Interview: Giuseppe Santoni for Santoni

As the CEO of Italian shoemaker Santoni, Giuseppe Santoni clearly has a passion for shoes. He shares his philosophy with us

On a personal level, shoes are highly valued by the team, as you might guess from the wealth of stories we have pursued on footwear of all sorts. There is just something undeniably sexy about these very necessary accessories, from the lofty heights of bespoke to the temporal charms of high fashion. Our feet are, after all, subject to much abuse as we scamper about looking for stories to write everyday.

Be that as it may, we would never suggest for a moment that perfectly made shoes are absolutely necessary; that would take away from the unrivalled pleasure of the whole experience. Meeting a man like Giuseppe Santoni, the intrepid leader of an Italian shoemaking outfit called Santoni, reinforces this perception. Ten minutes with him and you will either be convinced of the importance of quality (a word he loves) shoes or you will realize that good shoes are not for you and you should go hang your head in shame.

As the CEO of a famous name in Italian shoemaking, Giuseppe (we shall use his first name, to distinguish from his company), is obviously a big fan of good shoes. “For myself, I have more than 400 pairs of shoes!” He is not at all sheepish about this admission, which is more a matter-of-fact statement than a confession. To be clear, this is far from an Imelda Marcos moment.

A natural leader, this 37-year-old scion of the family business is possessed of that particular Italian energy one imagines once built empires yet he manages to seem entirely calm during our brief conversation at the Santoni boutique, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

A largish event is being held in the store later and, as a loud crash outside reminds us, Giuseppe and I are ensconced in the eye of a storm. “Don’t worry, nobody died, we can carry on,” he says, after casting the briefest look of concerned exasperation in the direction of the ruckus. Giuseppe is partway through an ambitious traveling program and the strain is just beneath the surface.

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A very young man, Giuseppe’s forte lies in contemporizing the company his father, Andrea, started in 1975. It is telling that his father is still in the business, but on the production side with the master craftspeople. Giuseppe was instrumental in transforming what the highly-regarded haute de gamme atelier his father founded into an international enterprise with 400 employees, a presence in more than 70 countries and a turnover of more than 50 million Euros.

Even with his contemporary ways, Giuseppe is quick to remind us that Santoni is now, as it always has been, about both tradition and innovation. This reminds us of more than one watch company’s tagline (guess which ones) and also subtly reminds us that Santoni is currently supplying an exclusive range of IWC Portofino watches with straps; this IWC collection is the only watch collection in the world to come with Santoni leather straps. For the record, IWC Schaffhausen uses Probus Scafusia, signifying good solid craftsmanship from Schaffhausen, as its motto.

Quality and craftsmanship are keywords at Santoni. What matters most in terms of quality for shoes, from the ready-to-wear to bespoke?

First of all, shoes are very important in that they are personal transport for us. We use them to move around in the world so if they are not well made it is a big problem. You know, if my shirt or pants is not perfect maybe I don’t realize but if my shoes are not perfect I have a problem. So, it is very important that shoes are well made.

In terms of quality, you mentioned bespoke and this is something very special. Even beyond the last and the materials, these shoes are built around your feet - your bones, your measurements. It is very important to understand the difference between this kind of bespoke quality and something normal (ready-to-wear); it is like a tailored suit versus something off-the-rack. It is completely different.

For sure the technique involved, the quality and even of course the time it takes to make the shoes, everything is completely different. You know this is totally different to customization too. You can go to some big brands who offer customization and there they will ask you to try on different shoes and tell them what is more comfortable; they don’t build the last just for you like we (and other shoemakers) do with bespoke.

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The Santoni factory in Milan is clearly not what your typical atelier looks like

How many shoes do you really need, as a man?

Well, for me this is a difficult question; I have more than 400 pairs myself! I’m not the kind of guy who cuts his budget on shoes! I consider them a very important part of the wardrobe of a distinguished man. You can judge a man from his shoes, his watch…the details you know. In England, they say you can always distinguish a man by the shoes he wears; a good pair of shoes is always on the feet of a good man. 


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