Much-loved fashion tycoon and industry leader Diego Della Valle, CEO of the Tod’s shoes empire, spoke to us about how his grandfather’s 1920s factory became one of Italy’s most celebrated brands. Hands-on and at the helm, Della Valle explains that the Tod’s aesthetic has always (and will always) be centred around “timeless form that combines the highest quality with almost obsessive attention to the details of contemporary style”. We also bring you a special feature on the making of Tod’s shoes, with each step explained!
Diego Della Valle Walks Us Through Tod’s Shoes
My Italian Link (MIL): Your grandfather was the family’s first shoemaker. Do you draw inspiration from him?
Diego Della Valle (DDV): My grandfather was a small-scale artisan, a tradition carried forward by my father, who created a small company that has grown over time. Historically, the region of Le Marche was the most important district for the production of high-quality footwear in Europe. This was definitely my main inspiration: quality and contemporaneity.
Today, Tod’s still embodies modernity and quality:
MIL: How did your father move on to making shoes for major fashion houses, like Azzedine Alaïa?
DDV: Our family has always breathed the spirit of the time, and my father immediately understood that business was expanding outside Italy’s borders. Collaboration with big international names gave the company visibility in other markets, creating what is today known as ‘Made in Italy’.
MIL: Later, the Gommino became the first shoe under the Tod’s label (then called J.P. Tod’s). What inspired this classic loafer?
DDV: It all began with a pair of driving shoes that I saw in a window in New York. The idea behind the shoe was good, but the craftsmanship was terrible – to say nothing of the quality. Returning to Italy, I discussed the idea of making this driving shoe that could be worn for 24 hours with my father, with all of our know-how and the best leather available. Thus, the Gommino was born: a must-have that has revolutionised casual fashion for 30 years, while still following contemporary styles.
The world’s celebrities have always loved Tod’s and their gommino. From J.F. Kennedy and Jackie O, who were central figures in the brand’s ad campaigns in the 60’s, to Lady Diana who donned Tod’s Gommino in the 90’s, all the way through to modern day A-listers like Stefano Accorsi, Julia Roberts and Michael Douglas. Unquestionably timeless!
MIL: Tod’s recently financed the restoration of the Colosseum in Rome. What made you decide to give back to Italy?
DDV: I simply believe that it is right to give back to the land a part of that which has contributed to your own success. This doesn’t need to be a huge endeavour, such as the Colosseum. It can be a small-scale or local action, which improves quality of life for the people who have contributed to a business. It’s a civic duty, and an example that many entrepreneurs – I hope – will follow.
MIL: Tod’s is opening a store in South Africa! Do you see any connections between South African and Italian fashion culture?
DDV: South Africans are indeed very attentive to style and know that this depends on quality. They also value the Made in Italy label, recognising its added value. Today, we are all more curious and travel a lot. As a result, this makes South Africans – like all others – citizens of the world, who know where to find the best.
MIL: What’s next for Tod’s?
DDV: Today’s consumer is very demanding. Digital platforms and immediacy dictate their time-frames. Evidently, you can’t think in terms of seasons. Because of this, Tod’s will present capsule collections every couple of months in every part of the world, going beyond the demand for innovation that is increasingly arriving from the market. Obviously, without compromising on the quality that distinguishes our collections. On the whole, for us, this will always be a fundamental point.
Getting off on the Right Foot
Of course, each Tod’s product starts life as only the best quality leather. An artisan dies and treats the leather before cutting it by hand. Another artisan then hand-stitches the shoe together with staggering attention to detail. Each shoe is adorned with bespoke details before being polished to perfection. Tod’s sartorial savoir-faire means each shoe represents a marriage of innovation and heritage.
As promised, here’s a step-by-step description of how each shoes is made by hand with meticulous attention to detail:
As can be seen, true to Tod’s commitment to quality and contemporaneity, ingenious but timeless modern designs are manufactured by artisans using traditional Italian techniques. How does Tod’s manage to produce these timeless paragons, which never go out of style? Well, as Della Valle puts it: “Luxury is not limited to seasons, and people of good taste know how to recognise it.”