Aria d’Italia

TOD’s celebrates all things Italy in a multi-chapter series

Sometimes the opportunity to visit Italy is like waiting for a bus. You wait twenty-six years and then four trips all come at once, concentrated over a handful of months: Milan, Rome, Tuscany, Venice. Nothing adequately prepares you for the morning light surrounding the Apennine mountains, or the daring architecture of a lagoon-city built on islands. Yes, the pappardelle is perfect. Everyone is impeccably dressed. Your espresso does taste better.

It is this spirit – that uniquely Italian love of craft and conviviality – that TOD’S wishes to celebrate in its newly unveiled project, Aria d’Italia. A year in the making, the luxury brand has been documenting contemporary Italian life and its values, and in the coming months, will be releasing the personal and professional stories of the young artists, business- and craftspeople who encapsulate this essence.

Broken down in eight thematic chapters, Pleasure, Timeless, Imagination, Craftmanship, Passion, Heritage, Joy and Boldness, TOD’s has cast a generous net to explore modern Italy, shot by Milanese photographer Guido Taroni. We lunch at a Tuscan farm to table restaurant, fix vintage cars, visit an agricultural villa in Piedmont, and spend a great deal of time with renown artists and designers.

At one point in the series, architect Luca Bombassei notes that “the tangible sign of Italianness is the inconsistency I see in a positive sense. It’s the unpredictable, imaginative jolt that renews and transforms.” This, we feel, is an apt summary of the generous and joyful project, the culmination of which will take place in September, when the collated profiles will be published in a book by Rizzoli International.

To follow the Aria d’Italia instalments, visit tods.com

Kickflip

TOD’S collaborate with Hender Scheme on a crafty collection

Sandra Bem was a US psychologist whose pioneering work in the late 20th century proposed that traditional gender roles are restrictive for both men and women, and can have negative consequences for individuals as well as society as a whole. It is her ‘gender schema theory’ – research that interrogated social beliefs that gender roles are “opposite, bipolar, and mutually exclusive” – that Hender Scheme derives its name from. Founded in 2010 by Ryo Kashiwazaki, who first studied philosophy before turning to leather, the Tokyo-based label is built around balance and craft, focusing on footwear and accessories.

For the fourth instalment of the TOD’S Factory project, in which designers are given access to TOD’S craftsmen and savoir faire in the Marche region of Italy, Ryo has created a playful capsule for both men and women together with creative director Walter Chiapponi. Using creative free association, Ryo flipped the luxury houses’ logo to spell DOT’S, leading him to zero in on the dots of the brand’s iconic gommino sole. Experimenting with scale, these dots became large pebbles on the bottom of tasseled loafers that combine different leathers and textures in organic modulations of natural colours. The collection also has a crafty contemporary take on TOD’S classic Oboe bag, as well as ample trenches, knit shawls, tracksuits, shirts and trousers.

To celebrate the capsule being presented at Milan Fashion Week this month, Port spoke to Ryo about balance, craft and non-verbal communication. 

What was the push and pull, balance of collaboration, between yourself and Walter Chiapponi? It sounds like it was an equal and open exchange of prototypes, samples and products between the two brands.

We had contact with TOD’S several years ago, since then I have been communicating casually. We started more concrete conversations around the Fall of 2019. We met Mr. Della Valle when he came to Japan and we were invited to the TOD’S factory in the region of Le Marche, Italy, and the head office in Milan. We interacted with TOD’S Creative Director Walter Chiapponi, with craftsmen and people at the head office, and the collaboration started.

One of the images I have of Italy is that there is unique taste in colour scheme, and TOD’S is no exception, it is good at matching colours. In this capsule collection, I think that the colour diversity is higher than in the usual Hender Scheme collections, partly because I challenged that colour scheme. It’s a real design balance.

Why is ‘flip’ your creative slogan? How is it a useful prompt when approaching design?

Since both of us are brands that mainly focus on shoes and leather, I decided to combine the specialties of both by looking at the commonalities and differences. At that time, the keyword “TOD’S ⇄ DOT’S” came to my mind.

Based on “FLIP”, the keyword for making things in Hender Scheme, the idea is to flip the TOD’S logo and interpret DOT’S as pebbles on the sole of TOD’S. Using this idea as a starting point, I expanded this collection.

Everything looks relaxed, many pieces have a generous silhouette – did anything inspire this finish?

Overall, I really like the balance that the products have – it’s a unique one that combines Hender Scheme and TOD’S, but enough to recognise both brands’ presences.

I think this can be created by accumulating fine details, materials, colour schemes, etc., so from either point of view, it seems that either brand can be recognised. That is the balance that I aimed at from the beginning.

Could you expand on the thinking behind the materials that were chosen for the collection, I know leather is one of your (and TOD’S) fortes

With the intention to work on RTW as Hender Scheme, I considered leather as a material for clothing and added details cultivated in my shoe making experience, such as stitch work and hole decorations of medallions. And I think we came up with a collection that goes well with shoes, combining contemporary and modern ideas and designs with something very classic. I designed the products with the intention to create a strong identity.

Why is it important items have a manual imprint of the craftsmen/women who created the garment?

Craftsmanship is an important element in Hender Scheme’s manufacturing, and collaboration with brands that also celebrate craftsmanship is very inspiring. By visiting and observing the factory, I was able to create things by imagining the people and environment that work there, even when making things remotely. Since manufacturing started when COVID-19 became widespread, it was difficult to actually go back and forth and face-to-face communication was not easy. We tried to communicate through the objects between us and I was able to overcome the difficulty.

It was a very valuable experience to be able to share and understand each other at once by communicating through things such as mockups, prototypes, and patterns rather than through language. Also, there were many surprises when I received the samples and products, such as the high level of techniques and the excellence of the materials.

Do you have piece from the collection you’re particularly fond of?

This is a difficult question … Every item is indispensable because it is a collection with all items.

However, the most iconic item in this collection is the tassel loafers on the maxi pebble sole. This product embodies the concept of the collection as a completely new sole. The upper part has also modernised classic loafers with a manufacturing update with the Hender Scheme’s way of creation, described with keywords such as “NEW CRAFT” and “contemporary”. I think it became a very nice shoe.

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Uncanny Valley

Tod’s team up with photographer Ramak Fazel to uncover daily life in Silicon Valley

A whimsically themed waiting room at a Google lobby in Mountain View

The phrase ‘Silicon Valley’ conjures up images of frictionless automation, space-age secrecy and endless white laboratories. First used by journalist Don Hoefler when describing a group of young, plucky Californians looking to take on dominant Texan microchip corporations in 1971, the localised term has taken on global significance through the mass proliferation of personal computers and mobile applications. What we might imagine to be steeped in sci-fi, however, has in fact a more grounded reality.

The “flavored friendsˮ are part of the animation experience at the “Gingerbread Village,ˮ an annual winter festival held at Californiaʼs Great America

Seeking to peek under the illusory chrome hood of the Valley, Italian luxury brand Tod’s – through their experimental research arm No_ Code – have created a book with Iranian American photographer Ramak Fazel. Shot just before the pandemic at the end of 2019, Fazel captured the sprawling community with his trademark Rollieflex, uncovering the daily dramas of its inhabitants – how they get about (sometimes by horse, mostly hour-long commutes), what they eat (hand-made dumplings) and where they end their days (Cupertino “dive bars”). Available now and published by Rizzoli, Fazel’s images, as ever, have the distinct quality of an anthropologist and offer an intimate snapshot of one of the most protected and mysterious areas in the world. The aim of publication, according to Tod’s, is to “offer a tool that can be used to reconsider the clash between the California counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s and the digital atomization that ensued…They know everything about us. But what do we know about life in Silicon Valley?”

To celebrate its launch, Tod’s Men’s Visionary, Michele Lupi, caught up with Fazel to discuss what the project uncovered, taking time with images, as well as the future of the area.

Apple Park Visitors Center and the interactive augmented reality installation

Michele Lupi: There are no road signs that indicate where Silicon Valley ends and begins, in what ways can it be understood as a ‘utopia’ (‘no-place’ in Greek)?

Ramak Fazel: Silicon valley has become a concept and everyone of us – journalists sitting in London or creative directors sitting in Milan – has some of it in our jacket pockets and maybe even on our wrists. So it’s like water, it goes everywhere and it is everywhere.

David Moretti, the Creative Director at Apple Media Products, is an avid horseman. Riding Slate acts as a ballast to the executive’s daily four-hour commute between his East Bay home and the Apple campus

No_Code investigates the concept of “hybridization” in the contemporary world. What’s your interpretation of  “hybrid”?

It is one of those words that has entered our lexicon in many ways. I think of a hybrid car which might have an electric motor along with an internal combustion engine, but I think about the switching mechanism between those two, how does that car switch from electric to gas? And I think in that synapse between the two, that hybrid model, there’s something curious, something interesting in that triggering mechanism.

Route 101 was built largely tracing the original Spanish El Camino Real that connected the missions and presidios between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Further burnishing the “one-oh-one” status, most of Silicon Valleyʼs largest tech firms are dotted in peninsula cities along this road

You’ve been described as “an anthropologist with a camera around his neck”, what local cultures and social behaviors did you uncover on your visit?

I think that we all were struck by was how the Valley relies on a vast talent pool of engineers, programmers and thinkers, not to mention the entire support staff, so those people, they come to this peninsula from a catchment area that’s global in its reach. Silicon Valley is formed by many identities and people, we also observed an enormous number of Indian nationals who live and work in Silicon Valley, and they bring with them a culture and habits that are also shaping the area.

Yes, because they’re the engineers, right?

Yes

Anjan Katta, a recent Stanford graduate in electrical and bioengineering, poses the question of what a computer might be when you shift perspective from a “how” to a “why” model. Our reliance on constant will power to avoid distraction is one node informing his research. “Why,” Katta asks, “do we use the same machine to play Fortnite, do our homework, and watch Youtube?” In 2018 Katta was considered one of the “big thinkers” in Silicon Valley

How do the worlds of cutting-edge tech and humble Californians interact, overlap, include and exclude one another?

You could write books about this and you wouldn’t even need any photographs in them. A succinct way might be to consider the cost of housing. A surprising statistic that we discovered during the 12- month period between 2017 and 2018 was that the average cost of a single family home in San Jose (in a specific San Jose neighbourhood) increased by 100 dollars per hour in an entire year. That shift in behaviour of the average wage owning homeowner has disrupted a lot of patterns, not to mention an important one around consumption. So that was a kind of a descriptive discovery for us to learn, and from that point many things sort of clarified themselves.

fter eighty-four years of federal ownership, Moffett Field now operates under the stewardship of Google. Originally built to house military airships, the large hangars will be restored and repurposed as research laboratories testing high-altitude Internet balloons

You’re able to engineer both a spontaneity and intimacy with your photos. How do convince people, on the spot, to let you into their lives?

I like that question and I’ve wondered about that myself. I think people’s basic nature is good and people are willing to accommodate others, especially when you show genuine curiosity about them and what they’re doing.

Gene and JoAnn Tankersley in their house at 2055 Crist Drive recall the day when Jobs and Wozniak called them over to their garage across the street unveiling their new creation. When asked what they could use it for, the “Two Steves” responded: “JoAnn, you can put all your recipes on this computer.” Her response: “Steve, I prefer my handwritten index cards.”

What quality or characteristics do you believe your Rollieflex gives images?

Oh yes well…

Best camera ever!

Best camera ever. There’s something very static about that camera. That camera from its waist-level finder to its twin lenses, its just a recording device. It has a fixed lens that you don’t rely on any kind of focal length changes, it’s a box to record a piece of film, to record a scene onto a piece of film. It obliges you to work slower, it demands that you look before you shoot and one of the very important characteristics is that it allows me consistency to work with one camera over a long period of time. I’ve been using that camera for over 25 years, so images that I might have taken in the 90s share a visual vocabulary with images that you see in our book, so I very much appreciate this static part of the camera.

Around Silicon Valley, artisanal handwork reveals itself in surprising ways

And there is also an idea which we shared a couple of days ago about the idea of shooting in analogue, instead of digital, because you have to think about the single shot, right?

Yes, and I may have mentioned this but each frame costs (between film and processing) around 2 dollars so you don’t just blindly shoot like you might be inclined to with a digital camera, and its also very seductive that you don’t see the images as you’re shooting. As you shoot you have to imagine the image in your mind, you don’t have that feedback loop that you sometimes receive when you’re looking at a monitor. And in this case also, your attention is very much focused on your subject and your camera, and not a monitor, so that’s another thing that I appreciate and I notice often subjects also appreciate, that your attention is always focused on them.

The complex tidal flow patterns of the San Francisco Bay area can be observed in tidal regime that can vary by two meters

Do you think we are entering into a post digital era? Or something like that? Something that is changing the world? Are you curious about this definition – post digital ambience?

There is this term that I’ve heard referred to as a sort of ‘tech lash’, people are recoiling against digital platforms. I think the pandemic has also created this over reliance on these digital spaces, like we’re conversing now on Microsoft teams, but also zoom and many other platforms that supposedly ‘organise’ workers and conversations – that having all this aggravated through a digital space is frustrating for many of us. I mean the idea that our conversations take place like this one now, with pyjama bottoms, is frustrating!

Silicon Valley is preoccupied in many ways by the future, but what does the future hold for the area? Given that median house prices jumped from $100k to $1m after its accession as a geo-political base, where does it go from here?

This is another discovery we made – that Silicon Valley has gone through successive waves of development. What started as an agrarian society, gradually was transformed into a semi industrial one and now it represents the latest iteration as a knowledge and information economy. So the future was difficult to predict then and even more so now.

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Against the Grain

George Kafka travels to Le Marche, the ancestral home of Tod’s, to uncover how nearly a century of shoemaking heritage is adapting to a changing global market

Toni Ripani moves cuts of leather between his hands like they are one with his own body. He pokes and pinches at different sections, feeling for depth and texture; he runs his palm across the surface in search of blemishes. His hands appear rough but they are soft when shaken and delicate in their appraisal of the sheets. He is particularly fond of the wrinkled edges of the leather. Like the grain of a plank of wood, these marks speak to the former life of the thing that lies before him: an anatomical object that describes both beast and shoe.

Ripani, 72, is head of the leather department (and something of a celebrity) at Tod’s, the luxury shoe manufacturer based in Le Marche, eastern Italy. In the main foyer of the campus’s central building, a Vanessa Beecroft photograph shows Ripani, uncharacteristically stony faced, amidst a line-up of models draped in raw cuts of his beloved leather. The photo documents a performance by Beecroft in celebration of the craftsmanship of Ripani and his colleagues on the factory floors. “He was very emotional that day,” notes Andrea Della Valle, whose father, Dorino, was head of the company when Toni began working with the family, in 1974.

Della Valle is, today, the vice-chairman of Tod’s; his brother Diego is the chairman and CEO. Amidst the corporate minimalism of their campus, itself in the centre of an anonymous industrial park close to the Adriatic coast, the handprints of a tight family business run deep: The rustic cobbler’s desk where Filippo Della Valle, Diego and Andrea’s grandfather, began the business, in the early 20th century, is displayed on a shiny metallic plinth outside the prototype workshop. The bicycle Dorino used to get around the campus stands in an entrance foyer, untouched since his death in 2012. And the campus itself was designed by Diego Della Valle’s wife, the architect Barbara Pistilli. When it opened in 1998, it was pioneering in providing lifestyle facilities for its employees, with a gym and library, as well as a kindergarten for up to 28 kids.

Even the street on which the campus sits is named after Filippo Della Valle, and on the walls in offices and on the factory floor are portraits of Dorino, complete with cane and throne, at once a supreme leader and a dearly departed patriarch. Unsurprisingly, a number of employees, alongside Ripani, have stuck around for decades, out of loyalty to a dynastic enterprise that echoes the lineage of other Italian business families: the Lavazzas, Bulgaris and Ferragamos.

Even the Medicis may be a fitting comparison, considering the paternalistic and patronal role the Della Valle family plays in both local and national public life – their cultivation of a reputation that exceeds the luxury of their handmade leather shoes. Like the Medicis, the Della Valles are self-professed lovers and patrons of art, and the Tod’s campus is littered with sculptures and trophy objects, both commissioned and bought, in a way that is entertaining and occasionally incongruous, such as the juxtaposition of Anselm Kiefer’s 2005 painting ‘Dein und Mein Alter und das Alter der Welt’ beside the body of an F1 Ferrari. Beyond Le Marche, the Della Valles are familiar to a broader public: Until recently Andrea was the owner of Fiorentina Football Club. Meanwhile Diego has been celebrated in the Italian media for his multi-million-euro role in the restoration of the Colosseum. When a major earthquake struck Le Marche and surrounding regions in 2016, the Della Valles built a new factory at Arquata del Tronto to assist with the region’s economic recovery.

In the workshop for prototypes, a craftsman is filing a foot-shaped block of wood. With his own left foot, he tightens a leather band strapped to a wooden paddle that holds the block in place. Small adjustments narrow the ankle, curve the toe and flatten the bridge. He works with his eyes and his fingers, using no notes or technical drawings. His movements recount more than a decade of experience, a precision that crafts the wooden profiles around which Tod’s samples are moulded. To his right, a wall of wooden moulds – all right feet – document just the last four years of shoemaking at the factory.

Beginning as a lone cobbler at the turn of the 20th century, Filippo Della Valle started to manufacture shoes under the family name in the 1920s. Tod’s the brand was born in the 1970s under the guidance of Dorino and Diego (the Della Valle name was deemed unsuitable for a growing international market). Through the ’80s and ’90s, the company grew, acquiring the brand Fay and launching Hogan to reach a broader, predominantly North American market. Today, with 4,800 employees, over 250 stores worldwide and an annual turnover of nearly €1bn, Tod’s is a modernising heritage brand competing for attention in the rapidly changing luxury world, replete with capsule collections, sideline collaborations, exhibitions and ‘drops’.

Marrying the traditional values of Tod’s and the Della Valles with the Virgil Abloh-influenced evolution of the market is an ongoing challenge for the business. In February this year the company hired Michele Lupi, a former editor of GQ, Rolling Stone and Icon Design in Italy, as ‘men’s collection visionary’. “I had written an editorial asking myself how a big luxury company can take their classic lines and combine them with this new movement – younger people, teenagers who want to have luxury goods from big companies,” explains Lupi. Diego Della Valle read the piece and invited Lupi to meet. “He told me,” continues Lupi: “‘In a year from now, all the companies will take on editors from around the world. Not to do public relations, but content. That’s the big difference, because in the near future big companies like mine will be more like a media company.’”

Thus, at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan, Lupi oversaw an installation by architect Andrea Caputo comprised of a series of shelters, each housing video interviews with contemporary figures, such as designers Formafantasma and illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli, discussing contemporary life and work. The installation promoted the newly launched Tod’s No_Code project, which blends handmade craftsmanship and tech aesthetics. With its allusions to changing contemporary lifestyles, streetwear and the influence of digital culture, Tod’s No_Code is an attempt to introduce the more traditional hallmarks of the brand to millennial markets. The hybrid line is selling particularly well in China.

Back on the factory floor, in the central building of the Tod’s campus, a shoe pops out the oven. It’s a slim, slip-on suede piece, designed to sit below the ankle in two shades of blue; lighter in the vamp and tongue, darker in the lining of the collar. The sole, dotted with rubber ‘pebbles’, runs around the bottom of the heel and half way up the counter. This is the driving shoe, or gommino in Italian, Tod’s quiet icon. The driving shoe is a lightweight loafer, designed for comfort and a sturdy grip on the floor of an automobile.

The shoes rose to popularity during the boom of the Italian car industry during the 1960s. Tod’s handmade version was launched in the ’80s, and today the brand is more or less synonymous with the style, like a Clarks desert boot or Converse baseball sneaker. Usually spotted as part of a smart-casual look in the UK, the shoe takes on a more comfortably elegant position in an Italian context. Rolling through the production line on the Le Marche factory floor – from the close stitching of its structure, to the fixing of its form around a plastic mould, the gluing of its sole, and eventual boxing and packaging, all by hand – it’s easy to imagine these shoes on the feet of the someone incredibly chic, probably driving a Ferrari, careering along an open road, perhaps away from the stable family heritage of Le Marche, in the direction of unknowable destinations to come.

Photography Ilyes Griyeb

This article is taken from issue 25. To buy the issue or subscribe, click here

No_Code Shelter

We travel to the Salone del Mobile.Milano to experience Tod’s design installation with architect Andrea Caputo, a celebration of alternative living and shelters across time and space

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter

What is a fundamental need for mankind, as essential as fire, food and water? For as long as we have existed, we have required some form of shelter from the sublime natural elements of the world – physical and immaterial structures that are vital for life to exist and thrive. With 68% of the world projected to live in urban areas by 2050 – many of which are drastically segregated by wealth, dangerously polluted and dealing with huge population fluxes – how and where we live has never been more important. In order to better understand where we are headed, architect Andrea Caputo has created a stunning installation and design concept for Italian luxury brand Tod’s to show where we have been.

Taking place at Spazio Cavallerizze during this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan, visitors navigate a 1,000 square metre rug which not only matches the topographic footprint of an African village, but doubles as a map between the towering structures on show. For Caputo, the partnership matched perfectly because “the research we wanted to explore was fully aligned with Tod’s No­_Code concept, which seeks to understand the beginnings of typologies and design languages.” Charting the varied archetypes of shelters since the dawn of civilisation – from Musgum mud huts to nomadic Bedouin camps – Andrea Caputo Studio have reimagined these traditional architectures in disarmingly modern materials. A yurt has a tempered glass floor, exposing the simplicity of the build, while a giant structure from Casamance is composed of rosewood, zebrano wood and metal tubes, all of which work together to ingeniously collect water.

Andrea Caputo, photography Adriano Biondo

“We kept the typology, scale and morphology of the structures, but shifted the technologies and materials in order to create a tension,” explains Caputo, “and despite it being a hybrid we wanted to keep it manual. It was important for us to be faithful and build it by hand – no 3D printing. In many ways it’s also a didactic installation, we include the history and technical facts behind the structure and share our way of reading them, such as technical notes on how to layer, wrap, weave and assemble.” These contrasts are further complimented by films embedded inside, each visual story from a rich range of contemporary speakers who are rethinking our habits and how we live, including Italian design duo Formafantasma, Japanese art director and racing driver Mai Ikuzawa and design titan Marcello Gandini.

Photography Adriano Biondo

Celebrating the spontaneity, informality and increasingly lost art of craft and DIY – an act that is socio-politically opposed to confined real-estate developments and cramped urban planning – the team have mined decades-long research to inform the exhibition. The collective wisdom from luminaries such as Lloyd Kahn, Stewart Brand and D.C. Beard are showcased, all of whom have not only contributed to the academic field of shelters, but cultivated a global community of separatists seeking different ways to live. Leafing through the iconic counterculture Whole Earth Catalog published by Brand, Caputo reflects that, “I bumped into this 20 years ago and it influenced me deeply. DIY culture is incredible. You had guys living in caravans on Big Sur regularly putting out print books and magazines, sharing their learning and providing tools to people refusing to live in the conditions we’re told to.” Asked whether there’s any chance this radical DIY culture could stage a comeback, Caputo notes that, “Today, there’s a stronger urge to be off-grid, not belonging to mainstream plans and conditions which are given to us. But in Western, urbanised countries, it’s nearly impossible to foster this way of life. The grey zones are more and more difficult to find and in many places it’s simply illegal to build some of these structures in the natural landscape. It’s a lifestyle and philosophy rather than strictly an object and a result. There’s also the danger that once you commercialise a project like this, then it ceases to mean anything. My goal is for people to appreciate this ecologically sound, self-sustaining attitude.”

Photography Adriano Biondo

Tod’s No_Code concept “examines the changes happening in contemporary society resulting from the rapid progression we are seeing in existing codes: the way we work, our interpersonal relationships and our ever evolving clothing and style needs.” The joint installation, which celebrates and questions our relationship to craftsmanship and the places we call home – set within the context of a world on the brink of irreversible climate change – show that the brand is serious about addressing these transformations in visual codes and where, exactly, we find shelter from the coming storm.

As part of Tod’s No_Code project, Korean designer Yong Bae Seok recently released the No_Code Shoeker, uniting the classic shoe and sport sneaker