During Milano Fashion Week we had the opportunity to meet the brains and the passionate minds behind the brand Baldinini, a family business that has created a chapter of history for Italian shoes and is still more than iconic.
The event took place in the suggestive rooms of Spazio Gessi, in Milan, where you walk down stairs surrounded by waterfalls and mirrors, to reach the area where the presentations take place.
The brand celebrates 110 years in the sign of refined craftsmanship of absolute know-how of footwear, closely linked with the history of fashion of the made in Italy as a whole. Their activity, born in 1910 in San Mauro Pascoli, a Romagna district with a strong footwear vocation, is still strongly linked with its territory.
Baldinini’s long journey was carried on with sacrifices, struggles, passions and successes by Gimmi Baldinini, who with his innovative vision has given way to a flourishing period marked by the great internationalisation of the company, present today in 150 countries.
The celebrations for the 110 years will be articulated throughout 2020. We had the opportunity to have a short conversation with Alessandra Baldinini at the end of February, and with her we spoke about the process that brought to an agreement with the University of Bologna, and the plan to create a museum of their more iconic pieces, and their history.
The process of archiving and cataloguing the history of a brand, a favorite of celebrities like Lady Diana and Claudia Schiffer, highlighted how many important steps were made in the history of shoemaking, on the way to becoming one of those examples of outstanding Italian success for a family business. Three words come to my mind: professionalism, love and bravery. But also a characteristic of Italian professionals that strikes all the times, the modesty they show when they revive their work and history.
Talking to people like Alessandra, that truly participates of something legendary, is refreshing and humbling. You can feel how the profound motivation, is in carrying on a vision of quality shoes, more than bragging about their success, and bold statements of success are never the heart of the discussion.
On the contrary, the joy and pride for all of them, is to look back and realise how much work has been done, how many things learned and it all motivates to improve in more and more innovation for quality and comfort.
And so Alessandra explained to us the necessity to create this museum: to unfold the steps to knowledge and know-how of their product, and for them to set some pins on the things they have learned, the things that made them strong, the content that still needs to be looked at with an innovative eye. “You don’t know just how many elements, and products are there” she said “that we created through history, and at some point, you just want to see it together, not just to remember, but because it teaches one on how to continue”.
Baldinini’s great anniversary will involve the corporate museum inside the brand’s headquarters. furthermore, the project will become a real itinerant Walking Museum, with dedicated showcases in selected Baldinini stores worldwide.
When the time came to ask about the new collection, politely, Alessandra greeted us and suggested to continue the conversation with Christian Nuniatini, product manager since 2013 at Baldinini.
Christian was very generous and gave us more time than we could ask for. The conversation covered so much more than just the new collection. Initially the focus was on the fact that this being the 110 years of the brand, the fil rouge for fall winter 2020/20201 became a connection between the symbols of the brand through times and a new reading of the same elements that define Baldinini. In this way the collection can be even defined as a summary of collectible pieces and they will enrich the Archive Project.
A very interesting element about the made in Italy and its success comes just from this: brands live a history completely into their product. There is always a professional at the head of the business, that came with a new idea, learned how to refine techniques, in this case how to make shoes perform in the most optimal way. From that point the strong elements of the brand continue growing. Technology replaces the painstaking handwork, but not the know-how. The creation continues looking back at the first standards, and it adds new value. Though talking to people like Christian, you see how the references are still back to those people who could perform as good with their craftsmanship as technological devices.
One of the factors that Christian wanted to underline as soon as we started the conversation, was that for sure the use of technology speeds up the assemblage of shoes, but there is a big difference between knowing shoes only through mechanic production, and applying the know-how of people like Gimmi Baldinini, that have exported from hands to machine, everything they know about anatomy and comfort for shoes.
Jumping to the pieces of the collection, the first elements from the tradition that reappear with a restyling for fall winter are texans and camperos, iconic for the brand in the 80ies.
The whole collection shares neat design, simple lines and mainly solid colors. Christian is a very sensitive person, especially when we talk about leather and fur. It’s only fake fur for the new collection and when it comes to leather, it is calf leather. “It all comes from animals that are used in the food industry, but considering I am vegetarian, even that is a bit of a challenge” he commented. The croco is also printed “there is absolutely no need to chase exotic animals, if you ask me” he continued.
One of the elements that stand out for this collection, are the use of heels. The challenges for shoemakers today, is to rethink comfort. “A new pair of shoes hurts, it does not mean it is a bad pair” Christian said “on the contrary, it is a necessary step, but it cannot be applied with everyone today, so we have to work on expectations vs quality. The second one is something we are not willing to abandon” he continued, and referring to the heels as I mentioned them, he confirmed “yes, we worked on creating heels for décolletés, boots and various models keeping in mind that it has to be comfortable, it has to melt aesthetically with the shoes, and hence we thought about e.g. composing them with block elements so that they are steady and light, we made a bold use of our logo and strass to make them look precious, and we never forgot that they have to be portable. Women want to stay comfortable”.
The match is, in fact, how to keep them on heels, when sneakers are taking over so quickly “when a woman feels beautiful with a sporty model, you cannot ignore it, you have to raise the bar on heels so that they will keep on wanting to buy them”
One heel stands out in particular, for its quite unique shape, an ergonomic design and a studied support even for long days on your feet
Signature heels with a bold GB from Gimmi Baldinini is a successful design of a new tradition in the shoe design. Indeed a beautiful solution that looks particularly nailed on boots but also on decolletés and ankle boots
The GB and other precious element of design embellish the clear lines of the new collection from pumps to sneakers, while the use of animal print on ankle boots reminds a bit of the styles of the 90ies.
Of course all is completed by bags and clutches, here some few examples.
A conversation with creatives like Christian does not limit to shoes collections and design choices. We compared international experiences and as to the devotion that the brand applies in the construction of every model, he gave us yet an interesting information about the sense of excellence that is dear to Baldinini since always.
Christian told us that much to his surprise, it appeared that employees working for the brand in the shops, did not really believe that it really took that much time and precision in the creation of a Baldinini shoe. Reason why they regularly invite them to visit the headquarter and see how the products get to life. Almost a masterclass in shoemaking.
The growth of awareness is important. Your employees must know, believe and communicate your message, and the distinction of your product, this is why they invest into educating their employees into the Baldinini concept. That involves workers from all over the world.
Spending a hour of your life with masters of design is a unique experience and the information they generously share, reinforce the awareness of the singularity of the Italian excellence. When it comes to shoes, it was a real honour for New York Style Guide to be invited to share so much with the people that are behind the success of this business in their 110th anniversary.