perfecting the art of shoemaking
for nearly a century
When and where were you founded?
Our bottega – or ‘home-based’ workshop – was founded by my grandfather in Montegranaro, Italy, back in the 1950s. The location in itself is a statement, as Montegranaro is historically the capital of artisanal, hand-made men’s shoe production. At the beginning, and for the decades when my father and uncle took on the business, the clients were all final customers. Eventually, in 2004, we decided to evolve our production and propose our shoes to a select group of retailers. This development coincided with the birth of Bontoni as the family brand.
Which styles did you design for that first collection?
The first collection created for retail was inspired by the models that my grandfather originally designed, like Cap Toe Oxfords, Wingtip Oxfords and Penny Loafers. There were also some very innovative models that stemmed from the powerful mix of three generations being involved in our design evolution. Those designs reflected my grandfather’s avant-garde and artistic spirit, which also inspired my father and uncle. The three-buckle Excelsior was one style that really stood out from the first collection, and eventually it became one of Bontoni’s most iconic pieces.
"A trait that makes us unique is our hand-colouring process; it is an art we have refined over the decades. Our customers love it and that makes us very proud of our work."
What makes Bontoni unique?
At Bontoni, we combine the highest quality of materials and the finest craftsmanship skills with omnipresent research for new designs. Our aim is to contribute to the ambitious mission of constantly innovating the world of classic men’s shoes. Another trait that makes us unique is our hand-colouring process; it is an art we have refined over the decades. Our customers love it and that makes us very proud of our work..
How do you see the future?
Although we have been enjoying a growing demand worldwide, our philosophy would lose integrity if we were to turn this family business into something different for the sake of growth. In an artisanal process, it is crucial to keep the balance on a human scale, simply because we cannot control each phase of production if the scale is not proportional. Our maniac attention to detail could not be preserved if we were to run a mass production operation. These are the reasons why Bontoni sees a future where there is no need to alter our structure. We aim to stay true to the brand’s soul, as gentlemen around the world will ineluctably continue to look for absolute beauty and uniqueness.
How many people work at Bontoni?
Our nine masters have all grown up in our workshop at different times; the senior masters learned shoemaking from my father and uncle, and they are the keepers of exclusive skills. Each one of us contributes uniquely to the creation of our shoes. Since the early days, my family has always given much value to every person who joined the workshop, and we have been living and working in a familiar atmosphere ever since.
Could you explain the differences between the classic Goodyear and Norvegese families of constructions, and the newly-introduced spring summer soles?
From all of our constructions, Norvegese has the longest production time and is the most aesthetically identifiable. Of its three stitching lines, two are completely sewn by hand; the thread used for the stitching is also produced in our workshop, using natural wax. This construction has not only a bold look, but also offers extreme comfort. It’s understandably the most valuable construction. Goodyear is perfect for a more classic and clean shoe design. It has two stitching lines that allow for the use of thinner soles, which make it particularly adaptable for light leather soles for the spring and summer seasons.
"From all of our constructions, Norvegese has the longest production time and is the most aesthetically identifiable. This construction has not only a bold look, but also offers extreme comfort. It’s understandably the most valuable construction."
What is your personal favourite shoe and why?
From the latest collections, I have to say that I am opting more and more for classic models in suede, but with a touch of smart-casual given by the Norvegese construction — that’s a striking combination of style, functionality and top quality, guaranteed by a hand-made product. The Magnifico Shoe design, shown here, is a perfect example of my preference so far.
Since you were brought up in a great culinary tradition in the Marche, could you tell us a bit about another subject close to your heart: what are your favourite foods and wine?
I confess that living in the Marche region makes me a really spoiled man...! In such a small territory, we can choose daily between excellent meats from the Appenini grazing lands and a variety of fresh fish from the Adriatic Sea. I will be honest in saying that my favourite dish is the apparently simple, but technically arduous: spaghetti with tomato sauce. A classic of supposedly astonishing simplicity, but so hard to make by the book. I will take this example as a metaphor to say something more about what we do at Bontoni: a Cap Toe Oxford also looks simple and clean, but it’s the hardest to craft to perfection.
In conclusion, I would suggest you try a glass of one of our wonderful local red wines, which shares its name with one of our shoe models. I will leave it to you to guess which one it is.
Discover the Pauw Mannen's extensive shoe collection here