What is it about the Made in Italy label that sets footwear fans’ hearts racing? One small town may hold the answers, Lucinda Turner discovers
Italian footwear is admired across the globe and many discerning customers, whether they are perusing the high-end boutiques in Paris or the glamorous department stores of Istanbul, will be looking for the prestigious Made in Italy label before making a purchase.
This benchmark of quality for Italian-made goods has become internationally recognisable, conferring an elite status upon the products that bear it. But what makes Italian footwear, in particular, so covetable? And how has a crop of the country’s traditional brands managed to create some of the most fashion-forward shoes on the market?
The answer to these questions lies in the small town of San Mauro Pascoli in Northern Italy. During the 1950s the area quickly became known for its shoemaking, due to the high concentration of able resident craftsmen. Pollini was one of the brands that sprang from this talent pool. While the business has expanded and its designs have moved with the times, Pollini’s high-quality craftsmanship remains unchanged. Each shoe goes through over 135 processes before it reaches the shop floor of the label’s Milan flagship on Via della Spiga.
Pollini places a strong emphasis on the artisanship and passion that underpins its creations and, as a result, avoids excessive use of technology in its factory. From the design team to the leather cutters, the bulk of the most intricate work is done by hand. Even when a machine is used during the assembly process, a highly-trained assembler will still make adjustments by hand to ensure perfection.
Pollini’s designs range from the practical to the avant-garde. Highlights of the autumn/winter 2018/19 collection include pastel pink fur mules, silver over-the-knee boots and a pair of metallic corded sandals that were made for a festive party. Alongside classic Pollini buckled ankle boots and conservative heeled loafers, the brand proves that solid Italian craftsmanship can be the backbone for almost any design.
Pollini is not the only brand that calls San Mauro Pascoli home. Born in the town in 1935, Sergio Rossi, the son of a local artisan, went on to found his eponymous footwear label here in 1966. Coming into prominence in the 1970s through collaborations with large Italian brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Versace, Sergio Rossi has been a mainstay of the country’s footwear scene ever since. Today, Naomi Campbell, Sarah Jessica Parker and Beyoncé are fans.
For 2018, Sergio Rossi launched the srMilano collection, featuring an angular heel with a branded metal plate. Applied to pumps, boots and slingbacks, the distinctive design is set to become a new icon for the label. Production has remained in San Mauro Pascoli since the first branded shoe left the Sergio Rossi factory in 1968 and, though 2018 marks 50 years since this milestone, Sergio Rossi is anything but stuck in the past.
Tradition and innovation work effortlessly together at the brand and the results speak for themselves: up to 1,600 pairs of Sergio Rossi shoes are produced daily in the very same factory where it all began.
Just as Sergio Rossi’s success was nurtured in San Mauro Pascoli, so too was that of notable Italian label Casadei. Quinto and Flora Casadei founded a modest sandal company here in 1958, which rapidly expanded during the 1960s thanks to the increasing popularity of the Made in Italy movement.
Cesare Casadei, son of the founders, returned to the town in the mid 1980s and became actively involved in his parents’ company, taking on the role of creative director in 1994.
Today Casadei is a global sensation. The brand’s Blade design is instantly recognisable the world over. The exquisitely slender heel appears to be almost an optical illusion, made possible through sheer expertise in shoe production. Casadei has become famous for marrying modern, fashion-forward designs with technical excellence, offering the customer quality and artistry with every design.
The reward for Cesare Casadei comes ‘when I see a woman wearing one of our creations. At that moment, the magic of a shoe is truly capable of conveying the painstaking commitment and passion that I have always invested in this fantastic trade.’ A Casadei shoe always offers something extra, from Swarovski crystals, leather flowers and flamboyant tulle detailing to highly technical leather cutworks and dazzling structural features.
Whether you are searching the glamorous boutiques of Milan for a chic everyday shoe or a glittering party piece, the exports of one little-known Italian town are constantly pushing boundaries while cherishing traditional craftsmanship. Stylish and beautifully created, what could be more Italian?