Made in italy - Regione Marche



Made in italy - Regione Marche
wide angle
in Italy
From footwear to fashion, Italy’s Le Marche region is home
to some of the world’s finest ateliers. Travel through
central Italy, the heartlands of style
WORDS Maresa Manara
I’m standing in a cage with a
python wrapped around my shoulders; a
middle-aged man watching me with delight.
It’s not what you think. This thousand-dollar
cage is on luxury Italian fashion brand Tod’s
factory floor; the man opposite me is Tod’s
leather expert, Tony Ripani; and the green and
gold laminated python is about to become
one stylish pair of shoes.
“Look at this beautiful Australian reptile,”
says Tony, throwing a thick, lumpy crocodile
skin into my arms. “It’s big, grown in the sea,
the best you can get on the market today. It
will make a lovely bag.”
It’s hard to imagine the crocodile skin I’m
cradling will soon be dangling off someone’s
arm. But Tony isn’t wasting any time, handing
me a white cobra with its head still attached
(“we’ll make a bag”); a black anaconda
(“taken from the wild in Argentina, so it has
many scars”); and a Mississippi alligator
(“fantastic, we have it in many colours”).
november 2012
Some of Tod’s most precious skins:
pistachio green ostrich, laminated lizard, pink
python, brown kangaroo, lime alligator, taupe
crocodile, white cobra, and black anaconda
are kept under lock and key in a cage as big
as my bedroom until they’re ready to go to
production. On the factory floor, Italy’s finest
artisans will meticulously transform these
skins into some of the world’s most coveted
handbags, shoes and leather accessories.
The cage has been opened just for me as
part of a special tour of the Tod’s factory,
which sits on 65,000sqm of parkland in the
small town of Sant’Elpidio a Mare, in central
Italy’s Le Marche region.
When I travelled around Italy during
university, I never bothered visiting Le Marche.
It didn’t have the allure of Milan, the charm of
Tuscany or the grandeur of Rome. Yet in
recent years, this hilly, seaside region has
become popular with fashion-savvy travellers
as an ideal shopping holiday destination.
november 2012
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On the factory
floor, Italy’s
finest artisans
will meticulously
transform these
skins into some of
the world’s most
coveted handbags,
shoes and leather
Some of Italy’s best-known leather and
fashion houses were created in Le Marche
and have eschewed bigger cities like Milan
and Rome to keep their factories and outlets
close to home. When I heard that Italian
brands including Tod’s, Fabi and Loriblu still
hand-make their shoes and handbags in Le
Marche, I decided to visit this relatively
unknown region to research what it takes to
create the world’s finest leather goods.
“Tod’s is exactly as I am: deeply
rooted in Le Marche,” admits Diego Della
Valle, CEO and president of the Tod’s Group.
“If today you would buy a quality pair of shoes
from Italy, be sure that it was produced in Le
Marche region. Leather craftsmanship, shoes
in particular, has become a fateful destiny of
the region. In Sant’Elpidio you can even find a
shoe museum, while [Giovanni] Boccaccio’s
[medieval allegory] The Decameron mentions
Sant’Elpidio shoemakers. Tod’s heritage is
centred in the shoe district of Le Marche, and
they have both become internationally known
for their quality.”
Indeed, everyone from factory workers to
fashion editors can be seen wearing a pair of
Tod’s, thanks to the brand’s classic styles,
high-quality leather and trademark rubber
pebble soles. It’s such an Italian institution that
when my friend fell pregnant, her doctor
ordered her to wear only Tod’s and Hogan (a
brand of the Tod’s Group) shoes for nine
months. It was an expensive pregnancy.
november 2012
On Filippo Della Valle Street, named after
Diego’s grandfather who started the
shoemaking business that would eventually
become Tod’s, the Tod’s headquarters is
more art gallery than shoe factory. Inside, floor
to ceiling windows offer views of manicured
lawns and hills. When workers trudge up the
steps to the factory floor, their staircase is a
modern metallic sculpture by artist Ron Arad.
On their way to the laboratories, they stroll
beneath rice paper kites designed by artist
Jacob Hashimoto, pass artwork featuring the
iconic Tod’s driving shoe and admire a bronze
sculpture by Polish artist Igor Mitoraj.
Michael Schumacher’s Formula 1 Ferrari is
parked in one of the rooms, a gift from Ferrari
president Luca di Montezemolo; while wooden
lasts (the wooden block around which a shoe
is moulded) of Tod’s favourite Hollywood stars
– including Michael Douglas, Demi Moore,
Drew Barrymore and George Clooney – line
the walls. There’s so much to see that I don’t
know how factory workers get anything done.
“The Tod’s headquarters are a rare working
environment, especially in Italy,” admits Diego.
“I wanted to give something back to my
employees and create a truly unique work
environment. The headquarters symbolise the
dream behind the product. If we make the
best product, we need to give our employees
some of the care and attention that we put into
our accessories. That way, the level of quality
and the attention to detail that you find in our
products will be ensured.”
FROM LEFT: More than 100 steps
are involved in hand-crafting a
pair of Tod’s shoes; designs for
the Fabi shoe collection; Loriblu
heels are popular all over the
world; the brand also makes
bags to match their shoes.
artisans’ tools; discussing Fabi
shoe designs; Tod’s colourful skins
will be transformed into bags,
shoes and accessories; a Loriblu
“Ponte Vecchio” stiletto.
“If today you would buy a quality pair
of shoes from Italy, be sure that it was
produced in Le Marche.”
But it is Filippo Della Valle’s original wooden
table, chair and cobbler’s tools that bring
everyone to a standstill. Neatly placed in a
corner, they are there to remind every employee
that despite being a multinational corporation,
Tod’s hasn’t forgotten its familial roots.
“The Tod’s Group is indeed a family
business: it was founded as a small shoe
factory near Fermo, in Le Marche, at the
beginning of last century,” says Diego. “My
father Dorino transmitted the love for our
factory and the Made in Italy of our products to
me and my brother, Andrea. It is easy to
maintain the balance between being an
international reality that is family oriented at
the same time. We are modern outside but
traditional inside. I grew up here. Our small
village was the centre of the universe. When I
notice that my younger son wants to stay at
home, he reminds me of myself. When I was
younger, I did not want to move anywhere
either. Even now, I travel a lot but I always
come back here to where my family is.”
The bowl in front of me is heaped
with something that looks like porridge, feels
like risotto and tastes incredible. But for some
reason, chef Rosaria is apologising. “It’s a
very simple, traditional dish from Le Marche,”
she says, dabbing her forehead with a
november 2012
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Experience italy
for shopping: Le Marche
With Italy’s best fashion brands selling
samples and last season’s stock for
heavily discounted prices, a shopping
holiday in Le Marche is a great way to
see Italy and get a new wardrobe at the
same time. Don’t miss stylish Italian
brands like Manas, Fornarina and Nero
Giardini, or if high-end fashion is more
your style, drop by the Prada and
Armani outlets.
Loriblu Autumn Winter
2012 bag; one of Fabi’s
skilled artisans at work;
the Fabi showroom in
Monte San Giusto; and
Tod’s headquarters in
Sant’Elpidio a Mare.
Some of Italy’s best-known
leather and fashion houses were
created in Le Marche and have
eschewed bigger cities like Milan
and Rome to keep their factories
and outlets close to home
napkin. “I hope you like it. It’s really nothing
special, but today I am alone, cooking,
bringing the food to you. I started to make
something fancy, but I thought perhaps you
would prefer this.”
She needn’t worry – I’ve been waiting for a
home-made Italian meal for weeks. Making
things even cosier, I’ve accidently ended up
with an afternoon of private dining. No one
else booked a table at the ristorante Due Cigni
so chef Rosaria gave her staff a day off and
opened the doors especially for me. I’ve never
felt so welcome in a restaurant.
“Here in Le Marche we couldn’t afford rice,
so we created this dish, which is our version of
risotto,” says Rosaria. “It’s made from durum
wheat and water to make little lumps that
looked like rice. On top we add a tomato
sauce and some meats. Simple!” She is still
muttering as she shuffles into the kitchen.
Nestled between the Apennine Mountains
and the Adriatic Sea, Le Marche was a poor
farming region until the 1980s, when local
fashion, leather, furniture and textile industries
started gaining international momentum.
Affectionately nicknamed the “Miami of
Italy”, owing to a narrow strip of Riviera where
palm trees lead to clean beaches and seaside
november 2012
resorts, Le Marche tourism grew. As the region
got wealthier, its people kept their traditional
values and skills – and the artisans at the local
shoe and fashion factories aren’t the region’s
only talented workers.
“I’m part of an association called Marchigian
Chefs,” Rosaria says during the elaborate
four-course meal. “We promote the regional
food across Italy and the world.”
I’ve never heard anyone call a meal of
lasagna, rabbit and thyme parcels, stuffed
tomatoes, roast potatoes, and sponge cake
and custard dessert “simple”. As I recover
from the news that my delicious lasagna was
made from brain, I tell Rosaria my idea of
simple is scrambled eggs on toast. She laughs
but looks mildly horrified. Over an espresso
and glass of local liquor, we agree she should
never call her meals “simple” again.
Lunch drifts into late afternoon,
but at Italian shoe manufacturers Fabi, the
working day is in full swing. On the design
office floor, two stylists are sketching a new
collection amongst old heels, photos, glitter
and colourful prints.
Rows of women in crisp pink shirts,
spectacles and stylish neckties stitch the Fabi
logo to tidy stacks of inner soles, while men in
burgundy coats operate heavy machinery that
turns plump leather cut-outs into some of
Italy’s most stylish footwear.
Many wave me over, keen to show me their
role in this elaborate shoemaking process. I
certainly can’t imagine factory workers in my
home country of Australia being so proud of
their work.
“You can feel the history and the tradition of
shoemaking everywhere in this region; making
shoes here is almost an art,” says Alessia
Fabi, whose father Enrico and uncle Elisio
Fabi founded the brand in their mother’s
dining room. “Made in Italy are not just words,”
she continues. “It’s the history, tradition and
culture of our country, and the craft of so
many men and women who work to create
things of true beauty.”
Like Tod’s, the Fabi Group has stayed in the
family. Today, Alessia runs the business from
the Monte San Giusto factory with her brother
Flaminio and cousins Emanuele and Cinzia.
“Our company has very strong ties to the
region: it was born and grew around the hills of
Le Marche,” she says. “As time passes this
relationship between the brand and the region
only gets stronger. It would make no sense to
“You can feel the history and the tradition
of shoe-making everywhere in this region;
making shoes here is almost an art.”
even think of moving to another location,
because we would lose part of our identity.
Milan is the Italian fashion capital, but it is a
window in which to display our products, not
the place to produce them.”
It’s a similar story across town at Loriblu, an
Italian footwear company famous for their
glitzy, bejewelled sandals that are popular
among Russian and Middle Eastern high
flyers, celebrities and anyone wanting their feet
to be remembered.
“My husband and I were born in Le Marche,
so it was natural to set up our company here,”
says Annarita Pilotti, who runs Loriblu with her
designer husband Graziano Cuccù.
When I visit the industrial-sized workshop,
I’m impressed by the number of young staff
members working beside older Italians. When
I mention this to Annarita, she tells me Italy’s
young people are still interested in learning
this ancient craft.
“Every day we receive a lot of requests to
join our company,” she says. “Our son and
daughters are beginning to come to work with
us, but they are still young. We also have more
than twenty young apprentices who want to
learn how to create a shoe. In our region the
manufacturing of shoes is a long tradition, and
we want to save it. So it’s important for us to
have young people who want to continue it.”
Back at Tod’s, Tony is inspecting a tan calf
skin with a magnifying glass. He rubs the
leather with his finger, splashes water across it
and then mops it up. Satisfied, he turns to me.
“I’m 63-years-old, and I’ve been here for fifty
years,” says Tony. “As high-quality as these
skins are, you have to remember they are
animals and each one is different. You never
stop learning in this job.”
With rich traditions, skilled workers and strong
generational ties, the artisans of Le Marche
continue to put their best foot forward.
for sleeping: Villa
After a day of shopping, put your feet up
at Villa Lattanzi, a 300-year-old luxury
hideaway nestled amongst lemon
groves, manicured lawns and cobbled
paths. Rooms have great views across
Torre la Palme and the Adriatic, while the
restaurant’s chef uses produce grown in
the villa’s own orchard. Be sure to try the
seafood dishes – the fish is caught fresh
each morning. It’s Marchigian hospitality
at its best.
for walking: monti
Sibillini National Park
Le Marche has some terrific walking
trails, so pack your hiking boots and visit
Monti Sibillini National Park, a
spectacular reserve that borders
Umbria. Animal lovers can admire the
hedgehogs and red deer, while nonwalkers might prefer to cycle, horse ride
or ski through the park.
Experience Italy with a package from
Etihad Holidays. Return coral economy
class flights with Etihad Airways and
AlItalia between Abu Dhabi and Rome
and three nights twin share
accommodation at The Westin
Excelsior Rome (5 star) with breakfast
start from AED 5,550 per person.
Terms and conditions apply. To book
call +971 2 599 0700.
november 2012

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