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Interviews

Tommaso Melani (Stefano Bemer)

November 4, 2013

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In September 2013 you have launched Stefano Bemer ready-yo-wear collection at New & Lingwood (London). After Stefano’s  death this new project was quite a news for shoelovers. Please tell me more about the RTW collection and how this Stefano Bemer new project started.

I’ve known Stefano Bemer for many years and with my other company, Scuola del Cuoio. We have attended many events to give demonstration of Florence’s best craftsmanship. With his unfortunate passing, I felt that his heritage should have been preserved from becoming a mere commercial and industrialized brand, so I decided to step on and candidate myself to guiding the brand and the group of artisans that Stefano had meticulously trained towards new grounds and goals.

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The project of our RTW was conceived with the idea of a brand new approach to quality in this segment: our RTW shoes are by all means a Bespoke shoe made on standard sized last, for the share all the materials, components, procedures and technique with those of our world renown bespoke service. The only one difference that we decide would differentiate the RTW from the Bespoke is that the sole is stitched on the welt with a classic Goodyear machine (the welt is still hand-stiched on the upper though), while our Bespoke is stitched by hand with two needles. My decision was clear: create an artisanal shoe of indisputable quality for those that can appreciate the refinement of a Bespoke shoe in a RTW product.

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How many RTW models are available and what are the prices?

The 2013 collection has been almost totally based on Stefano’s archive and ideas. We simply didn’t want to give the idea that we were breaking with the past. The 2014 A/I collection will instead show much of my influence on the style of the brand and we are also introducing a new last, that I strongly believe in, as fifth option for our RTW clients. The Stefano Bemer collection will most likely end up being composed of 6/8 pieces, and of course we will carry on the core of our 2013 collection. We intend to create a classic style not affected by current fashion trends but most likely to dictate a standard for up-to-date elegance and refinement. Our price range will vary significantly depending on the materials used for the shoe. And obviously, due to cost of shipment, duties and local taxes, prices will be different from one Country to another.

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The  wooden boxes now come with tops painted cobalt blue. Are there any other significant details in terms of brand identity?

I think that not only the cobalt blue carries the meanings that I wish to express, such as purity and beauty, but it enhances the brand recognition. We are gradually introducing cobalt blue in our marketing, such in the new dust bags (starting in 2014, our signature wool pied-de-poule dust bags will have a cobalt blue component replacing the actual dark brown one), the new business cards, the new shopping bags. Also, as you may know, we are now shipping our Bespoke shoes with an original English six-pence silver coin as a token of luck to our discerning customers.

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Where are the shoes made and what are the diferences in terms of construction between Stefano Bemer bespoke and ready-to-wear models ?

All of our shoes are designed, cut, prepared, finished, waxed, polished and packed in our workshop in Via San Niccolò in Florence. But while our Stefano Bemer Bespoke shoes get mounted on the last and soled there as well, we have established a separate workshop in Ferrara where our shoes are brought to be mounted and soled.

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This is a strategic decision due to the fact that we intend to increase the capacity of production significantly over the next two years and the area of Ferrara has the best tradition for the production of Goodyear high quality shoes (Berluti is establishing its own factory just a mile away from ours) and we can therefore find more talented shoemakers to enroll in our workshop to increase production. At the same time, having our workshop is crucial in order to produce made-to-order shoes, which is one of our distinguishing services we offer.

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You are curently SB CEO but you have been involved in the leather business for over 15 years being the owner of Scuola Del Cuoio “the largest genuine laboratory in the city (Florence) where clients can witness the artisans create the leather goods in the midst of centuries-old history.” Why did you decide to invest in a shoe company and why Stefano Bemer?

I felt that Stefano Bemer was complimentary to Scuola del Cuoio in the fact that we never got serious about the production of men’s shoes. The acquisition of Stefano Bemer gave us the chance to add another truly Florentine bespoke experience for our Scuola del Cuoio clients.

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Who is the key member of the shoemaking team now after Stefano’s death? How is Stefano’s legacy preserved today?

Stefano Bemer’s legacy is today in the hands of the three Japanese craftsmen that he trained for almost 10 years. Around them, we have started creating a larger group that is becoming stronger day after day. In January we will also start our Shoemaker Training Program, through which we will carry on our product philosophy and, most important, will have the chance to grow our staff by selecting our most promising students, as we have done at Scuola del Cuoio over the past 64 years. All of the designing is in the hands of Cristina, Stefano’s wife, which turns our ideas into designs.

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What future plans do you have for the new Stefano Bemer brand? Will SB RTW shoes be available in other locations besides New & Lingwood?

Our RTW shoes are currently retailed in Japan (Isetan Matsukoshi and Sogo&Seibu), Korea (Unipair), London,(New&Lingwood), Azerbaijan (Emporium) and, obviously in our atelier in Florence. I am working right now on extending the distribution to the United States and we are also considering a direct store in the Middle East.

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What plans do you have for celebrating 30 years aniversary? New model perhaps…?

The fifth last for the RTW is the best way to celebrate the 30 years of the brand. It’s a signal that the brand is still alive and young!

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What is your favorite RTW model?

My favorite in the 2013 collection was a loafer with a shark “penny”. My new favorite RTW is just about to come out. It will be part of the 2014 collection and remain permanent: it’s an oxford in textured calf (scozia) with cordovan belt (both skins from Horween leather, based in Chicago) and brogue details.
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Favorite tailor in Florence?

I get my suits in Naples, but my shirt maker in Florence is Leonardo Bugelli.

Favorite hotspot in Florence?

The Four Seasons hotel.

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What is your favorite word?

Beautiful.

What is your least favorite word?

Surrender.

What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?

Challenge.

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What turns you off ?

Laziness.

What is your favorite curse word?

Zio bono!

What sound or noise do you love?

Rain.

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What sound or noise do you hate?

Traffic.

What profession would you not like to do?

Pediatrician.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“You could do better, but in the end you didn’t do bad at all!”

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