When people think of Italy what comes to mind is fabulous art, monuments, amazing food and beautiful designer luxury goods - especially Italian shoes. In this podcast episode I chatted with luxury Italian shoe designer Alessio Spinelli about his life as a luxury shoe designer in Italy, and the path that led him to become a designer for Italy’s top shoe brands.
Alessio’s path to shoe design
Alessio says he was born with a passion for design and that passion was targeted to shoes because his father, Roberto Spinelli, was both a shoe designer and owner of a Rome-based luxury brand shoe store. Alessio‘s father designed for Roberto Cavalli, Sorelle Fontane, and Gattinoni in the 80s and 90s.
Alessio says he also had a passion for car design but his design instinct was targeted to shoes as he grew up in a shoe design family. As a teenager Alessio made his own designs using pieces of shoe leather that his dad gave him and he posted his designs on his Facebook profile. Later on he attended the Koefia International Fashion Academy in Rome and he also studied and obtained a degree in marketing for luxury goods. Once he obtained his degrees he created his own shoe collection and approached different fashion magazines like Vogue to show them his designs. When Alessio launched his career social media was inexistent and the way to showcase your designs was through fashion magazines.
Alessio‘s breakthrough was in 2011 when he won the Who’s Next competition and at that point he was approached by top level luxury Italian shoe designer brands. When you visit Rome you can find many of these luxury brands in the Spanish Steps area, especially on Via Condotti.
Alessio first designed for Jimmy Choo in London and then later on also designed for Bali in Switzerland, Jil Sander in Milan, and the fabulous small luxury designer Rene Cauvilla in Venice. Alessio then designed for Italy’s top worldwide shoe brand in Milan, Prada.
He was also the creative director for Milan-based Fragiacomo.
Currently Alessio designs shoes for Moncler in Milan and focuses on a line of elegant sport shoes and boots.
Alessio's parametric shoe designs
Parametric shoe designs are generated by computer software using a 3-D technique. Alessio collaborated with Arturo Tedeschi and created some beautiful shoe designs using this technique. Alessio and Arturo Tedeschi were the first to experiment with this technique, but now shoe companies like Nike and Adidas use the technique all the time to create shoes. With this technique they are able to accomplish specific shoe design goals like shoes designed for certain kinds of sport performance like climbing.
What Alessio designed was an elegant high heel women's parametric shoe.
Alessio's Neon Collection
Alessio created other unique design concepts in his own original collection like neon shoes.
Why are luxury Italian shoe designer brands so sought after?
Alessio says that of course the quality of the leather is fundamental, and it's used for both the insoles and outsoles. And then add to that the custom handiwork. All the top Italian brands have their own shoe making companies with artisans that carry out their gorgeous designs. Even some non-Italian shoe designers have their shoes made in Italy to take advantage of the fabulous raw materials and exquisite workmanship.
Comfort versus style
Alessio sees the trend moving towards shoe comfort rather than simply the beauty of a shoe. Yet there are still many men and women whose interest is mainly in the look of the shoe. And there are many women dedicated to wearing gorgeous 10 cm high heel shoes whether they are comfortable or not, like this Prada design.
Most luxury brands can customize shoes for color and easy to modify details like this. It adds to the cost but not exorbitantly so.
Luxury brands don’t, however, customize shoes for more complicated details like the width of a shoe. For a total shoe customization it’s best to approach a small shoemaker rather than a luxury brand.
Alessio Spinelli's shoe designs
Alessio can’t share shoe designs he has created for luxury shoe brands because those designs belong to these companies. A few of his early designs from his original collection can be found on his website, although the website isn't very active.
Italian Shoes: A Tribute to an Iconic Object
This book is newly released (September 2020) and is a delightful tribute to luxury Italian shoe designer brands and more. Full of photographs and designs, the book showcases Italian shoe design, elegance and creativity. If you love Italian shoes this is a great book to pick up, or give as a gift.
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