The shelves groaning with folders are an encyclopedic summa of the footwear and leather goods industry from the beginning of the last century to the present day. Indeed, because it is important to point out that Arsutoria is first of all (at least in a chronological sense) one of the most important international magazines in the industry. “Imagine that the designer of a famous brand is asked by their creative director to reinterpret the accessories of the 1970s,” explains Matteo Pasca, CEO of the Arsutoria group. “In this large archive room, they sit around the tables, pick the magazine issues from the shelves, leaf through them and begin to focus on design ideas.”
Arsutoria, literally footwear art (from the Latin Sutor, shoemaker) is one of the most prestigious highly specialized professional schools, not just at national level. “Ours is a very special DNA,” Pasca explains to me, “we are not a real fashion design college like the Central Saint Martins in London, but nor are we a professional industrial school. Our history dates back to 1922, when the publisher first founded the magazine and then the school in 1927. Since then, our spirit, the preference for the more manual aspect of the product, has never changed. We are a training boutique, now managed by the fourth generation of a family that has dedicated its entire life to these industries.”
Arsutoria is one of the most prestigious highly specialized professional schools, not just at national level
Today the Arsutoria school is home to around twenty professionals–permanent staff and freelancers–and welcomes up to 80 students. Naturally, the courses are all in English because “in the last 10 years alone, we have taught students from over 50 countries.
”From advanced training year-long masters to free professional training courses funded by the Lombardy Region, the school is located in the City Life district of Milan and covers over 13,000 square feet. “Space is essential for a highly practical and manual school like ours, with all the materials and machines in our educational factories. “But do you know, the hardest thing,” Pasca says, “is undoubtedly finding teachers with three requisites: technical skills, good English and a lot of patience. We have been lucky enough to build a group of extraordinary teachers and all with a lot of experience: Italian and one Spanish. They are worth their weight in gold.”
We have been lucky enough to build a group of extraordinary teachers and all with a lot of experience: Italian and one Spanish. They are worth their weight in gold.
Arsutoria is in fact a well-known name even internationally in the shoe and bag sectors. “Since 2010, we have trained over 800 professionals with short courses organized in different cities in the United States; we have provided technical expertise to fashion design and management schools from Singapore to Portland; and we have created training courses in partnership with companies such as Nike”
And if there is a common denominator among students, it is to build their own future. “They come from all over the world and with the most diverse backgrounds. Many have studied fashion and come to Arsutoria to specialize. Some are children of alumni with a family history in the accessories industry. Indian students often have high-level economic and financial training behind them, but before taking on managerial roles in the family businesses, they come here to complete their training and learn more about the product,” says Pasca. The professional opportunities are then practically guaranteed: “Many students launch start-ups in pursuit of a dream after working for multinationals or in finance. Many become designers or developers in leading companies, from Puma to Gucci. Then there are success stories like Sarah Flint, who founded the luxury shoe brand of the same name, and who is now in partnership with Cindy Crawford. And hers is not the only case. Do a search on Linkedin or Google and you will find that our alumni are everywhere.”
At the end of this journey into handmade shoes and the fascination it arouses (“Believe me, it’s addictive,” Pasca warns) I can't help but think of the incredible story of Daniel Day-Lewis. The multimillionaire face of Hollywood, at the end of the 1990s, worked for free for almost a year as a shoemaker in a workshop in Florence. Owner Mario Bremer still remembers his silence and religious discipline as he hammered and sewed. He had come into the shop to buy a pair of shoes. It took Martin Scorsese to convince him to leave, offering him a part in Gangs of New York.
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