The new re­nais­sance.

Neue Luxury - - Front Page - By Paola Di Troc­chio

In the cur­rent land­scape of lux­ury fash­ion Ar­ti­oli is some­thing of an out­lier.

i It re­mains a thriv­ing fam­ily-run busi­ness by con­tin­u­ing to do what it has al­ways done: make hand-crafted shoes for men with pas­sion and gusto.

Ital­ian leather­wear in par­tic­u­lar is well known for its cen­turies’ old tra­di­tion start­ing with me­dieval ur­ban guilds with small work­shops pro­duc­ing high­qual­ity goods.

By­pass­ing economic and busi­ness trends, Ar­ti­oli re­tains a craft and phi­los­o­phy of a by­gone era whilst still cater­ing to the twenty-first cen­tury con­sumer. Wis­dom is passed down from fa­ther to son, but there re­mains a con­tin­ued fo­cus on im­proved tech­niques and re­fined de­sign for its clien­tele.

I spoke to An­drea Ar­ti­oli, the CEO, on the phone on a Fri­day morn­ing. He was in Tra­date, a beau­ti­ful town sur­rounded by moun­tains, lakes, rivers and for­est half­way be­tween Milan and Lake Como, the home of Ar­ti­oli shoes. “It is like par­adise here” he said.

Paola Di Troc­chio: This is the ba­sis of your shoe pro­duc­tion? An­drea Ar­ti­oli: Yes, we pro­duce our shoes here. We have a strong pas­sion for our area and for our work­ers. They are true mas­ters. They are the artists of this cen­tury, like the artists of re­nais­sance who ded­i­cated their life to art, to paint­ings, to sculp­tures, to ar­chi­tec­ture. The art of this cen­tury is fash­ion, it’s some­thing you can touch and you can use in your life. It’s the new re­nais­sance. PD: How are they trained? AA: Usu­ally they start at a very young age, and they stay with us un­til their re­tire­ment. Some­times they want to stay on and don’t want to re­tire. They are like mem­bers of the fam­ily. PD: And when did you start mak­ing shoes? AA: I’ll tell you a story. My grand­fa­ther started at just seven years old. One day he was all alone in the com­mu­nal gar­den of the house where he lived, his neigh­bour saw him as he was pre­par­ing to re­turn to work af­ter lunch, col­lect­ing his bi­cy­cle from the com­mu­nal gar­den, and he said to my grand­fa­ther, ‘Serverino, what are you do­ing here all alone?’ When Sev­erino said ‘noth­ing’, the neigh­bour in­vited him to join him. My grand­fa­ther ac­cepted. That was the be­gin­ning. The neigh­bor took him to his shop in town where he worked as a shoe­maker and that’s how my grand­fa­ther started. In the morn­ing he would go to school and in the af­ter­noon he would count down the hours be­fore it was time to go to work. The shoe­maker be­came his teacher and be­came like a fa­ther to him, since his fa­ther had passed away when he was four. And be­cause I knew this story, at the age of seven or eight I asked my grand­fa­ther if I could go to work with him in the af­ter­noon, but he made me wait un­til I was older. When I turned four­teen, as a gift for my birth­day, I asked him if he would al­low me to work for him in the fac­tory dur­ing the three month sum­mer va­ca­tion, and he al­lowed me to start. I was so pas­sion­ate. PD: What are you so pas­sion­ate about? Is it the craft, the form, the process, the fin­ished prod­uct? AA: Ev­ery sin­gle step from de­sign­ing and pro­duc­tion to busi­ness. I stud­ied de­sign in Mi­lano and I stud­ied mar­ket­ing to­gether with com­mu­ni­ca­tion, al­ways pre­par­ing my­self for my busi­ness. But my grand­fa­ther and my fa­ther were my best pro­fes­sors in busi­ness and in life. They trans­mit­ted val­ues to me like fam­ily, con­sid­er­a­tion for other peo­ple, ethics, the en­vi­ron­ment and the im­por­tance of car­ing for the en­vi­ron­ment for the next gen­er­a­tion. That is why our shoes are com­pletely nat­u­ral. We don’t use chem­i­cals in our pro­duc­tion. First of all be­cause of our val­ues, but most of all be­cause we be­lieve that if the prod­uct is com­pletely nat­u­ral, it al­lows the en­ergy to en­ter our bod­ies and to live in a bet­ter, healthy and more en­er­getic way. PD: Has it been dif­fi­cult to main­tain these tra­di­tional, fam­ily based val­ues and bring them into the twenty-first cen­tury when the fash­ion in­dus­try has changed so much? AA: Yes, it is not easy be­cause some­times, prof­its, mar­gins, ev­ery­thing, is geared to­wards mak­ing prod­ucts in a faster, more in­dus­trial and eco­nom­i­cal way, but I could say that be­cause of the val­ues we have, we can make the best prod­ucts in the world, even if they are ex­pen­sive. It’s like a cir­cle. We be­lieve this en­ergy will come back and al­low us to live a bet­ter life. Some­times our cus­tomers say to me, An­drea, from the time I started wear­ing your shoes, I feel bet­ter, my life has changed for bet­ter. I take hap­pi­ness from this. PD: You have cus­tomers all over the world? AA: All over the world, in­clud­ing Europe, Amer­ica, Rus­sia, the Mid­dle East, Africa, in dif­fer­ent parts of Asia, all over, be­cause I re­ally like to travel and to get to know new peo­ple and cul­tures. When we de­sign, we think of our cus­tomers, each of them with dif­fer­ent lives. They are all lead­ers, but they are all lead­ers of dif­fer­ent fields with var­ied tastes, there­fore we need to make shoes for many char­ac­ters. I think about my cus­tomer and how he will dress and cre­ate shoes to match what he will wear. This is why we cre­ate dif­fer­ent styles, be­cause in many dif­fer­ent styles, he will find the one that will per­fectly match his wardrobe. The shoe will match the way he dresses, the way he is and also, the ac­tiv­ity he is dress­ing for. A man dresses dif­fer­ently for busi­ness and for plea­sure, which is why I in­tro­duced the ca­sual shoe, a sneaker line for sport, and then bags and leather ac­ces­sories to ac­com­pany the lives of peo­ple and add ease to their life. You know I be­lieve that shoes are like the in­stru­ment in an orchestra. The other in­stru­ments are like the other parts of the wardrobe and to­gether they have to play the same mu­sic.

PD: And all your shoes are hand­made? AA: They are all hand­made. But even if they are hand­made there is a lot of re­search into new tech­niques. PD: How would you de­fine lux­ury? AA: Lux­ury is the abil­ity to buy the best the world can of­fer. This is lux­ury. But of course you need to have that pos­si­bil­ity. Some­times I feel sorry be­cause I’m not able to of­fer the same to every­one. I be­lieve that lux­ury is also to have those pos­si­bil­i­ties and to do your best all your life, but al­ways to main­tain your val­ues. This is an­other lux­ury, be­cause in life, if you at­tain pos­si­bil­ity by go­ing against your val­ues, this is not real lux­ury, this is ar­ti­fi­cial lux­ury. PD: And what about the fu­ture of Ar­ti­oli? Will it al­ways re­main a fam­ily com­pany? AA: Yes, I think about Ar­ti­oli not re­ally as a busi­ness, but as an art­work, and if you go pub­lic it’s like a virus that will take a busi­ness to an economic way of think­ing. In­stead, I pre­fer to think of my Ar­ti­oli as some­thing to share with oth­ers, and that we con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety in the best way we can, by do­ing what we know and what we love. When I talk to my chil­dren, I tell them to pre­pare them­selves to do the best they can to con­trib­ute well in our so­ci­ety. There is no bet­ter way to be re­ally happy, this is how we be­lieve. PD: It sounds like your busi­ness phi­los­o­phy and your life phi­los­o­phy are closely en­twined. AA: We try. This is what my grand­fa­ther and my fa­ther taught me. And I’m try­ing to teach to my three sons. PD: Are they in­ter­ested in con­tin­u­ing in the fam­ily busi­ness? AA: They are very in­ter­ested. My older son will spend the sum­mer work­ing with me. He is 16 now and in Italy you have to be 16 to work. This sum­mer my son can fi­nally come to work.

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