Taste, Tenacity and Determination….
If you’re familiar with re-souL, you’re probably aware of our shoe collections, many of which are specialty handmade products that we’ve imported. We are often asked about how this happens and while it is not as glamorous as you might imagine, we do travel to Italy twice each year, working to select the products that we feature in the shop. This post is the third in a five part series in which we’ll try to describe our trip, the places we go and the people with which we do business. ( If you haven’t read the first two parts in the ‘re-souL in Italy’ series, you can catch them here: Part 1, Part 2)
After the drive from Tuscany, through Umbria and into the Marche region we arrived into the small town of Fermo where the Alberto Fasciani product is produced. We were feeling very fortunate to be the guest of Alberto and his lovely wife Romina. Right away we knew that we’d arrived at our destination as the Fasciani emblem was displayed outside the entry of a tall, stately building. Once inside, we were greeted by Romina and escorted into the office of Alberto Fasciani. As a small boutique retailer, we are somewhat humbled as Mr. Fasciani sits with us at his desk and begins to describe his company, the products, the process and his vision.
Right away it became clear that Mr. Fasciani is a passionate man with a profound sense of creativity. With a warm and friendly smile, he explained how he has taken a family tradition of shoe making and combined it with his love of horse-riding. The sport and it’s lifestyle inspired his research into developing highly technical and also stylish riding boots for professionals. This “new” riding boot revolutionized the equestrian world and today over 70% of Polo professionals wear the Alberto Fasciani boots!
The riding boots are bespoke, that is, custom made for each customer. Measurements are taken at various points on the customers right and left legs. Those measurements are put into a computer which operates a lathe that turns blocks of wood into the riding boot last. Premium leathers are cut to fit the last perfectly, then expertly sewn and fitted. Using this process, all pairs are virtually guaranteed to be a perfect fit for the customer. After the boot is constructed, each last is properly cataloged and kept for future requests from the customer.
With the high standard set for riding boots, Mr. Fasciani began to receive customer requests for “street” versions. Customers wanted similar high quality footwear which would be made for wearing outside the stables and paddocks. By now you can imagine that there was considerable thought behind the development of a new collection of products which could be made in a range of sizes and produced for market. With careful attention to every component, Alberto Fasciani pioneered a remarkably different approach to shoe making, the results of which are the shoe styles that we represent at re-souL.
Before we finished our conversation with Alberto Fasciani, he explained in detail another of his passions for sport. Flat track motorcycle racing is widely followed in Europe and it is no surprise that Mr. Fasciani keeps company with the best of the best. His most recent project is displayed in the foyer, a motorcycle of premier quality which was entirely conceived and designed by Mr. Fasciani himself. He is very pleased with the motorcycle as a finished product and it has received critical acclaim from the sport’s top riders. He is also very proud to point out that each and every component on the motorcycle are entirely made in Italy!
As we finished our conversation with Mr. Fasciani, we were invited to tour the rest of the facility. Romina walked us only a few steps from Mr. Fasciani’s office to the manufacturing area where we could witness the magic. Our first impression is of a remarkably clean and modern space, an open layout allows us to see various workstations. We saw racks filled with boot lasts and other raw components (heels, insoles, etc.) and a large shelving unit with bolts of leather. We walked past a workstation where two women were sewing patterns for some of the boots that we sell in our shop, yet they are not recognizable as such.
Earlier, Mr. Fasciani explained to us the new method of manufacturing shoes that he pioneered. These shoes and boots are made from raw leathers which are untanned and void of color. The coloring process happens after the shoe is complete. They are then removed from the last and literally washed in the color. This process is explained to us but we are not able to show it to you in pictures. It is a closely guarded company secret and a vital part of what makes the Alberto Fasciani product unique. After the color bath, the boots are set to cure which, depending on the season, could take several days or a few weeks. When the curing process is complete, the leathers appear shriveled and shrunken and at this point, the shoes are put back on the last (which is not easily accomplished) for the finishing processes.
Another quality that gives these boots their unique distinction is the hand finishing process. We watched as a woman took a boot and buffed by hand, using polish, wax and colorant, creating layers of depth. It was inspiring, we applauded her efforts and she beamed back her gratitude. She is very talented at her craft, it takes a keen eye and a soft touch.
We saw the wood shop where the custom boot lasts are made and then we saw some of the technical boots in various stages of production. We met a gregarious fellow who showed us how he takes a finished boot with no shape, puts it on the leg irons and meticulously removes all the wrinkles and when he is finished, the boot stands up on it’s own as if a work of art.
The Fasciani factory is relatively a small team. Mr Fasciani is in charge of 26 employees (including administration) and it is possible for them to produce 100 pairs in a day. Each employee is an artist and an expert in their craft. You can see the love of what they do on their faces and in the final product. While many (if not most) shoe factories source out their components, lasts, sometimes even their stitch work, in this case everything is done on sight. Other than the buying of the leather, everything for the Alberto Fasciani product is produced under one roof. As Romina said, “It is not only handmade in Italy, it is completely handmade in Fermo!”
The most inspiring thing about Alberto Fasciani is his passion for his work. He finds new ways to be inspired and inventive without turning away from how he is traditionally known. He is clearly determined to expand his creativity into other areas. Whether it is through fashion, leather goods, polo, equestrian jumping or motorsports, he is constantly evolving.
There is no one in the shoe industry that can produce footwear of this caliber. Alberto Fasciani is an innovator with a passion for his craft, he is the benchmark for first-class footwear. For the fashion world, he has translated his equestrian creations by softening the technical aspects of the constructions without sacrificing his taste, creativity and tradition. This is what makes Alberto Fasciani so unique, each pair feels like it was made for you. “Whoever wears my shoes or boots must feel at home with them from the very first moment, as if they had spent their whole lives in them.”
Next in our Italy Series we will detail our visit to the next shoe factories:
2) Fiorentini + Baker 3) MOMA