Italians are the leaders in producing the finest of footwear. In addition, most—if not all—companies are drenched in rich history. From the beautiful brown, caramel-colored leathers to the hard, well-made soles, you must expect the best from them. Santoni is an Italian footwear company that takes pride in the process of sticking to hand-made work. There’s authentic beauty in the long hours needed to produce just one pair. Gene Brown, U.S. President of Santoni, took the time to answer a few questions about the company, which, according to him, has a “strong future.”
Andrea Santoni, founder and owner of Santoni, is regarded as a master craftsman who is one of the premier makers of handmade shoes. His collection, bearing his name, has been worn by royalty, celebrities, and many men who have a taste for the best that life offers. His road to success is paved with stories that prove hard work, good taste, and being the best at your game pays off. In the 33 years that Santoni has been creating shoes in Italy, he has not introduced technology to the shoe-making process—Santoni has not allowed the efficiency of technology to alter the time consuming craft of creating a truly hand-made shoe. The U.S. division of Santoni is 26 years old.
What was the very first designed Santoni shoe? Cap toe? Loafer? Brogue?
Italy is known for its extremely well-made footwear. How does the Santoni company distinguish its products from the rest?
Santoni has not changed the way our shoes are made—the company has not introduced technology to the process and still makes shoes in the traditional way. Santoni continues to use the finest materials—the quality of the material and skins that we use takes a higher skill to work with and the Santoni shoe makers are more experienced and better-trained.
How does the company come up with new collections while staying true to the history of the company?
Santoni is a high quality manufacturer and we know who and what we are, which is classic. We stay true to our classic design and feel but continually try to stay contemporary. The designs are current with traditional style—Santoni will change the last and the look of the shoe, update to make it current, but will not do trendy.
Explain to us the entire process to produce a finished Santoni shoe.
A pair of Santoni shoes can take up to six months to create from conception to ready-to-wear. All parts of the shoe are hand-cut, hand-burnished, and in the cases of artisan, hand-made. All stitches are done by hand, too. The process begins with picking the skins, which are then cut and sewn by hand. The pattern can sit on last for 10-15 days. During this time, soles are hand-cut and hand-finished, all uppers hand-antiqued. Once sewn, the shoe undergoes the aging process, an arduous task, before it is stained and polished.
What materials does Santoni use?
Baby calf skins, deer, exotic—baby crocodile, iguana, and suede.
What does the future look like for Santoni?
It looks strong. We will always have the traditional dress shoe business (both leather and rubber soles) and the moccasin business is strong and a signature for Santoni. The acceptance of the sneaker has afforded us the opportunity to grow a different area of business which has given Santoni another avenue. Sneakers have given entry into the more casual markets. Additionally, we make belts and small leather goods.
Where can the footwear be purchased in the United States?
Santoni is carried at Saks, Nordstrom, and better men’s retailers. To find a store closest to you, call customer service at 800-248-6969.
Photograph Credit (01 and 03): Maurice Haas