A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Sunday, January 5, 2014

An Interview with Riccardo Bestetti, Bespoke Shoemaker

Riccardo Bestetti, an Italian bespoke shoemaker, has been making a name for himself as a true artisan for some time now. His creations are absolutely exquisite, to say the least. He was kind enough to respond to a few questions via email for An Uptown Dandy, and his time and consideration are greatly appreciated. Here, then, are Mr. Bestetti's thoughts on his bespoke shoes, his approach to shoemaking, and the state of the Italian shoemaking industry. 

Tell our readers a little bit about your background/education as a shoemaker. When did you decide that you wanted to craft footwear based on your own unique design and vision?

It started out as a hobby. I always liked shoes, and then on a trip with my brother to America, I saw the Texas cowboy boots, and I fell in love with the craft.

I then began by playing around just to make boots for me. Then I made a pair for a friend, then another, and then many others. After 4 years of doing that, I then started making shoes, which turned out to be my true passion.

How has the design/aesthetic of your shoes been influenced over the years? Are there other shoemakers that you have looked to for inspiration? When one looks at the Bestetti shoe, there is certainly a unique silhouette, which combined with the lovely burnishing of the uppers, makes a striking statement.

Many artisans have an inspiration, and I did as well with my shoes. As I saw it, I envisioned something sinewy, but with classic proportion. As seen through my eyes, that is the Bestetti shoe.

I have heard it said that Bestetti shoes feel like they have been broken in 5 minutes after the first wearing. Can you speak to what makes the Bestetti shoe so comfortable?

Comfort comes from the materials - how they are utilized and how the form of the shoe is constructed.

At the moment, what types of offerings are available to the Bestetti client? My understanding is that, until recently, the company was an entirely bespoke/semi-bespoke operation but that ready-to-wear offerings are now available as well?

Recently, I extended the lines, so now the following are available: base construction Blake RTW; RTW in hand-sewn construction; Blake MTO; MTO sewn by hand; the Novecento (the most prestigious, considered to be semi-bespoke as it allows the client to choose everything) and, at the very high-end, Bespoke.

The semi-bespoke line seems to provide bespoke-level shoes made on ready-made lasts - is that an accurate description?

Yes, the Novecento line is a very high-end range - the client chooses the leather, the color, the pattern, the shape, and the fit. You can even make small changes to the shape and choose the Bespoke finish.

Do the RTW shoes fill a niche just below the semi-bespoke line, in terms of quality? What kind of features should one expect to see on the Bestetti RTW shoe?

The RTW line is still a line of high quality. The finishing touches are just fine and the shoes are made by hand.

Assuming the bespoke shoes are hand-welted, can you tell us if there's a difference in the welting of the semi-bespoke and ready-to-wear shoes (good-year welted, norvogese, etc.)?

The difference is there, and it is visible: the nails of wood, the polishing, the finishing, the soles, the models; but the basic shoe is still made at a very high level. The Bespoke shoe is completely made by hand; the RTW Blake line, however, is constructed with the help of old machinery.

Bestetti clients have several options to choose from when deciding upon the toe shape - personally, I was intrigued by the classic English round toe that is offered. Would you say that there's currently a movement away from the more squared or chiseled toes, or is there more of a balance in the type of lasts that the Bestetti client in interested in?

Honestly, I really love the chisel toe. By my clients, for the most part, love the Almond toe - to be more specific, the form of the model Maverick. I think that is because it is a good blend of classic shapes that are timeless - like the Adelaide model - but with curves to the form that are provocative and compelling.

I've made it a habit to ask the English shoemakers about the state of their industry, so I would like to put a similar question to you. How do you feel about the current state of Italian shoemaking - do you see the necessary skills being passed on to the next generation? Or is there a lack of eager apprentices, as there seems to have been in England at one time?

Unfortunately, in Italy, there is no desire by young people to learn this trade. It represented a big problem for the industry. As a result, Italian shoes have dropped in quality. There are more competent people elsewhere.

Where do you see the Italian shoemaking industry, and Riccardo Bestetti shoes, in 3-5 years?

If I could see where Bestetti shoes are in 3-5 years, I would be a magician! But I would hope that it would be a brand known worldwide for its high quality. Everything is a result of that. Today, I am 47 years old, with a beautiful wife and wonderful son, they are my strength. I love my work, I want it to do well, and in the end I feel the client will give me what I deserve.

There seems to be a renewed interest in classic menswear and, specifically, elegant well-made shoes, in the last few years - at least here in the US (one could probably argue that Italian men never really stopped dressing well). Where do you see the most interest in your shoes coming from geographically? The Japanese seem to have taken their love of shoes to new heights, but do you find similar interest from the US, Europe, or from within Italy?

I'm sorry to say but I must admit that my sales in Italy are basically zero. I only have three Bespoke customers here. My clients are from all over the world, with many in the United States, but also Europe and Asia, Hong Kong and Singapore. In my country, my shoes are not understood.

At the moment, what is the best way to purchase Bestetti shoes? Are the ready-to-wear shoes available online or through brick-and-mortar retailers in Europe, Asia, and the US?

Currently, I sell the shoes directly. However, by February or March, I hope to have shoes available via Olana, Sweden. I also hope to make them available via other stores in the world, but always in small series. At some point, there will be a list on the site, with an explanation of the new lines.

Are there any plans for a trunk show in the US in the near future?

There is interest in a trunk in the US in the future. We're just in the process of conforming the details.

Best regards and happy new year!

Riccardo Bestetti

Photos from Justin Fitzpatrick's The Shoe Snob Blog.

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