Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Silvano Lattanzi...From Italy to Madison Avenue 

             The Fine Art of Shoe Making

In the1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Marilyn Monroe, whisks about the set pursued by a dozen handsome suitors in tuxedoes as she sings “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.” Richard Burton knew this. In 1968 he gave his wife Elizabeth Taylor a 33-carat diamond, and the following year a 69-carat diamond.

Not everyone is Elizabeth Taylor. Not everyone can wear Harry Winston diamonds. Not everyone has a husband or paramour like Richard Burton.

After diamonds I say shoes are a girl’s best friend. Think Cinderella and her glass slipper; or Imelda Marcos, and her 2000 pairs of shoes; or Sex in the City’s Carrie Bradshaw who had hundreds of shoes and who made Manolo Blahnik a household name. 

Would Macy’s Herald Square set aside 63,000 square feet of space on its redesigned second floor and offer 250,000 pairs of shoes, if women and shoes were not best friends? Would Sak’s Fifth Avenue open a shoe emporium on the eighth floor and double the size of its inventory? This floor is so big it has its own postal zip code.

Enough about the ladies let's focus on the guys. Recently I stopped into several stores. Dudes like shoe too. They bought Nikes, Vans, Diesel sneakers, Tommy Bahama Sandals, Quicksilver Flip Flops, Timberland, Rockport, Hush Puppies, Geox, Ecco, Skechers; moving up the shoe chain Cole Haan, Allen Edmond, Ferragamo and Gucci.

Silvano Lattanzi Madison Avenue 
Then there are dudes who really love shoes. They visit the sultan of shoemaking, Silvano Lattanzi, a relative newcomer to New York. Lattanzi opened his boutique here in early 2001 but he is hardly a novice. He is a master craftsman and designer. He has created elegant high-end off-the rack and handmade shoes for over 40 years.  He opened his first boutique near Rome’s fashionable Via Condotti in1992. Lattanzi has shops in Milan, Moscow, St. Moritz, Beijing, and Shanghai.

I first discovered Lattanzi footwear while power walking on Madison Avenue one night three years ago. I scooted past Calvin Klein, Barney’s, Valentino, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren appreciating their stunning fashion displays.

I only stopped when I came to the windows of Silvano Lattanzi’s and his small shop. I was fascinated by the hand-stitched sole of a shoe perched in front of a coffee table sized book opened to a photo spread of an old-time cobbler at work. A work of art, I thought.

Old World Shoemaking High End Prices
Lattanzi’s soles are hand sewn and require more than 240 stitches for each foot. The parallel double stitches have the same length. The miniscule holes are equidistant. It takes seven to 14 days, 30 hours of work and over 200 different steps to finish a pair of shoes.
Bespoke shoes take six to eight weeks depending on the humidity and weather.

About twenty-six cobblers produce 2500 pairs of shoes annually at his factory in Le Marche Italy near the Adriatic. They use century old techniques: wetting the leather on a last, hours of stretching, sewing a leather welt and shank to the upper part and then attaching it to the sole. They are made of alligator, crocodile lizard, ostrich, antiqued calfskin and cordovan shell. His shoes are costly. Off-the-rack wingtips costs
about $3200. Sneakers are a bargain at $1200. Custom made shoes start around $5300 and soar to $18,000. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Eric Clapton are customers.

Lattanzi is not just about men. Uma Thurman and Patty Smith are customers too.
Women’s crocodile boots cost $25,000.
Silvano Lattanzi, 905 Madison Avenue between near 73rd Street; 212-734-2962
Photos by Rudi Papiri