A Trip to Vigevano to Meet Riccardo Bestetti
Riccardo Bestetti and I have been virtual friends for a long time. He is probably one of the first bespoke shoemakers that I had contact with in reality (outside of Stefano and G&G). As I always liked his shoes and yearned for content, I asked him to email me when he had new stuff. But our emails were more than simply an exchange of photos for gratitude. Through our passion of footwear and writings we became friends. What most people may not know is that Riccardo is absolutely crazy for shoes, not only his own but for all beautiful shoes. I think that he may have a picture collection (of all shoes) that makes mine look miniscule. That being, him and I were very similar and it made it easy for us to exchange emails when we both had a mutual passion for shoes (and it did not hurt that I can write in Italian too!)
Therefore, as you can imagine, we had always wanted to meet in person to finally put faces to names. As I was going to Milan for Lineapelle, I finally realized that this was the perfect opportunity and tacked on a few extra days to my trip to spend some time with my old pal. Needless to say, Riccardo was also delighted to finally have this opportunity so we made a plan for me to go to Vigevano to see his workshop and then later go for a typical Milanese dinner, of which I was excited for! I spent the afternoon at his workshop and then accompanied by Gianni Cerruti of Passagio Cravatte went back to Milan for one of the best dinners ever. It was a great night and would have been worth the trip alone.
I have to preface this write up by saying that Riccardo Bestetti is a fantastic person. And when I say this, I am not talking about him as a shoemaker, but simply him as a person. Not only is he genuine, nice, hospitable, kind, passionate, humble and the rest of it, but most importantly he cares. Not only does he care about shoes, his as well as others, but he cares for the customer and how the customer feels at the end of it. But for me, this was obvious and something that I already knew. What was most admirable for me was the way in which he cared about his family, particularly his one and only son.
The way in which someone treats their family says a lot about a person to me. And when he spoke of his son, you could see all of the love and passion that he possessed glowing out of his skin. For example, he told me that he does not travel as much as he should as he could not bear to be away from his son for so long. And when I asked him if he would want to have other children, he said that he could not imagine having to share his love for his son to another. It was beautiful and moved me in ways that many others have not. And while I know that this has nothing to do about shoes, for me it is important as it has everything to do with Riccardo and what kind of person he is. If I was a bespoke customer, this would matter to me, so for those of you like me, I share this.
For those that may not know, Riccardo Bestetti is a self-taught shoemaker, having started with Western cowboy boots before moving on to the masterpieces that we see today. It started about 20 years ago when he had bought some handmade boots in Texas. Having flown to the US to visit a family member he went to the bootmaker to collect his 2 pairs of boots (of which he had ordered some months before). Of course they were not ready, so Riccardo told them that they needed to finish before he left back to Italy and that he was going to stay and watch as they finished them. He did just that and after having returned to Italy, thought to himself, ‘why purchase more boots like this? I can do what they did!’ He therefore, kept one and ripped the other apart only to examine it and start to try and build one of his own. With a bit of common sense, some trial and error and a few good books on bootmaking, he did just that and quickly became a bootmaker.
Riccardo did bootmaking for about 5 years, after which he started to become more curious with regards to the world of shoes. So, he decided to make a switch and took what he knew from bootmaking and transferred it to shoemaking. He started with quite basic bespoke shoes, not having any of the fancy bells and whistles that he does today. The waists were quite normal and the lasts quite conservative. But he wasn’t completely satisfied with that so he decided to start doing things that he could attach a persona to, such as the pegged waists and the uniquely shaped lasts and patterns. With those, he created the ‘Bestetti look,’ of which is still very prevalent to this day and is easily recognized without doubt. The rest is kind of history, as you have seen develop on this blog. Riccardo albeit in the industry for a long time, is still very small in the grand scheme of things as he remains a one man band, using the help of only a few workers on occasion (mainly with the shoes outside of bespoke, of which he does all by himself). And everything that comes out with his name on it, is done in his workshop in Vigevano, not outsourcing anything (with the exception of the closing of the uppers).
It was an absolute pleasure to have finally met Riccardo and of course to see all of the shoes. Needless to say, he is a master in the industry and his works of art are simply amazing. If you have ever been curious to give him a go, but have been on the fence, I wholeheartedly suggest you let that go and give him a try as what he does is beautiful to say the least…. the pictures clearly speak for themselves….
For those that may be curious and not know, Riccardo has 3 main ways of getting his shoes:
- Made to Order €1200 – These are handwelted shoes that have machine stitched soles, made on generic last shapes (no alterations) but the pattern can be made on any last and any color.
- Novecento Line €1500 – These are completely handmade shoes, made just like a bespoke shoe but on a standard existing last with possible mild modifications.
- Bespoke €3000 – With bespoke sky is the limit and everything is done by hand on a last made to your foot’s measurements.
If you are in the NYC region this Thursday/Friday (Oct. 16th/17th), Riccardo Bestetti will be having a trunk show at Leffot in the Village. This is his debut visit to the States so now would be a good time to do what you can to see his shoes if you have not already.
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