A pair of good high-end Italian leather shoes should be something that is part of every men’s collection. Italy is a country that is synonymous with leather shoemaking, this was an industry that started after the 2nd world war and blossomed in the 80s. A combination of Italy’s industrial capacity, fashion designers and its leather producing heritage all made for a booming business. Sadly the forces of globalisation and stiff cost competition made that shoemaking is now done in low-cost countries. What is left in Italy are now a few shoemaking companies that focus solely on high-end, artisanal handmade shoes. The focus here is on exclusivity and quality, combined with Italy’s shoemaking heritage.
I have always wanted to visit an Italian shoemaker and as I am staying this year in Italy in the Tuscan countryside now was the perfect time to do so.
We visited the Fratelli Borgioli shoe factory, who had two years ago had opened a new modern factory for its shoemaking. The tour was given by Urbano Borgioli one of the sons of the original founders René and Valerio Borgioli.
Fratelli Borgioli crafts premium quality luxury leather shoes since 1946, following the same values handed down through three generations. The company now employs over 70 artisans in its factory in Lamporecchio near the picturesque Tuscan town of Vinci, the birthplace of Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci.
I witnessed firsthand how each shoe is handcrafted here in Tuscany to ensure the made in Italy or made in Tuscany is true to its word. What was a beautiful experience to see was the artisans at work using the finest of leather. Each part of the shoe was made with attention to detail and with careful construction. This is why the brand has withstood the test of time regarding making shoes, they always focussed on quality. So much so that besides their own brand, Fratelli Borgioli is also a contract manufacturer for some of Italy’s best-known luxury brands.
It is great to talk to someone like Urbano Borgioli who has passion and commitment to preserving the history of local shoemaking. He does this by employing local Tuscan artisans and by sourcing all the products within 30 kilometres of the factory. His team is a reflection of why the made in Italy brand sets his company apart from other shoemakers. I have so much respect for Urbano, the owner whose passion has ensured he trains a younger generation to keep the legacy going.
Watching each process of the shoes being made is like a car manufacturer. It’s why the prices of the shoes are in the luxury sector. The end result of the shoes I saw was just brilliant in quality and in style.
“Fratelli Borgioli has always had both a deep bond with tradition and an eye towards innovation and the future,” says Borgioli. – Urbano Borgioli, CEO at Fratelli Borgioli
Museum & Store
After the factory tour, we were taken to the place where it all started in 1946, the old factory in Vinci where the shoes were initially made and which was still in use until two years ago. To preserve the legacy the factory has now been turned into a museum where you can see the old machinery as well as a huge variety of styles that have been made throughout the years. There is also a store on site where you can buy the latest styles.
From the store, I picked up a pair of hiking boots and a pair of brogues that have been developed in collaboration with Japanese shoe designers Ikeda & Matsuzaki. A more detailed review of both pairs will follow in a separate article.
Japan Meets Italy In SEISHOU
For 2021 Fratelli Borgioli has decided to team up with Japanese shoe designers Ikeda & Matsuzaki. The New Line Combines Italian Craftsmanship With Japanese Style. The name of the collection, SEISHOU (or “unison” in English) originates from the blend of Italian craftsmanship and Japanese taste.
“SEISHOU is a hybrid collection that links a classic design to a modern style. Japanese concept and design are expressed with the craftsmanship of Italian shoes.” – says Yuko Matsuzaki, Shoe Designer at Ikeda & Matsuzaki. “The design incorporates the concept of authentic Italian footwear and the taste that reflects the modern Japanese lifestyle.”
- Website: fratelliborgioli.com
- Direct store & Museum – Open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 4 pm to 7 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 12 pm
- Address: Via Maremmana, 171 Vinci (FI), Italy