Wardrobe: Poetry Man

  • William Kissel

During a dinner in Shanghai last year, Silvano Lattanzi’s hosts, a group of Chinese clients, spontaneously began singing “O Sole Mio” as a tribute to the Italian bespoke shoemaker. But the chorus fell silent after only a few bars, when its members had sung all of the lyrics they knew. The serenade not only amused Lattanzi, it prompted him to create a new collection, which includes loafers and lace-ups engraved with the words to “O Sole Mio”—most of them, at least.

Other models in the collection bear the lyrics from additional songs, poetic phrases, and lines from letters written by famous personalities. One pair is decorated with the handwriting of Jacqueline Kennedy. Lattanzi reproduced it from a letter she sent to an Italian count, thanking him “pour la soirées si féerique” (for the wonderful evenings). Lattanzi also borrows from a heartfelt letter that Mozart sent to the Austrian Baroness Martha Elisabeth Waldstatten, describing her as his “Viennese muse.”

“For me, every object I create represents a poem by which I transmit the love and passion I have for this work,” says Lattanzi, a jovial character who once christened himself “the poet of shoes” because, he says, every pair “comes from the heart.” He crafts his latest designs, which are priced from about $4,500, from fine-grained calfskin. He engraves the leather by hand and then burnishes it to give it a rich, antiqued finish. Because Lattanzi custom-makes his footwear to fit each man’s measurements, clients have the option of selecting one of the shoemaker’s favorite verses or providing their own.

As he unveiled the collection last year, Lattanzi also announced that he had acquired Calzoleria Gatto, which had supplied handmade footwear to the Italian Royal Family during the 1930s. The once-prominent company was in the process of negotiating a sale to a non-Italian entity when Lattanzi came forth with the money and craftsmen needed to revive the company and keep it in Italy. “Gatto clients were the high-class bourgeoisie of the early 20th century—refined men with a natural elegance, such as His Royal Majesty Vittorio III of Savoia, Prince Pupetto of Sirignano, and even Tyrone Power,” explains Lattanzi, who will re-create many of founder Angelo Gatto’s original shoe models.

“Time seems to have stopped at Calzoleria Gatto,” says Lattanzi. “There is no machinery or technology in the shoe factory, only manual tools that were used a century ago, and this must remain so.” Nevertheless, he intends to collaborate with many of the 95-year-old company’s veteran shoemakers to create new designs and details for Gatto footwear, which is priced from about $3,600. Most Gatto shoe models require as many as 50 hours of labor and 165 individual processes, including stitching and burnishing by hand every component of the uppers. Lattanzi calls Gatto’s shoes “pure poetry,” and then he realizes that he applies a similar description to his own shoes. “I guess,” he muses, “it takes one poet to recognize another.”

Silvano Lattanzi, 212.734.2962, www.silvanolattanzi.it
Calzoleria Gatto, +39.06.4741450

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