Introducing: Stefano Bemer
To launch the arrival of Stefano Bemer at The Hand, we caught up with the Florentine shoemaker’s CEO, Mr Tommaso Melani, so that he could reflect on the company’s dearly-missed founder and explain the intricacies of the Tradizione Collection, which is a range of entirely handmade shoes executed to a bespoke standard we’re thrilled to now offer.
Over the phone from Florence, Tommaso Melani speaks with sincere assurance: “Stefano left a very important legacy. It's a stylistic legacy and a philosophy in how we should look at shoemaking. But also, it's how we must represent something greater than shoes; we represent our city and the vision our city has created since the renaissance. This is the real legacy – not just the pattern or the last.”
The word legend is liberally used these days, but it couldn’t be more appropriate when describing the bespoke shoemaker Stefano Bemer, who sadly passed away in 2012 at the young age of 48. An erudite man who worked diligently and gave everything he had to his craft, “he was passionate about things – from food to art, soccer to women – and so when he chose to become a shoemaker after his favourite pair of shoes developed a hole, he wanted to understand what makes a good shoe a good shoe, and what the differences are between the both,” describes Tommaso.
In numerous ways, Tommaso and Stefano were cut from exactly the same cloth. “Being Italian is like being born in the gym – you can't help but lift weights at some point. I just think we are naturally born stylish, and we’re trained to recognise beauty and balance,” he says of their inherent similarities. But, due to them both being from the same city, they were even more in tune with each other. “If you're born in Florence, your standard for beauty is the Duomo and the Pazzi Chapel. He had a different standard of beauty that stood out.”
In addition to their shared ethos, spirit and understanding of beauty, Tommaso’s family started the Scuola del Cuoio, which is a highly respected leather school founded in the 1950s in Florence that nurtures craftspeople, thus making him the perfect candidate to continue Stefano’s legacy. Since taking over the company's reins, he’s strengthened Stefano Bemer’s position as one of the finest bespoke shoemakers in the world. Furthermore, he’s also introduced ready-to-wear lines of equal stature as they are all made entirely in-house to a standard that the perfectionist Stefano would expect.
The most luxurious of the ready-to-wear ranges from Stefano Bemer is the Tradizione Collection, which is arguably the finest collection of ready-made shoes in the world. This is because if it weren’t for the use of a standard-fitting last, they’d be bespoke – each pair commands 60 hours of contact time to craft as they’re all hand-lasted, hand-welted and hand-sewn. (For comparison, a bespoke pair requires 100 hours, 40 hours of which are spent on creating the last.)
In terms of the Stefano Bemer house style, Stefano took the “English concept of shoemaking and blended it with little Italian flair to make it more upgraded and modern,” Tommaso says. One of the ways that he did that was through a careful study of materials and textures, something that the Stefano Bemer of today is admired for. One example is that Stefano Bemer generally “prefer hatched leathers to plains, as the light plays on the leather creating a more interesting look while removing some of the dramatic effects that a highly polished box calf produces.” To add further drama to these shoes, several feature sculpted fiddle back waists, deftly pitched heels and intricate details, such as broguing and stitching.
Tommaso believes that “quality is perceived over a long period of time”, and we’re more than confident that this collection, which Dennis has designed in partnership with him, will live up to his beliefs. Most importantly, though, it’s a collection that we believe Stefano would be proud of.
Another classic toecap Oxford, this time constructed from a walnut hatch grain leather which is a signature material of the Florentine shoemaker. As a result, this shoe will age beautifully.
A stunning wholecut Oxford that’s constructed from a single piece of burnished black museum calf leather which has a varied colour profile. Incredibly striking, it guarantees to elevate business attire.
Crafted using black hatch grain leather, which will catch the light in many unique ways, this is a classic black Oxford like no other. It’s formed on the S last, which has a softly chiselled toe and a conservative profile.
Watch the Stefano Bemer short film below: