Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Interview with Bespoke Footwear designer and maker Ago e Lesina

I work with a bespoke shoe maker in London and I know of many others. There has been quite alot of interest in bespoke footwear of late, the price of off-the-peg designer shoes has increased so much, it has almost reached parity with bespoke. So, why bother paying £1500 for a pair of Vuitton shoes when you can have your own unique design made just for you?

Most of the bespoke shoe makers I know make only womens but I recently came across Salvatore of Ago e Lesina, bespoke shoe makers in Italy and I thought I would ask him some questions about his business.

Salvatore says,

''I've been in bespoke shoe manufacturing for the past 15 years or so, I did my apprenticeship in Silvano Lattanzi's own hometown in the Marche region. A "forward thinking" traditionalist I recently decided to finally start a website and join in the virtual business world.''

What kind of shoes do you specialise in? ''I specialize in men's footwear but of course also make shoes for women. I think when you make men's shoes you can make women's but not necessarily the other way around as men's footwear tends to be a bit more technical.''

Do you carve your own lasts? ''I don't, I have them made by a last maker based on the measurements taken, but depending on the need, when the changes to be made are minor, I do modify standard lasts by the addition-removal method to change the form according to the clients' needed specs (adding being leather and removal consisting of the last material).''

Did you make shoes for any celebrities and if so, who are they? ''Interesting question, I have some real vip's among my clients, both in the Italian entertainment industry (TV and radio personalities, two actors and one football player) and politics (three senators, a few magistrates and one Regional President) however Italian privacy laws prevent me from disclosing their names without first attaining written consent. However, there would still be a problem as it would also be considered an illegal conflict of interest and so-called subliminal endorsement which is sanctionable by the antitrust authority (welcome to Italy!)''

What were your favourite shoes you ever designed? ''That's a tough question, every pair of shoes made feel like a sort of offspring! But I once made some plain Monk, one-strap, buttoned, walled chisel toes, made with burgundy box calf leather from Tuscany, a shoe I promised to remake for myself. Unfortunately one of the many pairs I neglected to photograph.''

Which shoe designers do you admire? ''The shoe designer-makers that inspire(d) me are Lattanzi, Ferragamo and Berluti. Lattanzi especially because he's not afraid of crossing what are sometimes arthritic fashion-for-men lines.''

Which decade was your favourite era in fashion and why? ''I think the eighties was my favorite, fashion was inspired by that pop cultural phenomena known as "Miami Vice," which helped bring back elegance and style in popular apparel for men and women, even in casual settings, an option for both young and old. I'm reminded by Sonny Crocket's Armani suits and slipper-loafers worn, against all the rules of bon ton, without socks... and what real shoe lover could condemn that short lived revolution...''

Which is your favourite kind of leather to work with? ''I love to work with box calf, its softness, lightness, beauty and strength make it ideal for luxury shoes.''

What is the future of bespoke shoe making for you? ''After all these years I still find that the smell of premium tanned leather arouses the senses, if they could only make a cologne of it, not to mention the tactile qualities. Bespoke shoemaking preserves these elements the best in the finished shoe. These are things that industrial shoemaking can never really communicate to the wearer and even less the manufacturer, overwhelmed by the odours of industrial glues. And this is why I'll be happy to continue making bespoke shoes no matter what happens to the economy, even if they should become economically unviable. But I think that will not happen anytime soon, as the Asian and Middle Eastern markets are just waking to the reality of what is best in the European footwear industry: Italian hand-made shoes.''

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