Santoni Factory Visit


In November 2012, Santoni Society was invited the visit the Santoni Headquarter and factory. You can not get closer to the real handmade shoes from Santoni than this.

After a flight to Ancona Airport on monday, I was picked up by one of Santoni's drivers and welcomed to Corridonia, located in the Marche region which is famous for its shoemakers history. I went to my hotel in Macerata and had a wonderful dinner with Silvia from Santoni's Marketing department. 

The next day, was the day of my visit to the factory. The program of the day: a tour through the headquarter, an extensive tour through the factory, a visit to the factory store and of course a meeting with Mr. Giuseppe Santoni. I went to the industrial area of Corridonia. In the middle of this area, there is outstanding building that looks very futuristic compared to the surrounding buildings. This is Santoni's new headquarter, built right next to the factory where every shoe is made by hand. There is no passage for just everyone, you have to be invited to get into the building. But luckily we were.

At the entrance there is a table that gives you a great understanding of Santoni's hand-made shoes. The colours used to give the shoes the patina look, tools used in the fabrication of the shoes and of course, some of the results: Santoni shoes. Next to this table you get a little look into the history of Santoni. 

Santoni's Headquater is sustainable and eco-compatible, these are the key elements that inspire the craftsmanship of Santoni from a long time and they are expressed in the manufacture process. The materials used to construct the new headquarters – glass, steel and aluminium – are 90% recyclable.
Another Santoni “must” is to work as much as possible with the natural light. The building is completely transparent and they have a “double-skin” facade that allows the building to function as a green house during winter months and as a solar hearth during the summer months. 

In order to complete the “green” project Santoni has created a large photovoltaic power system by capacity of 1.107.500 kWh per year (approximately 170% of energy needs Santoni) on car parks and on the covers of their own production units, in order to auto-generate electricity directly from sunlight. These systems generate clean energy that is used by Santoni for creating shoes to "zero impact", contributing to the protection of Planet Earth.

Finally the luxuriant hanging gardens, called "green walls", in the main hall and the conference rooms provide an unexpected breath of fresh air to the offices, making them more pleasant and liveable, while also purifying the air in a natural way.

In the middle of the headquaters you will find a sample collection of the upcoming season. In  my case it was the 2013 Spring/Summer collection. Over a few hundred shoes are presented here in this hall with almost nothing but natural light. What stands out is that all the workplaces and offices are all situated around this hall. This was the idea of Giuseppe Santoni himself. He wants all the employees to be in contact with the Santoni product. By the way, the collection looked incredibly beautiful.

After the tour through Santoni's headquarter we walked to the factory to see the production process of the famous Santoni shoes. The smell of new shoes becomes more and more intens, the closer you get to the door that gives you entrance to the heart of Santoni, the factory. In this factory, hundreds of craftsmen are working every day to create around 1000 pairs of Santoni shoes. 

The productions starts with the material, the leather. Every piece of leather is personally selected by Mr. Andrea Santoni himzelf. Only the best leather is good enough for Santoni. When he selects the leather at the suppliers, he marks them to make sure that only the leather that he personally selected will enter the factory. Santoni uses mainly calf leather but also exotic types of leather like crocodile, ostrich and ray.

After the leather is selected, craftsmen cut out the leather parts of each shoe by hand. This is a very precise job because they also have to inspect the leather whether it is damaged a little bit and if so, they cut around these bits. For the exotic leather, the job is even more precise. Because of the natural structure of the skin, for example crocodile, it is more like a puzzle to make sure that the part of the left shoes matches with the same part of the right shoe. Usually, there is used 1 crocodile per shoe.

After cutting out the individual pieces of the shoes, the pieces are numbered and stitched together by other craftsmen. After this stage, the model of the shoe becomes more visible. The left and right upper of the shoes are collected and put on a tray together with the lasts, soles and the heels. This ensures that all parts of the shoes are correct and there will be no mistakes.

Then a craftsman puts the upper on top of a last and forms the upper around it and attaches it to the last with nails. Now you can really see the model and the shape of the shoe. During this progress, a machine is being used for giving the shoe its shape but a craftsman still uses authentic tools the finalize this process. The shoe will stay on the last for one week, the Limited Edition shoes even for 4 weeks.
When the shoe is formed around the last, a cork mass is smeared on the bottom of the shoe. This gives the shoe a more soften feeling when you walk with them and more flexibility. Also there is a shank attached on the bottom of the shoe right in front of the heel to give the shoe more strenght.
In the meantime, another craftsman has painted the edges of the sole and heel dark. This is easier to do when the sole and upper are still seperated. Then the upper and sole are stitched together and the stitching is made invisible by folding a very thin layer of leather sole on top of the stitching. With a machine, the heel is attached and a craftsman makes the edges of the sole round. The shoeconstruction is finished but the Santoni shoe still has to get a lot of treatments.
The first of those many treatments is the colouring of the edges of the sole and heel. Normally this is done with a very dark color of brown or black. When the edges are dry, the sole is being painted in the typical and recognizable orange color.
Now the shoe is only a few stages away from being put inside the box. First of all the shoe needs to get its individual colour. In a different section of the factory there is a large number of artisans very busy with the patina colouring of the shoes. They have had a training for many years to learn how to mix colours and make the shades on the shoes. With 1 sample at the end of their table, they color every shoe the same way to make sure that the match of the design that was intended. This coloring process is what makes every Santoni shoe so beautiful and unique. What is being used for the coloring is a good kept secret, but there are many colors being used, all together with only paper and water. In this part of the factory the artisans also color and paint the belts, accessories and the popular Santoni for IWC straps.
After the Santoni shoes got their color they only need to get a final inspection and then they are been given a final polishing treatment. Of course this is also been done by hand using nothing but natural wax and a cloth.
Now the shoes are being put inside the dust bags and inside a box. The spare laces and Santoni information are added to the box. Ready for you to be worn with pride.
After the extensive tour trough the factory, it was time to meet Mr. Giuseppe Santoni. i met him in one of the conference rooms with a green wall. A part of the floor was made of glass so the designers in the designing department also have natural light from above. Mister Santoni is a very busy man that knows exactly what is going on inside his company, so he also knew about my visit. He travels a lot, from the showroom in Milan to the far east where Santoni opened some shops last year. In the little time that we had, we had a very nice conversation about the company, the factory, the product but also about Santoni Society. There was even time for a picture.

Visiting the Santoni factory and headquater is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am very thankfull to Roberto Martinelli, Silvia Campanelli and Giuseppe Santoni for the invitation.
More pictures of the visit to Santoni are available on our Facebookpage or upon request by email.
This report is written by Robbert van Beersum, exclusively for Santoni Society

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