Diego Rossetti of the Italian shoe maker Fratelli Rossetti admits the family-run company is doing well, but adds mischievously that this is not a luxury brand and its shoes not a luxury product. It makes sense when he explains himself: shoes are a necessity in this day and age, not particularly indispensable as luxury products by definition tend to be. Rossetti’s product, he argues, is an investment which gives a better return than others – in other words, quality.
Fratelli Rossetti is based in Parabiago, a small industrial town near Milan, and there is definitely nothing luxurious about its surroundings. Known as the City of Shoes, due to the number of manufacturers established there, everything from styling to sales takes place at Fratelli Rossetti’s Parabiago headquarters.
MADE TO LAST
Lasts – the solid forms around which shoes are moulded – are now made of plaster, and most if not all of the wooden ones dating back to the 1950s remain a valuable source of inspiration, carefully stored on easily accessible mobile shelves. Archived drawings include lots of miniature, precise details – the original Rossetti ‘signature’.
The Rossetti brothers Diego, Dario and Luca, have carried on the family footwear business, established in 1953 by their late father Renzo Rossetti along with his brother Renato.
3D drawings are cut up and the paper patterns developed further by using a computer, not only to adapt them to different shoe sizes but also make the most of the leather skins when they are cut up. Skins are carefully selected twice a week by an in-house expert.
There are plenty of machines, but none that could be successfully operated without a trained eye and pair of skilled hands. The employees are artisans who take pride in their work: the woman who manually punches holes for the stitching in a pair of brogues characteristic of the company’s style; the man who cuts precious skins by hand making sure that the position of alligator scales are taken into consideration, so that every pair of shoes is a symmetric match.
“The most important details are the ones you can’t see,” says Deigo Rossetti. “We are very proud to say that all our shoes are made by us in our own factory.”
VALUE FOR MONEY
The fashioning of a Fratelli Rossetti shoe can take up to 150 different working phases, which will determine the price of a particular model and explain why it can take up to a week to make one pair; shoes rest on lasts for several days and undergo an ultimate quality check before being boxed and shipped to retail locations the world over. The company boasts 27 single-branded stores and has a line in accessories, including handbags, repeating Rossetti’s reputation for elegance, quality and style.
Does the person in the shop trying them on think about the work that went into the making of those shoes – do they care, or does it matter. According to Diego Rossetti, it is a resounding yes to all of that. After a period during which it was all about how a shoe looked, he says customers now seek comfort, as they did in his father’s day, and they want shoes that last. Value for money, he says, is what the company strives for, and customers get what they pay for.