There is something appealing about a shoe that is made in Italy. Its origins carry with it connotations of luxury, craftsmanship, and quality. And for good reason. The made-in-Italy brands that you will find at The Shoe Hive, including Attilio Giusti Leombruni (AGL), Aquatalia, Butter, and French Sole for example, are also the brands that make the most comfortable, longest-lasting shoes. But the Italian manufacturing industry doesn’t look today like it once did.
“Rising Chinese and Indian manufacturing power has put Italians out of business,” informs the Financial Times in a 2011 piece on the steadfast value of Italian-made goods. And yet, while it may not look the way it did several decades ago, the Italian luxury market remains strong and market analysts attribute this to the unwavering attraction of the “Made in Italy” brand. Indeed, when buying an Italian-made shoe, the customer feels that she, in a way, has acquired a piece of Italy. And who doesn’t want a piece of Italy?
This isn’t all in our heads though. While the Italian manufacturing industry may look different, the quality of its products has only increased. “The experts in Italian manufacturing made strong reductions in terms of volume but not in terms of value,” Italian banker Victor Massiah is quoted as saying in this same piece. What comes out of Italy is, simply put, better.
Italy has had a long tradition of shoemaking, an industry that is often defined by the multi-generational families that run it. In fact, many of the world’s top shoe innovations have come out of Italy. They also have access to the best raw materials and have married tradition and innovation in a way that is singular to the industry and the region.
One of these innovations, which makes higher end footwear so comfortable, is the “sacchetto,” meaning the little sack. The sacchetto is formed when the lining is sewn directly into the shoe as a separate pocket (or sack) and no midsole is used. This provides additional comfort, a better fit, and maximum softness and flexibility. Without a midsole, a shoe is much more pliable and the lining will gently hug the foot.
The attention to detail and excellent finishing skills also contribute to the superior look and quality of the product. Many Italian finishes require multiple applications of waxes and polishes during the manufacturing process before the final inspection.
Consider AGL — a third generation Italian family-run business and founded by Piero Giusti in 1958. For over five decades, the AGL team has been creating footwear and leather goods. AGL uses 100 percent Italian materials and manufacturing, sourcing the finest leather from Tuscan tanneries. Each stage of the process takes place at the factory in Montegranaro. It is here that items are hand-sewn using a technique that has been passed down from one generation to the next. Tradition is not, however, the enemy of innovation. Ensuring that their factory has the latest and greatest in machinery and technology, their shoes are all leather lined for breathability and boast a proprietary inner cushioning for comfort.
Great minds think alike! We had to take a picture when two of our employees and one of our customers showed up wearing the same AGL shoes because they are just THAT comfortable!
Another Italian favorite among Shoe Hive customers is Aquatalia, known for its weatherproof and stain-resistant fabrics — even suede. Founded in 1994, by Marvin Krasnow, Aquatalia offers the finest combination of fashion, comfort, and technology in footwear. Armed with an engineering degree and hands-on experience in his family’s shoe factory, Marvin worked side-by-side with Italian manufacturers to create Aquatalia. Today, “functional luxury” best defines the brand’s innovative designs. While trends are always a factor, the guiding elements behind every style are ease, functionality, and meticulous Italian craftsmanship.
Of course, all of this comes with a price. Most Italian-made shoes are more expensive, but it makes sense when you consider the research and thoroughness that goes into the execution of the goods Italy produces. Furthermore, we live in a global market in which competition is key. There are other manufacturing industries that are giving Italy a run for its money. Take Freda Salvador, for example, which has become a fan favorite at our store; Freda is made entirely out of Spain, a rising force in the shoe world. Rachel Comey’s manufacturing takes plain in Spain and Peru. And Bernardo — a brand The Shoe Hive has carried from the very beginning — is made out of Brazil. All of that to say, luxury and quality are not exclusive to Italy, but when you do splurge on something that originated in the birthplace of high-end fashion, it will be worth every penny!