made in italy

More than just words on a la­bel, it’s a way of life—and a law—whose ca­chet is rooted in un­com­pro­mis­ing Floren­tine crafts­man­ship.

Wynn Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Reid Bram­blett

More than just words on a la­bel, it’s a way of life—and a law—whose ca­chet is rooted in un­com­pro­mis­ing Floren­tine crafts­man­ship.

Just across the river from the Uf­fizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, is the Ol­trarno, the city’s tra­di­tional ar­ti­san quar­ter. Step off the Ponte Vec­chio, a me­dieval bridge bar­na­cled with tiny gold­smith shops, and you’ll see a pocket-size bou­tique called Madova, opened in 1919 by Amedeo Don­nini. In­side, sur­rounded by in­ven­tory stacked al­most to the ceil­ing, Don­nini’s grand­chil­dren carry on the fam­ily prac­tice of craft­ing some of the finest leather gloves in the world. One pair looks like sober black dress gloves, un­til you move your hand and bright colors flash from swatches hid­den be­tween the fingers—el­e­gant yet playful. This is what “Made in Italy” means in the fash­ion world: thor­ough mas­tery of a craft, in­clud­ing at­ten­tion to the small­est de­tails; the im­pres­sion that every­thing is per­fectly made to mea­sure; dis­ci­pline steeped in gen­er­a­tions of cher­ished tra­di­tion but un­afraid to be mod­ern and fun. Thou­sands of miles away, Wynn guests likely rec­og­nize the same spirit of un­com­pro­mis­ing de­tail and lux­ury mar­ried to a sense of whimsy that draws the best Ital­ian fash­ion de­sign­ers to Wynn’s lo­ca­tions—in Las Ve­gas, Ma­cau, and soon Co­tai. Be­cause even as tiny Madova’s Floren­tine neigh­bors have be­come ti­tans of 20th-cen­tury fash­ion around the globe, the “Made in Italy” la­bel re­mains as pre­cisely de­fined and prized as it al­ways has been—rep­re­sent­ing the best in crafts­man­ship just as Wynn rep­re­sents the high­est in lux­ury stan­dards. As a lift­boy at Lon­don’s Savoy Ho­tel in the early 1900s, teenager Guc­cio Gucci ad­mired the guests’ el­e­gant and sturdy bags. When he re­turned to his na­tive Florence in 1921, he opened an English-style lug­gage store. Gucci’s goods soon be­came fash­ion­able among mon­eyed horse­men. This—and a fam­ily leg­end that the Guc­cis had been sad­dlers dur­ing the Re­nais­sance— in­spired the brand’s equine sym­bols: the horse-bit span­gle, the green-andred-striped rib­bon re­sem­bling a cinch strap. By the 1960s, Gucci bags had be­come stars, seen on the arms of ev­ery­one from El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor and Jac­que­line Kennedy to Peter Sellers and Sa­muel Beck­ett. De­spite its fame and for­tune, how­ever, the Gucci firm has re­mained com­mit­ted to its core ideals, declar­ing that “100 per­cent of its leather goods, shoes, and ready-to-wear are still pro­duced in its Floren­tine work­shops,

em­ploy­ing over 45,000 peo­ple in Italy alone.” This is in part be­cause “Made in Italy” is not just a la­bel. It’s a law. In 2009, Italy passed one of the world’s strictest la­bel­ing reg­u­la­tions for do­mes­ti­cally pro­duced goods. The full rules for “Made in Italy” cer­ti­fi­ca­tion are avail­able at madeini­taly.org, but they boil down to this: The prod­uct must be man­u­fac­tured en­tirely within Italy to the com­pany’s exclusive de­signs, us­ing Ital­ian work­ers, tra­di­tional meth­ods, and grade-a nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, and in hy­gienic and safe work­ing con­di­tions. This de­vo­tion to qual­ity and cus­tom has paid off: A 2013 sur­vey of 10,000 lux­ury con­sumers in 10 coun­tries by the Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group found that know­ing an item was made in Italy gen­er­ated the high­est level of consumer con­fi­dence in the cat­e­gories of cloth­ing, ac­ces­sories, and jew­elry, and the sec­ond-high­est in watches (af­ter Switzer­land) and cars (af­ter Ger­many). Jay Lipe, a se­nior lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Min­nesota’s Carl­son School of Man­age­ment, who teaches an ad­vanced course in Rome and Florence called “Made in Italy” Brand Man­age­ment, says the la­bel con­jures in the consumer’s mind “this idea of a cer­tain qual­ity of the raw ma­te­ri­als, of an el­e­ment of crafts­man­ship, and of a skilled ar­ti­san who is in­volved in the fi­nal pro­cess­ing.” It’s no won­der that Ital­ian brands cel­e­brate their Ital­ian­ness. In 2011, Gucci even opened a mu­seum and café in a stately palazzo that had been, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, the seat of Florence’s me­dieval mer­chant guilds. Over­look­ing the Palazzo Vec­chio on bustling Pi­azza della Sig­no­ria— “the liv­ing room of Florence”—this was where the city’s pow­er­ful cloth im­porters, wool man­u­fac­tur­ers, fur­ri­ers, and silk weavers once held sway. The guilds’ time­worn stone crests are now on dis­play in the book­shop,

re­placed on the build­ing’s façade by a new crest, fea­tur­ing a suit of ar­mor car­ry­ing Gucci hand­bags. In 2015, Gucci pro­moted a rel­a­tively un­known 43-year-old as­so­ciate de­signer named Alessan­dro Michele to cre­ative di­rec­tor, and he has em­braced the sense of el­e­gance-meets-fun that de­fines Floren­tine fash­ion. Michele has brought back the flo­ral prints and swishy fab­rics once beloved by Princess Grace. His ex­cit­ing new de­signs mix Art Nou­veau de­tails, 1920s flap­per style, hip­pie peas­ant dresses, and the smart lines of mid-20th-cen­tury fash­ion. And he has re­turned the brand’s fa­mous in­ter­lock­ing G’s to pride of place in its ros­ter of pat­tern and clasp de­signs. While the Gucci Museo also has—nat­u­rally—a small shop on-site, the com­pany’s pri­mary Florence bou­tique is on Via de’ Tornabuoni, the main artery of the city’s shop­ping district. An­chor­ing the base of this boule­vard, a block south of Gucci, is the mighty 13th-cen­tury Palazzo Spini Feroni, its castle­like bat­tle­ments pro­filed against the sky. A lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel in the 19th cen­tury, the palazzo be­came the seat of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Florence dur­ing its brief 1860s reign as cap­i­tal of the new King­dom of Italy. In the 1930s, a cob­bler named Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo pur­chased the build­ing, fill­ing its fres­coed halls with craft work­shops, fash­ion ate­liers, and of­fices for what was by then al­ready a footwear em­pire. Fer­rag­amo had made his first shoes—for his sis­ters’ confirmations—at the age of 9. He was ap­pren­ticed to a cob­bler in Naples at 11, and by 13 he had opened his first shoe shop. Three years later, in 1914, he em­i­grated to Amer­ica to join his brother on a shoe and boot assem­bly line out­side Bos­ton. Im­pressed by the in­dus­trial tech­niques he saw but de­voted to old-world crafts­man­ship,

Fer­rag­amo soon de­camped to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia to forge his own alchemy of mod­ern meth­ods and the tra­di­tional cob­bler’s art. By 1923, LA news­pa­pers were call­ing him the “shoe­maker to the stars” for a client list that in­cluded nearly ev­ery screen god­dess of the early 20th cen­tury: In­grid Bergman, Lana Turner, Mary Pick­ford, Rita Hay­worth, Ava Gard­ner, Bette Davis, Mar­lene Di­et­rich, Katharine Hepburn. Fer­rag­amo suc­ceeded not just be­cause he crafted flaw­lessly el­e­gant, oc­ca­sion­ally out­ra­geous con­fec­tions and slipped them onto fa­mous feet to grace Hol­ly­wood’s red car­pets. He em­pha­sized com­fort as much as style, tak­ing anatomy and math­e­mat­ics classes at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia to puz­zle out how to dis­trib­ute body weight over the arch of the hu­man foot. His re­search al­lowed his ar­ti­sans to masspro­duce shoes that re­tained the el­e­ments of a made-to-mea­sure fit. To­day the brand still of­fers more than 70 fit and size com­bi­na­tions. Fer­rag­amo re­turned to Italy in 1926, set­tling in the emerg­ing fash­ion cap­i­tal of Florence, where he even­tu­ally turned the Palazzo Spini Feroni into not only his brand’s global head­quar­ters, but also a mu­seum dis­play­ing shoes made for his cel­e­brated clients. (His firm con­tin­ues its Hol­ly­wood as­so­ci­a­tion, es­pe­cially in pe­riod films, pro­vid­ing footwear for Madonna in Evita and Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, for ex­am­ple.) Like his Florence neigh­bors Gucci and Pucci, Fer­rag­amo and the house he founded gained world­wide fame with­out los­ing sight of the im­por­tant role that Ital­ian ar­ti­sanal tra­di­tions played in his suc­cess. He likely could not have an­tic­i­pated that he and his con­tem­po­raries would come to epit­o­mize the lux­ury that peo­ple flock to Las Ve­gas and Ma­cau to ex­pe­ri­ence at Wynn. He wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “All over Italy— even to­day, and in the cities as well as the poor vil­lages—you will see cob­blers sit­ting in their tiny stone rooms, sur­rounded by heaps of shoes all hig­gledy-pig­gledy, work­ing crouched over their lasts un­der the beam from a naked elec­tric-light bulb.” That was writ­ten half a cen­tury ago, but wan­der the side streets of the Ol­trarno neigh­bor­hood to­day and you can still glimpse that very scene through the open win­dows of 21stcen­tury Floren­tine crafts­men. Wan­der the Es­planades of Wynn and En­core and you’ll un­der­stand how this painstak­ing, time-honored crafts­man­ship has be­come the ul­ti­mate in con­tem­po­rary lux­ury.

Fer­rag­amo em­pha­sized com­fort as much as style, tak­ing anatomy and math­e­mat­ics classes at USC to puz­zle out how to dis­trib­ute weight over the arch of the foot.

Florence, Italy, birthplace of the Re­nais­sance and home to lux­ury brands such as Gucci, Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo, and Emilio Pucci. be­low: The Ponte Vec­chio over the Arno River in Florence.

above: A Gucci bag dis­play at the Gucci Mu­seum in Florence, and a model walk­ing the run­way dur­ing Gucci’s show for Mi­lan Fash­ion Week, Spring/ Sum­mer 2016. be­low: The Gucci store at Wynn Ma­cau. top right: The Bri­oni store at Wynn Las Ve­gas.

Crafts­men at work in the stu­dio of footwear de­signer and man­u­fac­turer Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo in Florence’s Palazzo Feroni circa 1937. above: Vara shoes, by Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo SPA, on dis­play at the com­pany’s mu­seum in Florence.

clock­wise from top left: The Palazzo Spini Feroni, home of the Fer­rag­amo mu­seum in Florence; Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo in 1956 with a stack of celebrity shoe forms; a shoe ex­hibit in the Museo Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo.

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