Milan's Little
Gem :
Stivaleria Savoia

Sonya Glyn NICHOLSON

Milan’s Little Gem : Stivaleria Savoia

Stivaleria Savoia is a small boutique located in the heart of Milan, where educated clientele make a repeat-pilgrimage to commission a pair of bespoke shoes made by-the-book and crafted by an intimate crew of boot makers working mainly on-site, but also directly from their homes.

 

The Small Milanese House with a Large Reputation

If you love the world of male elegance but don’t know Stivaleria Savoia in Milan, you won’t regret learning about this small traditional shoemaker.

Stivaleria Savoia began crafting boots and leather goods in 1925 and was later bought by tie and shirtmaker E. Marinella in 2004.

But why would a brand like E. Marinella (a must-see destination shop in Naples) purchase a shoemaker/men’s boutique in Milan?

Stivaleria Savoia is a safe bet based on the store’s rich experience in crafting classic bespoke shoes as well as (historically) riding boots made by generational craftsmen for the Milanese Savoy Cavalry Regiment–which explains the shop focus on saddlery and the name, since the word ‘stivaleria’ can be translated as ‘boot factory’.

The other element that makes this house so attractive is the unique mood it creates. Depending on your age, as a child you may remember accompanying your mom on a visit to the local men’s store to buy something for your dad or uncle, with dozens of dark socks hanging against the back store wall and white handkerchiefs stacked topsy-turvy on walnut shelves, not to mention the silver carousel filled with aromatic leather belts.

It seemed as if the owners never left the shop, and every visit felt familiar, even comforting. The smell of such a store registers in the brain. If you needed help, you received undivided attention…or you could ponder around in silence or strike up a conversation.

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Stivaleria Savoia in Milan possesses this same salt of ambiance. But in a metropolitan city like Milan, the house’s veins run deeper than its hospitality, as the shop hand welts traditional bespoke shoes, requiring at least 50 hours of work per pair.

Bespoke shoe clients include the loyal Milanese establishment and discreet gentlemen from surrounding European cities, a few famous names, as well as classic shoe enthusiasts from around the world who are in-the-know and care about traditional craftsmanship.

Comfort and tactile issues are taken seriously, and those with sensitive feet cite Stivaleria Savoia shoes as being reliably comfortable, but never at the expense of style.

Accessories, neckties, umbrellas, bags, clothing, ready-to-wear shoes, leather goods, novelties like top hats and equestrian themed pieces and even antique relics are sold, but the cornerstone of the shop’s success is its unwavering focus on traditional shoemaking.

 

 The Making of a Stivaleria Savoia Shoe

Parisian Gentleman’s photographer Lyle Roblin is on his feet a lot, carrying heavy equipment and traveling around Europe with us to capture images of world-class craftsmen in action for PG articles as well as for the upcoming book “The Italian Gentleman” to be released by Thames & Hudson in 2017.

Store director Fausto Risi challenged Lyle to try a pair of Stivaleria Savoia bespoke shoes to sample their handiwork.

Here’s an abbreviated summary of Lyle’s bespoke experience.

The approach to Stivaleria Savoia from the outside presents a sense of warmth from afar, and when first entering the store, you notice the saddlery atmosphere. The mood is that of a “village shop” with a variety of menswear and accessories, but most noticeably…beautiful shoes. If you head to the back of the store, you can peer through a window within the wall and view boot maker Fillipo Ballato at work on his current bespoke project.

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After a lot of contemplation, Lyle settled on a a derby brogue ankle boot to be handcrafted and we took in hand a few cowhides for an up-close look at the leather quality. After measurements were taken, a paper pattern was created and Silvia Somaini hand-clicked leather pieces from the hide, which will be sewn together to create the complete shoe “upper”.

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Lyle’s personal “wooden lasts” have been prepared according to the form of his feet.

When the last is ready, the insole is attached to the bottom of the last (look closely to locate the insole on the second photo below) and the upper is pulled over the last. What follows is an impeccable hand welting (i.e., sewing together of the insole and the upper parts of the shoe, using a little strip of leather called a “welt”).

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Below notice the leather insole with a “channel” cut into it, as this will be a closed-channel boot. As shown in the close-up above, all the various layers of the shoe and the welt (the strip of leather that runs around the perimeter of the shoe) are hand welted together with waxed linen thread.

As you can see next, the channel is closed and the heel is being applied. After several repetitions of glassing, sanding and staining to finish the sole, the boot is flipped and a fudge wheel tool is used to decorate the edge of the sole.

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With the boots completed, a nice polish is in order, and Fillipo is back at work on his next pair of bespoke shoes.

The boots pose to be admired and are a great merging of necessity with art…a treasure to be cared for and even passed on to another lifetime.

Don’t forget the handmade wooden lasts made especially for Lyle. They are catalogued and remain at Stilaveria Savoia for safekeeping, ready to be used again for the next order.

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Nine months later : After wearing his boots a few times, Lyle felt they may take a while to break-in because the fit was especially close to the foot and initially he felt some slight pressure. But after only a few more “wears”, he experienced total comfort and now loves the versatile style and beauty of his derby brogue ankle boots so much that he wears them weekly, usually with suits. The boots are extremely lightweight but durable, while at the same time sleek and streamlined in classic style.

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Stivaleria Savoia : Via Petrarca, 7 angolo Vincenzo Monti 20123 Milano. Tél : +39 02 463 424 (website)

Prices :
– Bespoke handmade shoes : 2000 euros
– Bespoke handmade ankle boots : 2400 euros
– Bespoke riding boots : 3000 euros