A Quick Guide To Italian Shoe making Techniques
Handmade Italian footwear boasts class, finesse, and dedication. Several Italian artisans and cobblers still hold themselves responsible for every shoe they make. These days, factories have stepped in to pick up the pace and meet rising global demand for bespoke Italian shoes. Regardless of where or how they're made, high standards are still followed.
In this blog, we will see just how the Italian shoemaking process takes place, including the nuances that go into making the perfect pair. Such fine footwear can undergo anything from a dozen to a few hundred stages (!), but for the sake of brevity we shall cover six essential phases in the shoemaking process.
By the time you finish reading this, you will gain a better understanding and respect for this timeless artform, which is superior to throwaway fashion footwear in every sense of the word.
1. Designing Excellence
Distinct departments handle specialized manufacturing stages. A competent design team is not only vital for an Italian shoe brand they are also one of the first to get to work.
From creating illustrations and prototypes, to making due modifications and various design flourishes along the way, Italian shoe designers bring a powerful sense of aesthetic and practical excellence to bear on every shoe they draw.
In-house designers work closely with their clients to create diverse initial sketches that also portray multiple angles. Italian shoemakers collaborate with skilled talents to ensure each shoe meets the highest technical standards without compromising quality and refinement.
2. Creating 'Shoe Last'
A 'shoe last' is basically a physical mould that emulates the general shape of a woman or man's foot. These 'lasts', which are often created using metal, wood, or plastic, are moulded for both left and right feet. Their purpose is to help designers and cobblers perfect the shape and size of the shoe they are going to make.
These 'lasts' are shaped with intention, taking into account the way a foot rolls when a person walks, and how heel height will influence mobility. So it comes as no surprise to learn that the 'lasts' are later placed inside the shoes, which are then modelled around them.
This won't be the last time (pun unintended J) these tools are used. They are routinely implemented to check the final handmade Italian shoe's fit and form.
3. Sewing & Stamping
A quality Italian shoe is made up of multiple pieces. The age-old craft of constructing this footwear involves sections of leather each of which is stamped and marked before they are sewn. Using precise skills and tools, different leather pieces are put together by a master artisan who relies on special marks to guide them.
These marks are also present on every point where lace eyelets are going to be punched and perforated accents like Broguing are going to appear.
Such marks also help shoemakers know where to sew diverse segments of leather, particularly where the seams should appear after each individual piece has been stitched together. These segments are exclusively thinned using a distinct manufacturing method before they're sent to the sewing department.
4. Shoe Assembling
The core phase of Italian shoemaking is here. There are ten distinct categories of Italian footwear: Oxfords, Boots, Derby, Monk Strap, Blucher, Captoe, Wingtips, Loafers, Sneakers, and Mules.
Based on the type of shoe being made, the assembly phase works accordingly to apply unique shoemaking techniques – including Goodyear welting and the Blake method – to assemble the final pair of shoes.
5. Step Insole Creation & Decoration
This phases includes smoothing the inner elements of each shoe and adding other finishing touches to give them a classy style and aesthete. Adding comfortable fillers, often made from cork, are also executed during this time.
These fillers ensure ease of movement and comfort while walking/running. The cork used comes from a variety that is flexible enough to even out the insole foundation.
Once the insole is ready it is glued to the main shoe, specifically the welt, and securely stitched. Relevant attention is given to the heel section and sundry leather areas. Ornamental perforations are also added at this time, and any seam holes hidden. This latter step entails a complex sequence of methods that include ironing, dyeing, and polishing.
Heel edges and outsoles are then abraded. The visible portion of the welt will also be decorated, if the design calls for it. Compacting the double seam takes place next, and the tips and heel are dyed as required. Often, a half-insole bearing the brand's logo is inserted at this time. Finally, the shoe is given a complete and careful cleaning.
6. Finishing Polish
This step is as important as all the others, because this is when Italian shoemakers get to work performing the final finishing touches on the bespoke shoes.
Specialized polishing techniques, lacing of the eyelets, and thorough quality checks all happen at this time before the shoes are packaged and shipped to retailers or customers.
If The Shoe Fits…
Italian shoemaking comprises a series of complex stages and challenges. The end result is a durable and supremely elegant pair of shoes that you can wear with pleasure. Such Italian footwear not only stays in vogue for years but also looks and feels like a timeless work of art. So the next time you see an expensive pair of bespoke Italian shoes, remember just how much excellence went into crafting it, not to forget a small universe of passion and pride.