Stefano Bemer – A Florentine Institution
The name of Florentine shoemaker Stefano Bemer is ultimately associated with the highest standard of Italian elegance and quality, and is also synonymous with both style and refinement.
Found in 1983 by Mr. Stefano Bemer himself, the goal for this company was from the early stages to create the perfect Italian shoe. After the inauspicious passing of Stefano Bemer in the year 2012, Tommaso Melani took over the brand as CEO. He had a vision for the progression of the company: to empower the capacity of production of the highly acclaimed bespoke service, to create a training program which cultivates the next generation of artisans, and to imbue the virtues of the bespoke service into a state of the art ready-to-wear.
We wanted to know a little bit more about the company and its current development, about Mr. Melani himself and the influence a city like Florence can potentially have on you and your brand.
Florence is home to several quality shoemakers and is famous for i's leather industry. One of the most profilic is of course Stefano Bemer, which you have been leading since 2012. Do you think that being born and growing up in Florence has shaped your sense and respect of beauty and love for handicraft in a way?
Yes, completely! Our perception of the world is deeply influenced by the unique circumstances of the environment which we are immersed in. That's how we learn accents that place humans in a specific place. We mimick gestures that have precise meanings or we respect and enjoy a certain kind of food over others. We're shaped by the specific microcosmos around us. In our case, Florence, since the 16th century, has embodied the values of the human renaissance: beauty, balance and harmony. I think it was inevitable that those values would permeate craftmanship as well. We are just born for and to it.
Where do most of your clients come from and how long does a client have to wait from ordering until receiving a pair of bespoke shoes? Can you please take us a little through that process?
Although we can point to the USA and Japan as our main markets, the reach of our creations has really no borders. We have clients on every single continent and we are proud to serve loyal customers of very different nationalities, religions and race. That´s another beautiful example of how Florence has shaped our business, making of us a rather universal and inclusive example of fine craftmanship and style.
We know that you some time ago also acquired a bespoke tailoring brand, Sartoria Vestrucci. Would you say that going from RTW shoes to a bespoke shoe is the same huge difference as going from a RTW suit to a bespoke suit?
This is a tricky question. Especially if the offering is conceived to provide the same level of quality throughout the entire offering, as ours does. When you buy a Tradizione Line RTW pair, for instance, you buy the same craftmanship, quality of material and customising options that you have in our Sixpence Bespoke offering, just simply made on a standard last and size instead than a unique personal bespoke last. So when I speak about the difference between RTW and Bespoke, I refer to a very limited range of improvement that, nonetheless, can mean a lot for the client. Bespoke, in the philosophy of our brand, provides the client with two set of tools: the first to implement the comfort, the second to give the client the possibility of expressing his own stylistic ideas through the definition of the minute stylistic details that will carry and revert on the finished product. From a quality stand, there is little (if any) difference, but the correspondence with a unique fit and aesthetic is only full on bespoke, by definition.
Which kind of shoe (leather and sole) would you recommend for customers who live in a rainy environment and still want to wear a nice pair dress shoes?
I have my own "New York Winter" kind of shoe that needs to walk me on wet or snowy (and muddy and filled with salt) days. My favorite is an apron derby in a sturdy dark brown hatched french calf with rubber sole. For a more casual day, my go to is a chukka boot in mokka elephant leather with Norwegian stitch and thick commando sole.
If someone wants to start building a shoe collection, which three models would you recommend starting with?
Stefano (Bemer) used to tell me that a man only needs a set of six shoes of great quality. To the two pairs stated above, I would therefore add 1) A black cap-toe oxford with no brogue. This will cover all the formal and professional needs. 2) A hatched leather penny loafer in a classic cuoio brown. 3) A suede tassel loafer for spring and summer. My all-time favorite is a tassel loafer in suede, the color being somewhere in between grey and brown, we call it "olive balantine". 4) A dark brown box calf oxford cap-toe, highly polished on toe and heel.
What can we expect from Stefano Bemer in the near future in terms of product lines?
I believe that we have accomplished the full development of our offering. Our lines are now ranging from our Essenziale Collection (goodyear welted shoes that can constitute the core of a man's shoe closet) to the Classica (hand welted and fully customisable) and the, in my opinion, outstanding Tradizione, our state of the art pret-a-porter offering, featuring the narrow fiddleback waist and metal toe taps you normally only find on high level bespoke products. Our bespoke offering is also nicely layered in two levels: the Blue Bespoke (featuring a bevelled narrow waist) and our signature Sixpence Bespoke, considered to be amongst the best examples of bespoke shoemaking of our time. We added sneakers and driving shoes for the fun of our clients, but we don't want to distract from the craftmanship that we pour into our core collections.