Emirates Man talks to CEO of Santoni, Giuseppe Santoni on cultivating modern traditions and staying at the forefront of Italian design and craftsmanship.
What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?
I travel quite extensively during the week, so my morning routine is a key asset of my daily schedule: a healthy breakfast while reading the newspaper to catch up on the day’s news is always my daily ritual.
Did you always know you wanted to pursue the family brand and what was the decisive moment you took over from your father?
During my childhood, my family life was extremely linked to my family company. When my father started his business, together with my mother, I was just a child, so I had the opportunity of assisting in the whole creation and development of the company from the first days. I was so fascinated by my father; he had an innate love for beauty and perfection. This approach to work, and to life, in general, influenced me totally. I inherited his vision and his passion, and everything felt just so natural. My greatest desire has always been to follow my father’s path and carry on the family project.
Working with over 700 artisans, you focus on exquisite craftsmanship. How do you maintain this as the brand scales?
From the day we created our first collection, we have followed a simple principle that has become our corporate philosophy: quality cannot be compromised, ever. Since then, it has been our DNA.
As a family business, how do you go about tackling the challenges, and what have been the biggest learnings to date?
I don’t see the family business as a real issue, as long as within the group you all share the same vision. In our family, we have all always had the same idea of business and an authentic passion for what we do. When was named CEO, of course, I introduced a lot of important changes, such as entering new markets, the women’s line, the sneakers, and the accessories; as you can imagine these changes required important investments, and despite we belong to different generations, I never had to convince my parents about a new decision; they always understood the reasons and supported the evolution and development of the company.
Since its founding in 1975, how has the brand evolved and what remains at the core as its DNA?
We have always been playing between tradition and innovation, it’s part of our DNA. We firmly want to remain linked to the artisanal savoir-faire we achieved over the years, and to continue to produce shoes by the rule of book, this is the only way to create perfect objects. On the other hand, we need to evolve, innovate, use new technologies, propose contemporary designs, introduce new collections and lines, and open new markets. We do it by investing in innovation, and this does not contradict our artisanal soul and craftsmanship.
Having originally founded the brand in Marche, Italy, how does that play into the design inspiration – and what do you most love about the region?
Creation is the way I give expression to my idea of beauty. For me, beauty is essential: elegance, chic design, contemporary lines, and high quality – this is beauty. I can find inspiration in everything, sometimes even in the simplest daily things. Although I’ve undoubtedly been very lucky to grow up in a land surrounded by what I define as essential to a man’s life: excellent food, high quality of life, incomparable history, the culture of product and manufacture.
How do you achieve a balance between preserving artisanal traditions and introducing innovative designs?
This is probably the essence of our brand. We believe that excellent shoes can be produced only by hand and by maintaining ancient and traditional techniques, like stitching or cutting by hand, and most of all our famous “velatura” finishing, which is the signature colouring of the leather by hand. At the same time, we are not a small workshop, we are a quite big company playing on an international level, so we need to be innovative and advanced in the technologies to grow and compete. We use advanced software systems for projecting and prototyping. In terms of design, we are always contemporary without excess, we start from the classic and make it modern and fascinating for a sophisticated public.
I see Santoni more and more as an international reference brand in the luxury segment; digitalization and consumer-centric vision are the strengths for a successful boost in this direction. We are investing a lot in bringing new technologies into our daily business model. I know this is not revolutionary, but it’s a big plan for a company like Santoni, where everything is made by hand and in-house. We firmly want to remain linked to the artisanal savoir-faire we achieved but on the other hand, we need to evolve and innovate.
What was it like having collaborations with IWC Schaffhausen and AMG?
I believe very much in cooperation. When you work in partnership with a brand belonging to a different sector but sharing your same values and philosophy, you can only grow and enrich your background.
Additionally, those who know me also know that I consider the shoe to be the main element in assessing a man’s taste and personality, but cars or watches are no different; they are a full expression of the lifestyle and nature of the person driving it or wearing it. So, for me, it was a privilege to start our collaborations with two of the best in class in their segments.
What is your favourite Santoni piece and why?
My favourite is the very first designed shoe by Santoni: a double buckle shoe – very elegant and coloured by hand.
What keeps you inspired and excited to show up as your best self for work each day?
My mind wakes up with the aim of achieving a new objective during the day. I’m a very ambitious man and I’m always looking for new challenges and goals. But most of all, I’m inspired by the idea of doing my job at best, always at the highest level. This is my philosophy.
What is style to you?
I think the best formula is to combine elegance with modernity, sophistication with contemporaneity, and high quality with design. This is basically what we do in our collections.
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