Sergio Rossi FW 2016/2017

“My shoes are Rossi, Sergio Rossi”. Here’s what we could be saying next winter.

The FW 2016/2017 collection designed by Angelo Ruggeri is almost completely black and clearly inspired by secret agents, spies, soldiers and trekkers.

This is going to be the perfect line of accessories for a charming man in need to go to an exclusive party, run away, fight, catch an helicopter jumping from the terrace, climb a mountain, kill the evil guy and then lay in front of a fireplace.

Maybe this is not daily life, but for many a daily dream.

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Annunci

Making Louboutin

A few months ago I was in Naples for a rare occasion to visit one of the factories that make men’s shoes for Christian Louboutin. I love to witness the making of things, in particular when it comes to handmade stuff.

In the past few days the official Louboutin Homme Instagram account is showcasing some of the pics I took at the factory. Seeing those wise hands at work, in the act of transforming those precious materials into pure beauty, makes me live once again those wonderful days. And understand why #CLLovesNapoli.

If this is not enough and you want to read the full story I wrote for Cool Hunting, just follow this link.

Factory Visit: Christian Louboutin

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My latest article for Cool Hunting.

Since setting up his eponymous label in 1991, French designer Christian Louboutin’s shoes have become synonymous with power, prestige and class thanks to their sexy, edgy design and extreme creativity. Lesser known is the fact that Louboutin produces men’s footwear as well—something that should be on the radar of all shoe enthusiasts.

On a very hot day this July, we had the chance to visit a factory in Naples, Italy, where skilled artisans create these rare, esteemed objects. This area is already known around the world for the production of high-end footwear, continuing a tradition rooted in the 19th century that exploded culturally after Word War II. The production process behind Louboutin shoes is entirely led by hand and consists of a minimum 30 steps. Fine leathers and precious fabrics (like cashmere and grosgrain) are cut, sewn, shaped and combined—but everything starts with a drawing.

Louboutin and his staff’s sketches are fleshed out into shapes and turned into a tridimensional design. The pattern-maker obtains a series of flat pieces that will be used for prototyping and—once the final prototype is approved by the designer—for production. The cutting process is key and is also done by hand. Depending on the piece of leather, the single parts are carefully positioned and cut in order to leave as little scraps as possible. It takes almost 15 years of experience to become a professional cutter and it’s incredible to see how fast and precise their hands work.

Precision is of the utmost importance when it comes to working with precious materials such as alligator. In this specific case only one animal skin can be used per shoe. The leather is chosen very carefully in order to make the two shoes as similar as possible, since each animal is unique. Once again it is a matter of fine eyes and expertise. The pieces of leather are flat after cutting, but soon take the shape of the part of the foot they will hold. The curvature is obtained by using machinery that combines pressure and temperature.

Stitching takes place next. The different pieces that will form the upper unite meticulously. “One single upper can be made of 12 different materials,” reveals one of the production managers who took us through the production lines. The artisans focus on their sewing machines with intensity as each stitch is a matter of millimeters, especially with Louboutin’s complex designs.

A red sole acts as a declaration and Louboutin’s signature. Interestingly, this color is obtained not by tanning, but with a secret lacquering process. “This complicates the process quite a bit,” the production manager shares. The soles arrive to the factory from a different production facility and, to avoid scratches, they are protected by a transparent film. It is only removed before when the shoes are boxed.

One artisan spreads a special mix of cork and glue onto the interior of the sole before it’s joined to the insole and upper; this padding will make the shoe much more comfortable. This (also secret) blend is kept inside a yellow tin with the logo of a very famous French champagne house. We asked if the blend includes chopped champagne corks, but the Louboutin staff simply smiled without an answer. The phase of sewing the sole consists of making several tiny passes—also rather complex. The hands of the artisans seamlessly switch from cutters to brushes, from cogwheels to wax sticks. Their elegance recalls that of a skilled classical musician.

As soon as the shoes are fully assembled, it’s time to polish. Leather is carefully and repeatedly caressed with pure cotton cloths for almost one hour, using French polish and other potions. Alligator leather, however, comes to the Louboutin factory in white (these blank skins are called “crust”) and it’s not dyed until the shoe is complete. As a final step, the artisans imbue a cloth with the color and literally paint the white upper, very rapidly and with extreme precision. This process guarantees deep and intense shades of color, since the pigments have never been warmed up or even touched during production.

Before leaving the factory, the shoes are inspected and all the edges painted tone-on-tone with a marker, making the shoe sharp and visually uniform—the process comes full circle with more drawing. It’s a gesture that truly feels like a signature by the team of these Neapolitan artisans—and a bond with Paris and the creativity of Christian Louboutin.

Inside Italy’s Growing Sneaker Expo, Ginnika

My new article for COOL HUNTING.

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Works by Phil Toys

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Works by Phil Toys

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Works by Phil Toys

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Works by Phil Toys

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Installation by Phil Toys

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Nike Air Mag

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Nike Air Mag

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Andrea Sibaldi

Phil Toys

Phil Toys

Sneaker culture is varied and constantly evolving. It’s a world in which art, music, sports, fashion and of course shoes, all play a part. It generates passions and manias, as well as interesting connections between different places and people that may not otherwise mingle.

This is also the story behind Ginnika, a rapidly expanding event born in Rome in 2014. From now through 25 January, Ginnika is presenting a new edition in the northern city of Verona, while Perugia and other Italian cities are to be announced soon. We had the chance to visit the venue, look at some of the 600 sneakers on display, listen to some of the 48 hours of DJ sets and, most importantly, speak with founder Andrea Sibaldi. Together with Simone Strano, Vito Castellano and Michela Picchi, Sibaldi has turned his lifelong passion into Ginnika Posse, an ever-growing group of people from different backgrounds, united by the love for all that sneaker culture encompasses.

“We knew what it was all about,” Sibaldi tells CH, “but it was not our intention to limit everything to a range of shoes on display.” And that’s clear when we experience the latest edition, between Arena Studio d’Arte art gallery and Move Shop, an authentic cult store in town. “We (Ginnika Posse) are all guys with jobs away from the world of shoes or clothing, but we see this project as our safe heaven where we give in to our passions,” Sibaldi says. “You know, when you grow up it is not easy to be able to play, but with Ginnika, we can still enjoy ourselves very much.”

Playful and artistic are the perfect words to describe the site-specific installations by Phil Toys, a street artist obsessed with paper and boxes. Robots inspired by the colors of famous sneakers are the companions of tiny lo-fi squared shoes. Toys also made a series of custom prints—a literal representation of his love for shoes—inspired by classic styles and true gems like the Nike Air Mag, which against many odds is in fact on display.

Though as sneaker culture continues to evolve and move online, some may ask if this kind of event is still needed. Sibaldi’s ideas about this are pretty clear: “If we consider other international events, Ginnika may seem like just another happening of which people did not feel the need [to attend]. But when we speak of Italy, all is to be observed under a different lens. Indeed Ginnika is the first national project dedicated to sneaker culture at 360 degrees, with shoes, sports, music, art, food, beverage, culture and lots of interaction. This gives relevance to a phenomenon that has spread around the world in such a hectic way, hovering between fetishism and the most trivial forms of consumerism. We really want to act as spokespersons, telling our perspective in relation to existing events. So Ginnika was truly needed—or at least, we felt a great need for it to happen.”

In the land where craftsmen and companies create some of the best shoes in the world, the goal of such activities is to create relationships between various forms of creativity, among people with different stories. If nothing else, Ginnika has changed Sibaldi’s life (and his group of collaborators), as he candidly admits: “Before Ginnika my life was only about my work and some nights out made of stories told among friends. But now we are a movement that has succeeded in creating new horizons and connections. This is for us to achieve an important goal, we have become “concept revolutionaries” in our country, and for that we perfectly embody the spirit of a posse.”

Studio Visit: Paula Cademartori

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My new article for Cool Hunting.

Constantly surrounded by architectural and natural beauty alike, Italians sometimes need someone from abroad to remind them of their exceptional surroundings. This may happen when friends and family visit or when some talented creative mind falls in love with local processes. The latter is the case of Paula Cademartori, a Brazilian fashion designer who can be counted among the ambassadors of the “Made in Italy” movement.

Cademartori studied design at Istituto Marangoni and business at Bocconi University, after which she moved to the Marche region (east of Florence on the Adriatic) to work at Orciani for one year. Here she learned what it really means to produce leather goods, the secrets of tanning, cutting, assembling and realizing unique crafts from start to finish. Then she moved back to Milan for two very intense years designing accessories at Versace.

Nevertheless, her dream was to create her own brand, and her first signature bag collection was launched in 2011. In just four years, she established herself as an icon among fashion devotees and buyers alike. We recently met with Cademartori to delve into her creative process and check out an exclusive preview of her new 300-square-meter studio and headquarters in the heart of Milan, where she works with a staff of 17 people. Like in her designs, the space is filled with sophisticated colors, upscale atmospheric touches and shots of pure energy.

“The beauty of Italy,” Cademartori explains of her decision to start the company outside her native Brazil, “is that you can design and then accompany all phases of the project. In a very small territory you have so many people so capable and full of experience that you can learn, discuss, and you always get to do something better than you have imagined. For me, coming from a different culture and a different story (even thou I’ve lived in Italy for the past 10 years) this possibility of direct exchange with all the craftsmen and technicians is always an enrichment.”

Cademartori was raised in Brazil and trained to be an industrial and jewelry designer. For this reason her methodology is far from traditional fashion design. She always starts with the realization of a very complete project (almost final), which then undergoes small changes in the factory. “Each one of my bags originates from my studio, where I have four designers. When I start with an idea, I need to plan it; to understand the user, which volumes and proportions she needs. When I get to the factory, ideas are already very clear, but then there can be a process of evolution. Some details are decided in production, such as the position of the seams in relationship to the inlay, or the use of the materials most suitable for a specific purpose.”

Her pursuit of beauty is punctuated with determination. “If you do not have a real purpose, it’s not enough that the object is beautiful. The aesthetic side matters, but the functionality and the market category are all factors that must be thought of first. My project is global and wants to reach out to all cultures of the world. For this reason, my range is now much larger, designed for women of all backgrounds and origins.”

Cademartori’s bags are extremely spacious yet structured so that everything can be easily organized and accessed quickly, without forcing users to rummage around. Colorful on the outside, they follow defined structural lines, so that one can make the most of space without overstuffing. For this reason they always keep the shape (the study of the structure is critical for the designer) and never lose the beauty of their unique proportions. Also the smallest of clutches have separate areas for smartphones and the bigger styles can hold tablets and other daily essentials. “Each bag is very easy to use,” she adds, “Petite Faye, one of our best-sellers, is full of pockets and is not very deep, so you can reach everything quickly. I love totes, but then you can not find anything inside.”

Since the first collection, Cademartori wanted all the small metal parts to be custom designed, including the recognizable buckle. “That is my logo as well. I put it on all my products and it tells who I am. When I launched my line I aimed at something fresh and new, but I also wanted it to look important. I did not want a simple logo, but a heraldic symbol, as if it were a family crest,” she says. “I started with Greek pi and worked on it, redesigned it so to get to the one we see today. My name you will see very little, since I don’t need to sign my products on the outside, but on the inside. My bags have to be iconic for their design, not because of the name that goes with it.”

Each Cademartori bag can be seen as a sort of base, a frame, a blank canvas upon which to give birth to an infinite variety of colors, materials and inspirations. Her enthusiasm rises when she talks creativity: “The funniest part of the design is when we say, ‘OK, let’s dress the babes!’ At this stage we think less to the design of forms and we freely work on the decoration, the choice of colors and combinations. And I can be a little obsessive with these things.”

In January, Cademartori will present a new line of small leather goods, with some products for men too. “I would like to create a philosophy, a real lifestyle. We started from the bags, but there is a world to be built,” she adds. Expect more surprises to follow, always colorful, always energetic and elegant. And of course—always from excellent Italian factories.

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Una fiaba al museo Salvatore Ferragamo

La storia di Salvatore Ferragamo è sospesa tra la realtà di un’azienda solida e leggenda di un’origine che affonda le proprie radici in un’epoca lontana.

Prendiamo ad esempio la sua bellissima autobiografia, che non è scritta con l’obiettivo di essere un documento in grado di dire poche e semplici verità, bensì si presenta come un racconto che a tratti diventa mitologico, persino mistico. Ferragamo racconta ad esempio di non aver mai imparato a fare scarpe, ma che le sapeva fare, se lo ricordava da una vita precedente. Racconta di visioni, percezioni, verità rivelate.

La sua vita ha gli elementi fondamentali di ogni fiaba, roba che nemmeno Propp: l’infanzia nel villaggio, il viaggio verso l’ignoto che diventa esperienza di formazione, il ritorno in patria, l’inizio dell’impresa, la caduta, la risalita, la scoperta dell’amore, l’incontro con i personaggi più illustri e famosi del secolo.

Non è un non è un caso che l’allestimento corrente del Museo Salvatore Ferragamo (aperto fino al 31 marzo 2014) si intitoli Il Calzolaio Prodigioso e sia organizzato come il viaggio all’interno di una fiaba, in cui le calzature sono le molliche che punteggiano il percorso.

C’è tanta arte contemporanea (uno su tutti, Mimmo Palladino, autore di una suggestiva installazione site specific e della locandina del museo), una bella colonna sonora composta da Luis Bacalov, vecchi libri di fiabe in cui le scarpe sono protagoniste (da Cenerentola al Gatto con gli Stivali, da Scarpette Rosse a Pelle d’Asino), un racconto per immagini del grande fumettista Frank Espinosa e un piacevole film diretto da Mauro Borrelli, White Shoe.

Anche il catalogo, curato in ogni dettaglio dall’ottima Stefania Ricci, è un prezioso documento ricco di belle immagini, testi dettagliati e precisi. Non è facile raccontare per l’ennesima volta le vicende della vita di Ferragamo e la storia della calzatura, ma questo volume riesce appieno nel suo obiettivo.

C’è ancora quasi un mese per vedere la mostra e da sola merita un salto a Firenze.

Fashion hurts

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