If you paint the picture in your mind, then it can begin to take shape.
I rely a lot on feelings (not always a good thing), but certain things have to feel right for it to move forward in the right way. Sometimes it’s slow, but as long as you keep moving forward.
And once I’d taken the leap to create my own collection, I needed to find the elements that felt right… starting with the right factory.
Although I’ve been designing and developing shoes for many years, I wanted to work with a particular kind of factory that I’d not worked with before.
A few years earlier, I’d visited a factory in the hills outside Florence. It had been there since the grandfather started making shoes in a round brick ‘shed’, no more than 2 metres in diameter, some 80 years earlier. Family owned with a sense of heritage and artistry in their craft. I was seeking a similar feeling.
My shoes had to be beautifully made, by hand, and using materials from as near to the factory as possible – to keep a sense of local. In a family run factory that would take pride in the creation of a beautifully made product. Achieving the right quality matters. In my heart, I had to produce them in Italy. And I knew the idea of weaving regular trips to Italy in to my life would be a beautiful, fully appreciated, bonus.
An initial sourcing trip didn’t quite unearth the right result. So I prepared a brief, and contacted John Saunders at the BFA who kindly put me in to contact with his counterpart, Matteo Scarparo, at the Italian Shoe Manufacturers Association.
Responses came in, and I got back on the plane to Italy… 3 trips later, and I’d found the perfect people to work with.
Calzaturificio Fiorangelo is a family run factory nestled under the Sibillini Mountains. A short drive from the Adriatic coast. Sometimes I take the route that loops over the hills between the two, absorbing the stunning views from Magliano, or Montegiorgio. It can be a beautiful commute.
The backdrop of The Sibillini Mountains. Fiorangelo and Riccardo.
Fiorangelo himself is the proud shoemaker. Someone who puts the quality of his craft first and foremost, but not without being utterly warm and friendly. His son Riccardo, ever the enthusiastic and courteous host, takes care of the business side of things; while also, thankfully for me, speaking perfect English. The family involvement doesn’t stop there. Daughter Claudia and her husband Mattia complete the family affair, or so I thought. It wasn’t until my fourth or fifth visit that I learnt that Bruno, the chap giving me a lift each time, was Fiorangelo’s brother.
Carmina, Augusto and Teresa.
And then there’s Augusto. I know patience, and this man has it in abundance. As I painstakingly check each box, every shoe, or make yet another request; his affable manner never fades.
I love the process of designing and developing shoes. And when you get to do this with people who truly enjoy their craft, and whom you enjoy the company of , then it makes it all the more special. There’s an intangible beauty in this kind of environment that I was looking for; where most of the components are found in the next village, or over the hillside. You jump in to the car to visit another craftsman for another part of the process… to complete the picture.
A family run factory that I could feel at home with was what I was looking for… and that’s what I found.