BOTTEGA PAOLO MARIANI
ITALIAN ARTISAN TALKS ABOUT PASSION OVER SHOEMAKING
Italian shoe artisan Paolo Mariani visits Japan for the first time. He is the owner of the shoe factory established by his grandfather in 1922, and has been producing exclusively the real handmade shoes since his takeover for three generations. From leather, the main component to decide the final quality to thread or shoelace, the supplementary elements to control the functionality, every single material to be utilized for his shoe is natural and carefully selected with his keen eyes, which brings totally different value as a consequence compared to the ready-to-wear shoes already diffused in the market. What makes him so passionate about his job? What is the secret to maintain his rhythm, him emotion? What is the story behind Paolo Mariani? The young craftsman tells the reasons so enthusiastically.
Photographs by JAMANDFIXText by MURAMATSU Ryo（OPENERS）Translated by MASUDA Akiko
REALIZING THE SHOES TO LIVE A LIFE TOGETHER
―― Your shoes are all bespoke, upon the order.
Yes. I can complete one pair a day, more or less than 300 pairs annually. In other words, each pair contains totally different value from any sort of ready-to-wear shoes found in the market. With exception of the very last moment of finish, all the process of my shoemaking throughout is carried out by my hands. Regarding the collection range, many types of models are available, from the authentic, elegant men’s item to the modern, casual design.
―― What is the principal philosophy for you to make the shoes
To seek the comfort. This is inevitable element to be the good shoes in the real term, the shoes with a high value must be comfortable at any circumstance. Having said that, though, naturally the esthetic beauty is also the key component. I pay my closest attention to balance out these two – when they are in equilibrated and well-proportioned, the result that comes out would be absolutely stunning.
―― Your inspiration source would be?
Something from the past. Especially the design, the look, the object…… anything from 1920s to 40s gives me lots of hints to open up my creativity and imagination.
―― That could be the shoes made from your grandfather, to some extent.
Probably. I personally try to retain the tradition derived from 1922, when my grandfather established the Bottega (atelier / factory). He, my father and I…… we are all concentrated ourselves to make the truly quality-oriented items, and I’m surely proud that we have done so with no exceptions so far. I am not interested in manufacture at the large scale. Rather, I believe that it can eventually cease the traditional “savoir-faire” piled up throughout our history. The story behind us tells everything – therefore I am eager to seek first nothing but the quality.
―― We heard that you have begun manufacturing the shoes when you were 11.
I have grown up in the environment filled with the scent of leather, I smelled it every day. The Bottega, for me, was a place like a playground – I used to run around my father or grandfather while they were working on shoemaking. This playground then turned out to be the real Bottega also to me when I was 11 years old. Casette d’Ete, where my Bottega is located, is the core town for Italian shoe industry – there is even a central factory of internationally famous brand. Shoes are historically essential there, people used to fabricate the shoes with the leftover material from army uniforms back in post-World War II. Up until now most of the population is engaged in shoe production in any way.
―― Nearly a century passed since the opening of the Bottega – what is the element that you dare to preserve from your grandfather, and that you want to add as a change in future?
For whichever cases I would continue to maintain the tradition. I assume, at the same time, that some sort of new surprise reflecting the social demand is fundamental. Yet we can NEVER leave the real authentic traditional method at any time even if I could attempt to enhance exciting and revolutionary touch by additional something. Structure, mechanism, technique…the basics are valid forever, and should always be respected.
―― To be precise?
It starts from the material selection beforehand – shoelace, sewing thread to obviously the leather, every parts consisting my shoes are chemical-free. Leather are tanned and colored naturally and manually as well. These dressy Oxford, for instance, had its signature tone of color by utilizing 2 types of dyes – bordeaux and mustard – I spread over the surface. Smearing and shining, smearing and shining……by repeating the same process again and again, it gradually obtains this unexplainably gorgeous color.
So as the glue for assembling. I apply the chestnut glue, basically the chestnut flour loosened by water. This glue will be activated and softened by humidity from the sweat, temperature from the feet…all the natural phenomena inside of the shoes while walking, which ultimately lead into the natural and additional comfort. Through this natural transition the shoes will take the foot form of the owner, and become the only pair that exists exactly for that person.
―― Are there any access your ready-to-made shoes for purchase?
Frankly, the answer is “no”. I have received so many requests so far, however, I have declined all the generous offers until now simply because there is the physical limit regarding the quantity to be produced. Hardly have I had the international clients as well – I have never sold my shoes to Japanese customers prior to my visit to Tokyo this time!
―― You don’t even think about expanding your Bottega?
I have no interest for the business in the big scale, absolutely no. I would prefer to continue as I do for the moment instead, to maintain the tradition from the ancestors, to move the tradition up along with myself, and as a consequence, to preserve the tradition.
―― There are millions of shoe manufacturers in the current world fashion market. How do you determine or how do you characterize the strength of your shoes, based on this?
My shoes last forever. My shoes live their lives along with the owner. They grew up together, they share the moments together, they stay together. The shoes literally shows the one’s life. Over time there would be a damage, I fix that. There would be the moment to undo the assemblage and reconstruct from the very beginning, I take care of that. Maybe my shoes, in other words, are there to sustain the customer’s precious life.
Born in Marche Region, Italy in 1979. Looking at his father and grandfather who were also the shoe artisan, his interests pushed him into shoemaking at the age of 11. As the 3rd successor, he produces the traditional yet stylish, modern shoes by himself. Realization of his first visit in Japan is thanks to the accidental meet with Fashion Director Noriyasu Muramatsu on Facebook. From AW 2015 his collection will be available in Japan, at UNITED ARROWS and Takizawa Shigeru. Apart from his shoemaking, he is passionate for agriculture and farming, in order to achieve a self-sufficient, real slow life with his wife and two daughters.
BOTTEGA PAOLO MARIANI