Vittorino & Giuliano, Venice Beach 1949.
LET ME TELL YOU A STORY
I’ll always remember the first time I saw the photo of my Grandad’s shoe shop. I was eight or nine and was “helping” my dad in his office. He’d often enlist my services to file paperwork and tidy up. I took great pride in making sure everything was in its right place. That day, I came across a photograph of Nonno Carlo in the doorway of his shoe shop in Varese. I distinctly remember naively thinking how young he was compared to the man I knew. But what really struck me was how proud he looked. That’s when I started to take an interest in our family business.
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
Carlo first opened his doors in 1899 in Milan. The world was a very different place back then. Shoes were made by master cobblers. There was little or no mechanisation, and clothes and footwear were made to order. Nor were there endless racks of identical clothes or industrial sewing machines, but bespoke garments and shoes that were tailored to each individual.
A skilled cobbler, Nonno Carlo was confident in his ability and determined to make his business a success. But it wasn’t going to be easy.
Carlo Figini stands proud in the doorway of his second shop in 1920.
The store near el Duomo on Piazza San Babila
ON THE MOVE
The political upheaval of the Great War and the subsequent need to move the business to Varese in 1920 didn’t put a damper on his spirit. Carlo worked hard through the tough times and was eventually able to fulfill an ambition that had stuck with him: bring Figini back to its Milanese birthplace.
His sons, Vittorino and Mario, set up shop on the Piazza San Babila in 1958 and soon realised that they needed to get a foothold in the luxury market. My dad and uncle were shrewd and industrious men. Their hard work paid off and they opened another shop on Via Spadari just one year later.
IN THE LIMELIGHT
It was the swinging ’60s that saw Figini gain substantial notoriety as a favourite of the stars. Footballer Omar Sivori, Formula One champion Emerson Fittipaldi, and actor and director Uno Tognazzi were all snapped wearing Figini shoes during that memorable era. A stylish young man named Gianni Versace was also regular way back when he was still starting out in the world of fashion.
Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to collaborate with a number of Italian artists including Brunetta Mateldi and Luigi Le Voci, who created the iconic La Scala Theatre posters. Even the precious feet of La Scala’s prima ballerina, Carla Fracci, were spotted in Figini.
Artworks byÂ Brunetta Mateldi and Luigi Le Voci
Shoe sketches made by Giuliano Figini
THE NEXT GENERATION
Alongside my siblings Carlo and Fausta, we took the reigns of the business we’d been involved in since our childhood. It felt great to be the third generation running Figini, but we knew we had to make our family proud and keep improving the business.
Inspired to take Figini further, I started to sketch my own designs. I studied economics, but I desperately wanted to design the shoes we were selling. I would talk to our clients directly and they’d tell me exactly what they’d like to see in a shoe. It was these conversations that inspired me to start designing and improving the products we sold. I taught myself to draw, make shoes and understand every aspect of the business. From sketching an idea to polishing the finished product, I wanted to learn how to do everything.
Seeing my ideas come to life still keeps me inspired today.
Milan emerged from the 1970s as one of the World’s four fashion capitals. There was so much energy in the fashion scene at that time. Inspired by what I saw around me, I decided to introduce something radical to the market. After much experimentation, we launched the mismatched colour combinations. This was the start of something that would allow us to reach new customers all over the world.
The mismatched pumps became particularly popular in Japan and gained significant exposure in the fashion press there. This development would come to define Figini and build the brand’s momentum into a new century.
Amal Clooney in Asymmetric pump (Summer 2014)
Giuliano Figini and Carlo Figini
OUR COMMITMENT TO QUALITY
Just like Grandad Carlo did all those years ago, we still make bespoke shoes to order and only create limited runs of our collections. It keeps the quality high and the product special. It would have been easy to mass-produce, but it would’t be easy to replicate the quality of a trained craftsman.
So as we look forward to the next 100 years, I’d like to thank you for being a part of our story.