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Private Preview 2003: Sole Searching

William Kissel

Andrea Artioli has spent the past few years devising a way to bring breathability and enhanced comfort to his custom- and ready-made Artioli footwear. The secret, says the third-generation Italian shoemaker, is an air pump embedded inside the sole. As you walk, it pumps fresh air through perforated openings to the foot’s hot spots. A pressure-relief valve on the other side of the sole continuously moves stale air and excess moisture out of the shoe and away from the foot.

Utilizing technology similar to Shock Air, which was developed by comfort shoemaker Stonefly, Artioli’s Breathing Air footwear is the first luxury dress shoe collection to include such features. “Even though the sole is prefabricated in pure rubber, the shoe is still produced in an artisan way,” says Artioli.

The new collection, priced from $500 to $2,200, will be crafted in the company’s 57-year-old factory in Ferrara, near Bologna, using the finest napa, baby alligator, and perfo-rated kangaroo. “Kangaroo is the most elastic form of leather, so even if a shoe is not custom-made, the leather adjusts to the shape of the foot,” Artioli explains. “The sole is also constructed to neutralize the vibration created from walking, so it acts like a shock absorber, which is great for people with chronic back pain.” The collection will launch in early 2003 at Battaglia in Beverly Hills, Stanley Korshak in Dallas, and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.

As Artioli turns to cutting-edge technology to revolutionize the feel of fine footwear, others are turning to the past to recapture the heirloom quality once characteristic of fine men’s shoes. Sutor Mantellassi of Florence, Italy, will employ an old dyeing process known as delavée, the French word for bleaching, which gives new shoes an antique finish. The company’s master colorist, Paola Gavagna, uses a multistep procedure, in which she applies dye to a finished twisted calf leather shoe and then strategically strips it off with alcohol-soaked cloths. This dyeing and dabbing process is repeated until the perfect balance of striated color is achieved.

“The use of old-world techniques handed down for generations gives our shoes a soul; one can find in them the same charisma that one finds in an antique,” says manager Luca Mantellassi, noting that the collection, called Oasis, incorporates the ancient hand-welting technique for which all Mantellassi shoes are known. The new collection will be priced at a relatively modest $695 per pair.

Fratelli Rossetti is also feeling nostalgic, as evidenced by its resurrection of two-tone spectator styles from the last century. Rossetti, which was the first to produce brown loafers in the 1950s, will introduce a collection of two-tone kid leather and canvas wingtip lace-ups, cap-toed brogues, and penny loafers inspired by footwear from the 1920s and 1930s. That same retro sensibility will be integrated into designer Alberta Serantoni’s vintage spectator-inspired Glove Shoe collection, which will be sold under Samsonite’s upscale Black Label brand. Once more in fashion, everything old is new again.

Artioli, +39.331.841322, www.artioli.com
Fratelli Rossetti, 212.888.5107, www.rossetti.it
Samsonite Black Label, 800.262.8282
Sutor Mantellassi, 888.996.7555, www.sutormantellassi.com

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Photo by Ted Morrison