Made in Italy
The ‘Made in Italy’ label has been synonymous with exceptional quality for centuries. Those in the know have always valued the traditional skills of the country’s artisans who today, more than ever, are turning their talents to producing the finest leather accessories for men. From shoes to hats, bags to belts and wallets to luggage, Italian handcrafted leather goods are reaching new heights of luxury.
Crafted in time
One of Italy’s success stories is Cellerini. Started by Silvano Cellerini in the early 1950s, the label began with just one sewing machine and a hide, bought with a small inheritance. A decade later Cellerini and his wife had expanded the business, creating leather handbags and luggage for some of the most affluent Florentine families of the time.
Now the label is headed up by the founder’s daughter Alessandra, who is keen to ensure that her parents’ dedication to peerless quality endures. Many of the working practices that went into creating Cellerini’s first bag are still followed: all leather cutting is done entirely by hand by the label’s experienced craftspeople. The pieces are then painstakingly trimmed by hand before being sewn together, a process which has been assisted by the advancements in manufacturing technology.
Similarly, Cellerini continues to provide the level of personalisation that it offered more than half a century ago. Thanks to a vast choice of calfskins, linings, threads and hardware, customers can have Cellerini create their very own bespoke Italian leather masterpiece.
Another family-owned atelier with a claim to the title of ‘Italy’s finest’ is Santoni, which has been creating some of the best handmade shoes to come out of Milan since it was set up in 1975 by Andrea Santoni. Over the decades, the label – now helmed by a second generation of Santonis – has expanded to become one of the country’s largest home-grown shoemakers, while keeping its key values of quality, passion for detail and working exclusively by hand intact.
Tradition for today
The brand’s two key pillars – innovation and tradition – still provide a solid foundation for its work. These days Santoni combines traditional expert hand craftsmanship with pioneering production techniques to ensure that every item of footwear fits as perfectly as possible, whether it’s a brogue or a Chelsea boot.
Fabric of life
A great deal of effort goes into sourcing the most sought-after hides and fabrics to ensure that each style is comfortable, practical and durable as well as stylish. Nowhere is this more evident than in the brand’s latest Limited Edition Collection, whose designs and materials are overseen by Andrea Santoni himself. From the first cut of the carefully selected leather to the final fire-branding with the Santoni mark, each step is done by hand, and there is no time limit for the creation of a single pair of shoes. Considering that one leather-tinting phase can require over 15 applications of colour, this proves that craftsmanship remains at the forefront of Santoni’s production.
However, it isn’t just new Italian products that are finding favour with well-heeled men; vintage and restored antique leather goods are becoming more popular among those looking to invest in some beautiful Italian leather. Bernardini in Milan is a treasure trove of lovingly restored and rare antique pieces. The store was founded by Max Bernardini in 1996, who was inspired by his father’s work in importing fine antiques for some of Italy’s wealthiest families.
The inviting emporium, which even has its own full-time bartender, is home to an eclectic collection of rare and expertly sourced goods, ranging from vintage travel trunks, suitcases and vanity boxes from the likes of Prada and Gucci, many of them made to order for wealthy European explorers during the first expeditions to Africa in the early 20th century. The diversity and desirability of the stock is as clear an illustration as any of Italy’s long history of making high-quality leather goods.
For the modern man, it’s clear that Italian leather accessories are not only long-lasting investments in style, but also offer an intriguing insight into the rich tradition of expert craftsmanship and made-to-measure personalisation that have long been the signature of a truly well-dressed man and a sign of Italian dedication to true luxury.