Antonio Pio Mele

"It’s not a kind of work, it is a disease for me."

Antonio Pio Mele

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Dear Mr. Pio Mele I have noticed that you came from a Milanese family with long tradition in this craft and that you have start doing bespoke since 17 years old. Why you were attracted to shoes and what is the hook that kept you since then in the shoe shop?

Making shoes was the most natural thing for me. I live, breath and dream about shoes.. Is not a kind of work, is a disease for me… I don’t do this for money. It is pure pleasure.

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If we are talking about bespoke we speak of a very narrow group of unique Gentlemen. What is the profile of you clients and what are there preferences?

From the King Juan Carlos of Bourbon to every elegant customer, the entire Gentleman all the same for me. They all have the same importance and all their orders are significant. I try to satisfy their needs equally.

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For an untrained eye the first impression of a shoe is given by the leather. You use all kind of exotic leathers. Please tell my readers the secrets of choosing the right leather for your shoes. Where do you buy the leather from (country) and how are the leathers tanned. We see every day shoes made from stingray for example which are very cheap. What is the difference between 50 euro leather and very good leather?

The best leathers I use are in accordance with the list which follows: French calf from France, velour and scotch grain from UK, exotic leather like alligators from USA or North Africa, ostrich from South Africa, pythons and tejus from Asia, cordovan from USA and Russian reindeer from my tannery in Bulgaria. Soles comes from Toscana and Germany, insoles leather from UK. Another important aspects are the quality of raw skin, the tanning process, the refinishing and other particular the make the price difference.

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Tell me about the shoemakeing process.

To summarize the process is: I see the foot, I take the measures and make a good valuation of the shoe and what the customers want, I make the last and the shoe tree, make the first trail shoe. If necessary the second and the third, if is all okay start to make a model on the customer last and I start to make the shoe with all natural materials. After 4/6 month the shoes are ready and the gentleman can freely walk with a new bespoke pair.

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Where do you get your inspiration for the models? What other shoemakers/companies that you admire or you are influenced by?

My inspiration come not from other brands or manufacturer but from classic old school which is the best and I always remember that if you have a good customer that understand shoes and love it, you will work better… I am not a designer or stylist I am a Bespoke Shoemaker.

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Can you describe the most unique shoe that a client has ever ordered for bespoke?

The most particular shoe was an oxford shoe with 5 holes and wing tip in sea turtle, at reasonable price of 25.000 euros, unique in design, leather and manufacture…

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How many shoes do you do for year or month and what is the span between launching an order and the finish shoe?
I make in one year 150-180 pairs of shoes man/woman and you must wait 4/6 mount for have your shoe ready.

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I have post recently one of your riding boots that looks very exquisite. Riding boots have some particulates in terms of craft. Can you tell us more about the main qualities of a well crafted boot?

Riding boots are very particular because must be resistant with a few of stitching, no zipper and very light. Great importance must be given to materials and boot trees…

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I noticed some very nice patinas. Please tell us more about this part craft part art stage.

Patinas are very difficult to make, leathers are not all the same… The left shoe react in a way, the right shoe react in an other way… Is not a simple work and often people doing understand the skill that is involved in creating a patina…

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What is the price of a Pio Mele Shoe?

Prices start at 1.600 euros in French calf and can go to 25.000 -28.000 euros for sea turtle skin… Alligator at 4.500-6.000 euros and Russian reindeer 10.000-12.000 euros…

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How affected were you by the last years crises and what are your plans for the future?

Crisis doesn’t exist for me… I think that now the professional shoemaker must work, and as long as the classic gentleman will exist we will have to work and create. The other must stay at home watching TV! For the future I hope/want to make 200-220 pairs per year.

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And now some personal style question. Which Tailor or Shirtmaker do you prefer? What you like in present Italian style and what you dislike or change?

For me the best Taylor is Tindaro De Luca in Milan and Antonio Panico in Naples. In terms of shirts the best Shirtmaker is in Milan and his name is Camiceria Ambrosiana. Another very skilled Shirtmaker is located in Naples – Anna Matuozzo… This person dress me since I’m very young and I think that he is a Master in tailoring and shirt making…Speaking of what I see lately I don’t like anything … I like only the Classic style the rest of brands and stylists doesn’t exist for me…

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Photos courtesy to Antonio Pio Mele