Stenholm to finally return to her dream and passion. She said it was not until after her son was born that she realized something was missing. That is when she and her husband picked up their family and moved across the country so she could go back to school to learn how to make shoes.

“We were living in Orlando. We sold the house, my husband quit his job, my son, my husband and me left to Peru,” said Stenholm. “We lived there for one year. So I was in school in the morning, in the afternoon, even at night. I was taking classes in the night.”

Stenholm makes all of her shoes by hand, even the soles are handmade. She uses blankets that are made in Peru on her shoes, making sure to incorporate her culture in each pair of shoes she makes.

Despite her non-traditional journey and facing challenges, from being a female business owner to working in a male-dominated industry, she employs six people in Peru and has two staff members in Wichita.

“Every year for seven years I am doing it exactly the same, working with my family, working with my own people in Peru,” said Stenholm.

The designer and shoemaker also makes sandals and handbags. She said even though she had some worry about whether people in Wichita would take a liking to her unique shoes, she is proud to witness her designs hitting the streets of Wichita.

“It’s a surprise to me I feel so proud that people like it and love my country and appreciate the fact that everything is handmade,” said Stenholm.

Stenholm’s store, Killasumaq, is located at 110 S. Hillside. She says Killasumaq means beautiful moon in Quechuan which is the oldest language spoken in that region of Peru. For pricing information you can visit her website at AidaStenholm.com, which also shows the items she has in stock. You can also make an appointment to have custom shoes made.

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