Step Up Your (Tango) Shoe Game!
by Gaia Banovich, Axis Tango Founder & Owner
Let Your Shoes Talk
Christian Louboutin once said, “A woman carries her clothes. But the shoe carries the woman.” Shoes are the perfect symbol for status, style, sex appeal, power, fashion statement… A boot or a sandal, a derby or a clog, a running shoe or a high-heeled pump, a tango flat or a wedding slipper — shoes say it all. They are not just about covering our feet to protect them from the elements, they are an expression of our feelings, our energy, our place in time. Italian shoes, and now also Italian tango shoes, are universally recognized as the pinnacle of elegance, beauty, and quality. What is it that makes them the finest in the world?
Father Knows Best
Quite simply, it is their heritage. Shoemaking in Italy is based on family know-how and carefully preserved traditions. The regions of Marche, Veneto, and Tuscany are filled with close-knit shoemaking families, with a passion for craftsmanship and love for their product, who built up the elegant and sophisticated image of Italian shoes globally.
Italian artisans have been refining their shoemaking craft for centuries. For generations, manufacturing took place in small workshops and even rooms of the shoemakers’ homes. Traditional tanning processes and shoemaking techniques were family-guarded secrets passed on from fathers to sons, from grandfathers to granddaughters. Acclaimed Italian shoe designer Gianvito Rossi recalled his childhood memory of watching the artisans focused on their craftsmanship in his father’s shoe factory. Rossi said, “Unconsciously, I started to accumulate experience just by watching my father and observing the artisans as they craft the most amazing shoes. Without knowing it, I was building a historical memory.” *
Many Italian shoe artisans today, including tango shoe manufacturers working with Axis Tango, are preserving the tradition by working in the family workshops or creating newly modernized ateliers. The shoemaking craft was and continues to be transformed into an art that is protected by strict regulations to guarantee the highest quality. As the rest of the world moves towards mass production of cheaper shoes for quick consumption, Italy protects and supports its artisanal shoemaking industry. The result is that every shoe is carefully crafted and lovingly finished, making each pair exceptional and beautiful. By wearing a pair of Italian tango shoes, you are not only walking or dancing in comfort and style, you are supporting the preservation of important heritage and financing the future of the shoemaking art.
From Start to Finish
The Italian tango shoe that you adore so much did not come to be by a quick assembly but rather by a carefully followed process. Many skilled hands carefully touched it during a precise, time-consuming, and detailed practice that created a final product of quality and beauty.
The last, or the “forma” of the shoe, is a precisely calibrated 3-dimensional design that gives the shoe its shape. Made traditionally of wood and now often also of high-density plastic, it represents the anatomical shape of the foot and influences the finished product’s appearance and aesthetic. The forma dictates the overall fit of the shoe, from the heel width to instep height to toe-box depth. Because of the forma’s importance in the finished product, workshops keep archives of formas that are carefully curated, maintained, and guarded.
After the forma is chosen, a pattern is made that follows the shape of the last; next comes the cutting of the high-quality leather guided by the sizes and shapes of the patterns. Centuries of experience have honed the skills of Italian shoemakers in making and using superior leathers to produce high-quality hand-crafted shoes. They made sure that Italian leather is a thing of beauty: soft, supple and richly hued. After the leather is cut, the assembly begins that takes time, patience, skill, and devotion. The process takes many weeks to complete, nothing is hurried or left to chance, every step in the manufacturing process is taken with pride, knowledge, dedication, and love for the art that produces the finest footwear in the world.
From the first step to the finished article, everything is done by skillful and dedicated craftsmen. The design, style, and comfort of each finished pair are successful results of a well thought-out process. The fit is thoughtfully calculated, the stitching is careful to the very last string. And indeed, Axis Tango Italian dance shoes are crafted to cushion and anchor the foot’s every move.
Dance Your Soles Off
Italian shoes will continue to be a force in the global shoe market. With such superior products, it is no surprise that Italian-made shoes are now also the footwear of choice for tango dancers. Axis Tango started the trend by introducing Bandolera/Tangolera shoes to the American market and is continuing with the introduction of the Nada Mas and representation of Madame Pivot labels. While Italian shoe manufacturers may never be the largest producers of shoes in volume, their articles will continue to remain relevant and prestigious because they are true to their artisan heritage while trailblazing modern trends.
So, the next time you slip on that elegant Italian pump on the way to work or a hand-made Italian tango shoe at a milonga or tango class, remember it is the work of skilled craftsmen that brought the unequaled comfort to your walk and dance. From their hands to your feet, with tradition, passion, and love. Enjoy!
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* Footwear News; “Why Family Dynasties Still Rule Italy’s Shoe Industry” by Alessandra Ilari, 8/25/2015