HOW DIEGO DELLA VALLE BECAME THE ITALIAN RALPH LAUREN
From The New Yorker
May 10, 2004
Cassette d'Ete, a town in the Italian province of Le Marche, has been a center of shoemaking in Italy for almost a century. There are thousands of shoe manufacturers in the region, mostly small factories employing about a hundred people each, producing every variety of footwear imaginable, from high heels to hiking boots. Many residential garages and basements are also devoted to shoemaking. Fifty thousand people make shoes in Le Marche, but jobs are rapidly declining, as manufacturing moves to Eastern Europe and China.
I first visited Casette d'Ete last fall, during a day of thick fog. I was expecting to find charming streets lined with cobblers cheerfully pounding nails into soles, but all I could see through the gloom was boxy industrial spaces, whose exteriors revealed nothing of what went on inside. Then, out of the fog, emerged a two-story white marble palazzo. This was the main plant for Tod's, an Italian company that Americans assume is British and the British think is American. It is one of the largest luxury-shoe factories in the world, producing fifteen thousand pairs a day. On a small hill nearby, I could just make out the tower of what used to be a medieval granary and is now the vent of an indoor swimming pool in the home of Diego Della Valle, the founder of Tod's and the king of the Marchigiano shoemakers.
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Copyright © John Seabrook 2005. All rights
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