FROM THE CAR TO THE SHOE
Leaving behind cars, Walter De Silva chose to undertake a new career as an architect of the shoe: in this adventure he has rediscovered his own past, philosophy and family history.
When Walter De Silva tells us about his new adventure, it is easy to find traces of his vivid enthusiasm, never faded with time. It is typical of those who live in ideas, carried by a creativity that does not waver, but which is made ever livelier by the years and experiences that have nourished it.
The day when the point of his pencil traced the lines of a car for the last time, Walter De Silva immediately sharpened another to continue defining new forms, always connected to his founding principles: innovation, elegance and balance. This is how he brought to life his collection of evening shoes, “Form in Motion”. There is soul and technique, there is everything that might seem to be in contradiction but which comes together graciously, in inspired and bountiful synchronicity. If the avant-garde style seems to extend beyond its own confines, architectural rigor stops feelings giving way to what is, in actual fact, perfection.
The Walter De Silva brand includes all his philosophy, in every detail, overseen by his own faultless manner. De Silva approaches his new project as an architect: he may not recognize here the term ‘fashion designer’ but he cannot deny that certain ideas of fashion have influenced the design world, and vice versa.
From logos to material, from shapes to color, shines the gift of simplicity, presented here with character. The shoes are made light – up to 150-170 grams – to give the woman the levity that is her own. The wedge has been given careful consideration, designed upon a heel of up to 10.5 centimeters, a work of art even at first sight. Primary materials are classic in texture, but micro workings and textures are innovative in the approach: the softest tassel, satin, suede and varnish blend into carbon, thin and tapped fibers. While holding the structure is a sensual and harmonious heel, presented wrapped in varnish or coated, to which instinctive admiration is the only response.
The shoe branded Walter De Silva is a hymn to woman’s femininity and beauty, to the woman who does not need any trappings, because she finds her character in simplicity. No wonder black is the predominant color of the collection, elegant in its hardness, sinuous in the lines that shape the shoe. There is no rigidity, but a determination warmed by the orange found inside the shoe, assuring balance.
De Silva shoes are created for wearers of Made in Italy and their manufacture is entrusted to the talented and skilled hands of a quality companion company: produced in small batches – just over 1,000 a year – and largely by hand, the footwear is fabricated in Italy, by GGR of Gianvito Rossi, a successful designer and synonym for long-term guarantee.
Then, as if Walter De Silva’s story wasn’t interesting enough, there is also history in his shoes, a family history. The adventure of this global designer is a legacy of passion, concealed
over the years – albeit in a subtle way – and passed on by his maternal grandparents Giuseppina and Ferruccio Scola, who in the 1920s founded a shoe factory of the same name frequented by the Milanese bourgeoisie. From his grandfather, the art of the shoe was also passed to Emilio, Walter’s father, who created models for the shoe factory relying on his talent as a designer.
The history, the passion, the genius and the attitude of the two generations merge perfectly in Walter De Silva, who – having so far put everything into cars – now takes his inspiration from the past to look to the future, one of footwear. Because with De Silva, the future is already on the move. And the lines being drawn tell you so.
Passion is your driving force, the pencil your instrument. What did Walter De Silva want to draw at the beginning?
Yes, maybe by vocation I was born with a pencil in my hand, but I studied so much, I was even selftaught. I grew up in a family of architects, and my father’s wish was for me to keep me going in that same direction. But I was a young man of the generation of ’68, when all of us were angry and ready for change. I wanted to draw cars and, against my father’s wishes, I left architecture. In the end he supported me, though he did not believe much in the path I had chosen. If he had been there the day I received my honorary degree, he would surely have been proud of me.
Walter De Silva expresses his philosophy and love for detail in an elegant women’s shoe that is a hymn to the shining light of her own beauty.
Your father was also a prestigious designer. Tell us a little about him...
My father was a great graphic designer. A natural talent who made a profession out of these gifts. In the post-war period he also made advertising graphics and his intuition was always particularly appreciated. It was his signature on the Piaggio logo: he knew how to build the story of a brand, did my father, the value of his visionary approach directed to elevate the brand and its product identity. A real professional.
From cars to shoes. Describe the road that led to this new route...
Behind this new path of mine there is also family history: my grandfather made shoes and his passion did not go unnoticed. Time has brought me back along the same footsteps and it was lovely to discover some things from my family’s day: I found my grandfather’s group photos with the workers, a pair of my grandmother’s shoes dating back 97 years that I exhibited in Milan, and also my father’s caricatures from when he worked in my grandfather’s factory. In my house, that was the world that grew up around me, it spoke so much. True, I then developed my passion for cars, but I promised that when I stopped drawing cars I would start producing women’s shoes. Fundamentally, these two worlds are not so far apart, even because of their strong connection to human physicality. In my opinion, there are three objects in which the aesthetic and cultural aspect share a leading role with the person using them: the car, the motorbike and the woman’s shoe. The car because its shape and aerodynamics are not merely the result of simple mathematics but the human hand, the motorbike because it is at one and in the moment with the man driving it, and the woman’s shoe because it pays homage to her beauty.
Are you turning a page with this new adventure?
It is perhaps only a new paragraph, drawing inspiration from the previous one. After all, I was born into design and architecture and I stayed there for 43 years. When you spend a great deal of your life in a certain world, though it seems you are changing sectors, you cannot completely detach yourself from it.
Today I create shoes, that world continues to draw the lines of my inspiration, and all my passion for art, architecture, design in general, are flowing into this new challenge.
What is behind a De Silva shoe?
When I conceptualize my shoes I seek the essence, identity, that goes beyond their actual appearance. My shoes want to “exist”: they have a rigor and a consistency that can easily be traced within the entire collection.
It is not by chance that I chose an iconic color for this first set of shoes: black, shades of elegance, truth without blemish.
Everything ends in black because black is zero. It’s a bit like metallic gray in the car: it’s used to define and admire volume, lines, and style.
Who is the woman wearing Walter De Silva shoes? Is there a muse that inspires her?
They are women of authentic beauty, not just aesthetics. I immediately think of two very different women but with an essence and a natural style: Monica Bellucci and Federica Pellegrini.
It is said that drawing a portrait starts with the eyes. And designing shoes?
It does not matter, but the starting point for drawing a shoe is simplicity. Design is a discipline, but also a philosophy, derived from aesthetics and poetics. It is when these three elements join together that the icon, the work of art, is created. Dante Giacosa, for example, when he invented the Fiat 500, created – perhaps without realizing it – the iconic emblem: in that car there is the utmost discipline, aesthetics and poetics. Even in cars, I never went in for quirky lines, I sought the essential, overdesign does not work: you need absolute proportions, well-made architecture that breathes. Ornamental excess is typical of the Dark Ages, redundant and never elegant.
Your shoes embrace the principle of Made in Italy throughout their whole production process. Is this an added value for the collection?
On my shoes is written “Created and Made in Italy” because ours is more than an added value. It is what we do best: create dreams and export them all over the world.
You have always made a difference as an innovator, so much so that you could almost be considered a visionary. Would this be a definition that you recognize?
I do not consider myself a visionary, that would be presumptuous, but a pioneer, yes. In my career, I
somehow anticipated the trends, I understood the way that plans and the future were going. Even with regard to the design of the women’s shoe, 20 years ago – when I was still drawing cars – I realized that this sector would experience a boom, that it would be successful and full of stimulus. I was not mistaken and that is why I’m in it today.
Is there something that you never designed but what he would like to create?
I would like to draw the next challenge. I do not have a specific object in my mind’s eye, but I am thrilled with every new project that encourages me to confront myself and develop: it could be a telephone, it could be a tractor, provided that it creates the enthusiasm to face the new.