SHOES THAT EMBRACE
A MODERN ZEITGEIST
Doucal’s: Italian-crafted English-style shoes since 1973
Doucal’s a name born in English
to narrate the italian dream.
In 1968, Mario Giannini opened an artisanal shoemaking workshop in the heart of the Marches region of Italy. It was called Ducale because they manufactured luxury items for an aristocratic clientèle. After all, it was located in central Italy, where medieval dukes fostered a culture of art, craft and trade. In a few years, this workshop became an enterprise, and in 1973 Doucal’s was founded with an English-sounding name reflecting the aspirations of an Italian man who appreciated the style and quality of British footwear.
english style rules
Indeed, Mario Giannini actually went to Northampton and visited the British shoe-manufacturing district for a Goodyear workmanship project. He learnt all the secrets of the various construction methods and was able to identify the main features of English style, which was so influential on the European market in the Seventies. When he came back home after his training stint, he instilled in his small firm all the commitment and respect for work that he had seen and admired on the factory floors in Great Britain. Nevertheless, Doucal’s was and will always be a quintessentially Italian company, with that sense of aesthetics, subtlety and etherealness that is so often found in Italy.
The founder and owner was able to make his dream come true, manufacturing shoes of lasting quality which slip on more easily and fit better than their stiffer English equivalents.
Yesterday, today and
His sons’ arrival in the company was a boon to business. In less than two decades, Mario had transformed a small artisanal workshop into an Italian-manufacturing industry ready to be further developed by the second generation. Gianni was the shoe man, dealing with style in his capacity of image and product manager. Jerry was appointed as financial and commercial director, the numbers man. Before he handed over the helm of the business to his sons, Mario made sure that the strengths of the company were not forgotten. As a result, the company continued to manufacture shoes for big names such as Armani, Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Joshij Yamamoto alongside the house-brand shoes. Then, in due time these partnerships came to an end and the company focused entirely on its own products.
Doucal’s footwear was now designed with English aesthetics and a unique Italian fit guaranteed by a footbed with a layer of shape-memory foam, keeping the foot cool and comfortable while exerting an antibacterial action and ensuring an easy fit. This special design gave the footwear a definite edge which was greatly appreciated by the new emerging markets. Countries such as Russia, China, the USA and Japan together with Europe became thriving and reliable export markets for the company.
THE MULTI-SITE FACTORY
MONTEGRANARO AND NORTHAMPTON ALIKE:
A DISTRICT REACHING STRIDE
The Italy of fashion and style is organised into 21 different production districts. Montegranaro in the province of Fermo is the district of men’s footwear, with shoes that still require more than 100 different manufacturing steps to be carried out by hand. It has been the Italian equivalent of Northampton for a century now, although, if the truth be told, this great manufacturing tradition goes back to medieval times.
In the early years of the second millennium, companies, workshops and manufacturers, both large and small, gradually moved away to industrial sites. There was a brief moment when Gianni and Jerry Giannini thought about following suit and leaving the old neighbourhood where their father had founded Doucal’s in 1973. But it didn’t take long for the two brothers to take a look around them and realise what they already knew in their hearts. The entrance to the factory was an eighteenth-century homestead with three sides overlooking that gentle countryside that is so typical of the Marches region: fields stretching out as far as the eye can see, rolling hills and, far in the distance, a glimpse of the sea on the horizon. Half the employees came to work on foot, enjoying a walk in the fresh air and the beautiful local surrounds. This was an invaluable aspect that nourished the soul. There was only one decision to be made. They would stay and try to bridge the gap between innovation and tradition. This led to the idea of a multi-site factory, with premises spreading out over six different old plants which were upgraded and linked to each other without altering the original architecture of the neighbourhood. Today, the occupied surface area amounts to 4,000 square metres, paving the way for new extensions to be made to build on the success of Doucal’s women’s collections.