Inside Silvano Lattanzi’s Shoemaking Studio, Where the Italian Craftsman Has Kept Every Shoe Model He’s Designed Since 1971
Put pop-culture-coloured, celebrity-imprinted trainers aside—we are bonkers about bespoke Italian shoes made of artisanal leather.
BY P.Ramakrishnan  |  November 24, 2023
2 Minute Read

Since 1971, Italian shoemaker Silvano Lattanzi has been handcrafting exquisite leather shoes for discerning gentlemen the world over, and those who have strutted down to his studio in Milan will speak at length about his vast collection and archive. His library of leathers, patterns, design, cuts, colours, and patinas may be second to none.

Oh, did we say “library”? Correction—we meant “laboratory.”

“In a part of my laboratory, [I keep] all my collections that I have designed and made personally from 1971 to today. Each model (also the most remote one from 1971) can be still reproduced today,” Lattanzi tells Robb Report Hong Kong over the course of several email conversations. “The good God, he sent me to Earth to make ready-made shoes.”

Well, if it is destined by the gods, then his altar of worship is a cobbler’s paradise. Legend has it his parents worked in a shoe factory. In his tween years, he knew he would follow in their footsteps. By age 14, he left school to delve into the trade, and at 21, he set up Zintala, which manages what’s now become the high benchmark for bespoke, artisanal shoes, not only in Italy, but beyond borders. “I have several customers all around the world, Hong Kong included, and I am honoured because they choose me to make their footwear to be worn both in the most formal moments, to work, and their moments of free time. I also carry out casual and tailor-made footwear, with rigorously natural materials and with very soft skin.”

Innumerable online forums debate at length about the work of Silvano Lattanzi, with the argument being that there are others who make made-to-measure shoes, but not at these prices. (A pair of hand-crafted Silvano Lattanzis made with exotic materials can run up to six figures. It needs to be noted that those actually buying the shoes are not complaining.)

“The owner of a Boston boutique that I served, after seeing me kneeling at the foot of his customers to take the measurements, he told me, ‘God sent you on this land to do this job,’” reflects Lattanzi. “‘Your professionalism, patience, and passion in redoing a couple of footwear until it is perfect at the foot of a client is moving. I consider you one of us. When instead you decide not to do it anymore, you will no longer be one of us!’”

So how does one get a pair? “A customer who wants to commission himself a couple of custom footwear for the first time, first of all, he must demand that he gets a Silvano Lattanzi shoe!” says Lattanzi. “As the charming owner of the Red Bull claimed two weeks ago!” Indeed, his customer base of Asian heavy hitters are second to none.

Choose a model from the rich archive on the official website, where catalogues of every model ever made has been painstakingly recorded. Styles called “Unstoppable,” “Cordovan Hollywood,” or even “Yokohama” are on display. Page after page, scroll after scroll, find intriguing styles like the “Forte deli Mardi,” which has a basket-weave print that looks as original as… well, as the “Voltaire” shoe in black alligator—another Lattanzi original.

“Pay attention to three other trivial things in identifying the model: the eyelets (the punched hole, reinforced with metal, in the shoe’s upper fold that allows shoelaces to be threaded through). At the top where the lace closes, the two noselli (nostrils of the shoe) must be almost close. Equally, check the bottom of the highest part of the neck of the foot.” It’s all sound advice from the man himself on key components that make a good shoe great. 

His archive is so large it requires a customer of not only distinct taste but also a decisive nature to come equipped with an idea in mind of what they’d like to commission. Otherwise, you’re bound to trip and fall down the rabbit hole of innumerable choices. 

Head over to Italy to Via Bocca di Leone, close to Rome’s Via Condotti, where in his eponymous store, you’ll be measured and fitted to perfection from toe to heel. With a cast and mould of your foot, your measurements will stay in their record books till the end of days, referred to when other pairs are ordered in years to come.

“Each model can be made in the materials and colours that the customer wants, making changes to the model itself or the shape if the customer wants it,” says Lattanzi. “We customise the pair also with a dedication written by me inside the shoe, in the insole.”

With each passing year, there are indeed trends and styles that step in and out of fashion. “As a material, I would recommend Vitelli leather first, or Louisiana alligator skin. But we are very careful, because many prefer to accentuate the antique styles, the shapes, the width, and the height of the guarding seams. In Italy, the work of manual skills has not been completely lost; the shapes, the styles that are worn by royalty, where the class is innate, is still on trend.”

But what if you can’t fly down? 

“If a customer has particular needs and wants to place an important order of custom-made footwear for himself and his lady, and cannot reach us in Italy or in Europe, me or my son Paolo (heir to this vocation of mine in tailor-made shoes), we can also reach your home!”

Luxury is personalisation and personal service. But with Lattanzi, it’s also personality. Many who have bought from him have spoken at length about the personable and characterful man himself, who will fall on bended knee to fix, attune, and adjust a shoe with a passion unmatched by others. Lattanzi says to us, “I tell you everything in confidence, and with good mood, because to make beautiful shoes, it also takes a smile.” 

In a virulent debate among aficionados on the steep price point of the designer shoe, an anonymous fan shuts down debate: “They are expensive because they are very special. High-quality vintage leather used on many shoes, hand-stitched sole, hand welted-shoe… It’s very unique and high-quality… You pay for a Lattanzi masterpiece.”

Hear, hear.

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All images courtesy of Silvano Lattanzi.