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  • Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story

    Antonio Pio Mele

    The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story

     

    "I'm someone who never feels satiated. And my target clientele just as demanding as me." This is how Antonio Pio Mele describes himself when I meet him at his atelier, which has recently been remodelled in Via Soncino 3, Milan. Originally hailing from Puglia, born in 1978, a sophisticated palette when it comes to style and fashion, he receives me sporting a double-breasted 6x2 in wool made by the late Tindaro de Luca, accessorized with a cashmere tie and French-cuff shirt.

                                                                                                      

    Just as with any self-respecting success story, it all started with a garage and a dream: to make the most stylish made-to-measure shoes for men in the world. That was back in 1999, and young Antonio already had a propitious foot in the door, thanks to his father's company which makes high-heeled women's footwear. Arriving in Milan, he immediately set about making footwear for friends and relatives. "The building supervisor must have given me about ten warnings about the smell of glue coming from my apartment," Antonio recalls dryly. 2008 saw the opening of his laboratory in Lorenteggio. And then he got the travel bug, moving to London before returning to Italy – Treviso and Pistoia respectively – to learn how to make trekking shoes and then to uncover the secrets of the tubular moccasin. In Milan, he worked for the major names in men's shoes, including Freccia Bestetti: "At Freccia, I learnt to hand-sew those fine stiches on cowboy boots" he says while puffing a Cohiba. With his gracious ways, he soon built up friendships and trust amongst the Milanese aristocracy. And it was thanks to this circle of friends that he found himself creating made-to-measure shoes for the then King of Spain, Juan Carlos, and then for the former King of Saudi Arabia, Abd al-Aziz Al Sa’ud.

     

    Antonio, who cites as sources of inspiration Bentivegna, Orio, D'Agata and Gatto, today even holds conferences on luxury goods at the Domus Academy, and he carefully selects his craftsmen to guarantee the artisan nature of his creations. While we're on the subject of the craftsmanship behind his shoes, their soles, midsoles and welts are all hand-sewn; it is this detail that makes them stand out from the better-known Goodyear construction, which is made along the same lines as the tyres of the same name. Manufacture takes about 43-45 hours per pair of shoes, with a starting price of €3,000. In reply to my enquiry on whether or not he uses a layer of cork between the sole and the midsole, he answers that he prefers to use layers of soft leather, because, he warns, "with time and humidity, cork gets deformed, making the shoe uncomfortable."

     

    The showroom in Via Torino, which has a kind of smokers' lounge in the back with a special air-con system, can only be visited upon appointment. And the lucky visitor will be greeted not only with footwear, but also with tailor-made clothing (suits starting at €2,600), as well as accessories in exotic leathers and other choice materials, from cigar-cutters in oryx horn, to a trolley in hand-painted leather from the Mississippi alligator. Indeed any gentleman who so desires could commission an Ali Baba's cave worth of fine objects for daily use, including a shaving brush made of zebu horn.

     

    My visit led to me commissioning a pair of wholecuts in a sublime shape. I attach some photos of the measurements being taken, and will follow on with snaps of the fitting session.

     

    Bespoke hugs,

    Fabio

    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story
    Antonio Pio Mele The bespoke shoemaker of the Kings tells his story

    Ph. credits: Super Ko

    The Milanese Chapter: Four Shirtmakers
    The French Chapter: Ardentes Clipei

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