It is appropriate that a shoemaker to the rich and famous should be called Calzaturificio Star. However, the company are better known by the family name of Artioli which has provided three generations of master craftsmen, Severino, Vito and Andrea Artioli.

With customers past and present ranging from Frank Sinatra to the Sultan of Brunei, this is a shoemaking enterprise of world renown. There is even a photograph of the late Pope John Paul II holding a pair of Artioli shoes in his hands.

For the Artioli family, it is not just about making a beautiful pair of shoes. It is also about including those innovative improving touches such as using brass ‘seeds’ densely arranged around the toe-piece and heel which blend in with the leather and help to protect the most vulnerable parts of the sole.

Artioli masters Vito and Andrea still work side by side creating the luxury range of footwear and leathergoods which have been evolving from season to season for nearly a century. Severino Artioli, the founder, born in 1905, became attracted to shoemaking while still in elementary school. He spent his spare time learning the craft and was a recognised as a gifted artisan from very early on.

Despite this, it was not until 1945 that he finally managed to break away from employment by others to open his own factory. His son Vito joined him at the end of the fifties after long experience in the US. Artioli production increased and the company then moved into their present site in Tradate, concentrating on the manufacture of an exclusive range of footwear, belts and leathergoods for men. They do now also produce a limited collection of shoes and bags for women.

Severino’s son Vito and grandson Andrea have willingly followed in the footsteps of this vital and ingenious man, carrying on the inheritance well. While production is run along traditional lines, methods have improved and been perfected with advancing technology, while at the same time retaining the high degree of craftsmanship needed for the perfect shoe. Despite their long history and their renown for making beautiful classic shoes, Artioli do not turn their back on new ideas.

In addition to traditional luxury leathers, they also feature dyed and printed calf and kangaroo skins. And to match their fine footwear, Artioli also create belts in the same leathers with matching buckles along with bags and luggage. They say they are ‘inspired by fashion’s will to see a man dressed in a refined, elegant and sophisticated manner’.

Their classic footwear is based on the Goodyear welted method which is characterised by two seams: the first sews the upper to the welt and the second attaches the welt to the sole. The leathers are calf and suede tanned to the company’s own specifications and feature brass seeding on the soles for added durability. For this line of footwear, which can be custom-made on request, the client is entitled to life-long full refurbishment of the soles and uppers.

They regard the tanning and selection of the leather as an important operation. The leathers are individually selected by the Artioli masters and only 1% of the best leather is considered good enough. They use full thickness hide, treated with the proven age-old method of slow tanning with pure aniline.

Following strict controls, the company’s experts make their selection for one pair of shoes from within a single hide, choosing only the best parts to cut their pattern. After treatment and preparation, the pieces of leather are sewn to form the upper part of the shoe. The unique method of double and reversed stitching provides both strength and longevity.

Next the supports are manually applied. The leather cups, arch and heel supports must perfectly adhere to the last when the shoe upper and insole are mounted. Finally the shoe is beaten with a hammer and pressed with the iron. The upper remains on the last for many days while it dries slowly. Once fully dry, the sole is stitched to the upper part.

The edge of the sole is hand milled and after a long series of treatments with creams and waxes following Artioli’s traditional methods, the finishing touches are added and the shoe is born.

The company have also developed a line of technical footwear which they say is the result of in-depth research and innovation. This is for the successful man who wants high-quality, comfortable and lightweight shoes but with entirely new characteristics compared with traditional men’s footwear.

Produced to the same high standards, this line of shoes offers a choice of materials and detailing plus workmanship which ‘responds to every expectation of the world of fashion and elegance’. Each shoe is extremely comfortable and wearable and is offered in two fittings with the promise: ‘Dry feet everyday’. The sole is made from natural rubber, with a layer of absorbent ‘shock absorber’ material to neutralise the vibrations created by walking.

Each shoe comes with a removable inner ‘Breathing Sole’ which helps the foot to breath while supporting the heel and metatarsus. Artioli not only use the same excellent leather as always but have begun to use the same hides minutely perforated, ensuring a constant flow of air and keeping the wearer’s feet cool even in the hottest temperatures.

When asked if these perforations weaken the leather, Andrea told Leather International that they did not because the selection of designs with this feature are made from ‘kangaroo which is very very strong and we have given some space between the holes’.

While the kangaroo obviously comes from Australia, they buy calf from Italy, lizard from Argentina, alligator from Louisiana and ostrich from South Africa, selecting the best raw materials and tanning with the best Italian tanneries.

According to Andrea Artioli: ‘Every time we improve quality and we receive compliments from customers.’ About 5% of their footwear is custom-made.

Artioli have a very impressive library of lasts which includes: Billy Wilder * Robert De Niro * Sean Penn * George Clooney * Michael Jackson * the Sultan of Brunei * Michael Jordan * Donald Trump * Bill Clinton * George Bush * Vladimir Putin * and many other personalities from the world of art, politics, culture and finance.

They have also shod many important personalities from the past: Sammy Davis jr * Frank Sinatra * Tyrone Power * Danny Kaye * Humphrey Bogart * Marcello Mastroianni * Vittorio De Sica * Gary Cooper * Dean Martin * Cary Grant * Henry Fonda * Gene Kelly * Fred Astaire * Charles Aznavour * John Wayne * The Onassis family * The Kennedy family * King Faruk of Egypt.

And the list of stockists is equally impressive, and includes Saks Fifth Avenue, New York, and Harrods, London, along with their own Artioli Boutiques.