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FOOTWEAR FOCUS ROAD TEST


Dawn Smith tries a pair of NeroGiardini ankle boots and learns the true meaning of Italian craftsmanship Y


ou know that feeling when you’re treated to something really special? It could be a meal in a Michelin star restaurant, a ride in a brand-new


Mercedes, or a night in a 5-star hotel. Everything looks, feels and smells expensive. You tap your nail against your crystal wine glass, or sink back into the leather bucket seat and breathe in the new car smell, or stretch out in a bed with sheets so crisp you’re afraid to crease them. You are in the presence of quality, and your mouth makes a little ‘oh’ shape as you sigh with satisfaction. That’s the feeling I had when I lifted the lid from the box, pushed aside the tissue paper and pulled out my pair of NeroGiardini leather ankle boots.


These boots have quality written all over them.


From the sturdy but supple uppers, which you know are made of the very best leather, to the chunky, on-trend soles, which have the manufacturer’s name etched into them above an imprint of the Italian flag, these NeroGiardinis are 5-star boots.


Which is no surprise when you learn about the


company’s owner, Enrico Bracalente, who has taken NeroGiardini from its small-town beginnings to an empire with 2,000 employees and a turnover of 200 million euros, all the while sticking to his key principles: quality and Italian craftsmanship.


Mr Bracalente pronounced long ago that he


wouldn’t compromise on his principles for anything. He would fight for them. In the 44 years since he purchased his first shoe-making machine, for the equivalent of 1800 euros, he has steadfastly refused to move manufacturing away from its original territory or ditch the distribution network in favour of online sales, despite the trend towards relocation and e-commerce that has transformed fashion manufacturing and retailing in the past two decades. His commitment to high standards is the reason for both decisions.


Mr Bracalente opposed production relocation at the end of the nineties,


when everyone was doing it to save money, because he believes that quality is the price to be paid for such cost-cutting moves, and he wasn’t having any of it. His shoes are Made in Italy and that’s the way they are going to stay. Not only are all his products produced on Italian soil, the leather is sourced at home too, from the districts of Solofra, Arzignano and Santa Croce. That’s not to say the company and its owner don’t look abroad: they are actively seeking to develop their markets outside Italy and keep growing. But from their Italian heartland.


While protecting Italian craftsmanship, Mr Bracalente is also keen to


protect the distribution chain, which currently handles the 15,000 pairs of shoes per day that the company produces. Mr Bracalente puts his trust in


10 • FOOTWEAR TODAY • MARCH/APRIL 2019 Product details:


NeroGiardini leather Ankle Boots Product number: A807050D = Colour: Black Outer Material: Leather - Inner Material: Leather Sole: TR (thermoplastic rubber) Trade Price: £52.30 - RRP: £136.00 W: www.nerogiardini.it/en


shopkeepers because he knows that shoe retailers are the people who will help him to retain his customers and they recognise the quality inherent in NeroGiardini’s products.


Which brings me neatly back to the solid craftsmanship and sleek styling


of the boots I held in my hand that day in February when the box arrived. I touched them, ran my eyes along the flawless black leather, the zip on the inside for fitting and the one on the outside just for show, and I breathed in the scent of new leather as I opened them up and slipped in my feet.


I knew immediately that these were boots to be reckoned with, which


would walk with me for as long as I needed them. I had the same feeling you get when you meet someone you instantly trust, who becomes a long-time companion. When I first pulled on my NeroGiardini’s I felt a sense of security, the promise of permanence. If fashions never changed, I know these superbly-crafted boots would last me a lifetime.


They certainly kept me walking on the straight and narrow in


February, when they oozed sophistication in the evening, worn with a skirt and leggings, but felt casual enough to wear over skinny-fit jeans for lunch and shopping. As for comfort, the solidness of them made me walk purposefully at first: I was much more conscious than usual of what I had on my feet. They felt like boots to be taken seriously. I even glanced down a few times, to watch my own steps.


So I didn’t just zip them up and skip off in them. I took some time to appreciate that I was wearing


a well-crafted product. But it soon became clear how supremely comfortable they are, because as I got on with my day, or my evening, I forgot they were there, until I caught sight of them again, at the end of my crossed ankles, or reflected in a shop window. Then I remembered how lucky I was to be wearing NeroGiardini’s. I wiggled my toes against the quality leather and made a little ‘oh’ shape with my mouth, as I sighed with pleasure.


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