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An artisanal conversation with Giuseppe Sannino, Neapolitan bespoke shoemaker, Naples

Dear readers, as lovers and connoisseurs of bespoke shoes, I trust that you have marked your calendar to attend the upcoming World Championships of Shoe Patina 2024 at the London Super Trunk Show in early May. There, you will have the opportunity to witness the beautiful patina work performed by each artisan contestant and to have a closer look at the exquisitely crafted new bespoke shoe designs and their intricate details.

However, for those who cannot make it to the championship this year but still wish to enjoy the artistic craft and indulge themselves in the momentum of bespoke shoemaking, today we have a special treat for you! Mr. Giuseppe Sannino is a young bespoke shoemaker from Naples, Italy, whose work I recently came across by coincidence and found quite intriguing.

Having studied fashion design at a school in Naples and later footwear design in Florence, Giuseppe was fascinated by the art of handmade creation from a young age. After graduation, he embarked on his career as a shoemaker and began his apprenticeship with the reputed Florentine bespoke shoemaker Stefano Bemer, he then returned to his hometown to establish his own namesake bespoke shoemaking house.

But how does this young artisan manage to bring out the best of Neapolitan craftsmanship and combine what he has learned from the Florentine artisans to create his very own work? And what does his craft look like? Today, we are pleased to invite this young artisan to join us for a conversation to discuss his work and his perspective on Neapolitan shoemaking — the heritage, the art, and the craftsmanship — and how he brings these traditions into our modern world, dressing his discerning clients in a stylish and impeccable manner. So let’s dive right in!

My Modern Darcy: Hi Giuseppe, thanks for joining us today! As usual, I'm keen to know what interests you about bespoke shoemaking? Did you have certain influences during your childhood?

Giuseppe Sannino: Hi there! I'm very pleased to share my passion for this world with the readers. As far back as I can remember, I had a predilection for creative fine arts since childhood. I was particularly drawn to the tools involved in handmade processes like hammers, screwdrivers, and brushes due to their shapes and the vibrant colours of the materials. Sometimes, I think my choice to become a shoemaker stemmed from my passion for using these tools, sparking my "free mind child" or creative brain. The desire to be a shoemaker was rooted in the possibility of shaping the forms I imagined through a sculpting process that involved moldable materials like leather.

MMD: You were an apprentice with a renowned Florentine bespoke shoemaker before, can you tell us the most valuable and memorable thing you learned during that time?

GS: I vividly recall how exhilarating my apprenticeship was! Every day, I discovered how many operations my hands could perform; like tools, they supported me in creating volume from scraps. The most valuable lesson I learned was the importance of patience and craftsmanship. Through dedicated practice, I honed my skills and understood that excellence in shoemaking requires both precision and perseverance. This experience taught me that true craftsmanship is a journey of continuous learning, where patience is essential for mastering every detail.

MMD: In your opinion, what is the main distinction between Florentine and Neapolitan shoemaking? Specifically, the style, technique, and workmanship?

GS: The main distinction, in my view, lies primarily in style. While techniques and workmanship may share similarities due to their shared heritage, Neapolitan shoemaking tends to showcase a brighter colour palette and more defined details, distinguishing it stylistically from its Florentine counterpart.

MMD: Now that you're running your very own bespoke shoemaking house in Naples, can you tell us about your 'house style'? What makes your creations unique?

GS: When I approached designing my first bespoke collection, I had a clear concept in mind: "I'm creating traditionally handmade shoes for today's gentlemen." From this original idea, I work tirelessly every day to maintain my trademark style — a unique combination of timeless design with a modern, clean touch. Before launching a model, it has to satisfy the most experienced customer —myself.

MMD: In your opinion, what is the typical Neapolitan style when it comes to bespoke shoemaking? How did you manage to combine the art of the Florentines into your Neapolitan roots in your craft?

GS: Classic medallions on gently rounded toes, as well as seamless back wholecuts shaped on squared lasts, represent my DNA style.

MMD: How do you define a pair of well-made bespoke shoes? What are the criteria?

GS: Entering the world of bespoke, for me, means respecting a certain number of aspects such as ergonomic fitting, long-lasting durability, and strength of materials used in the making. Nevertheless, fine aesthetics and attention to detail are fundamental in a well-made piece. So, the criteria to create a truly bespoke pair of shoes involve combining supreme design with accurate fitting, surpassing the satisfaction of the customer's expectations.

MMD: As the Founder and artisan of your own shoemaking house, can you share with us the challenges you've encountered? How did you overcome them?

GS: Starting a new brand, especially a handmade one in Italy after the year of 2009/2010, meant facing many problems and overcoming numerous challenges — establishing the business, finding reliable suppliers and a suitable workshop location, networking, generating new ideas, and creating shoes. The solution to all these challenges was simple — hard work, immense motivation, and passion.

MMD: Let’s talk about you. Can you tell us about your favourite pair of shoes and why?

GS: Despite being a shoemaker, I have an abundance of shoes around me that can't easily fit in a room. Nevertheless, the pair I jealously keep with me is a pair of Oxford boots in grey calf, with a very thin sole and a flower medallion on the toe. It's the first pair I ever made for myself under the guidance of my Japanese mentor during training in Naples.

MMD: Can you tell us a bit about your personal style? What's your favourite ensemble when it comes to menswear, and why?

GS: My personal style is a blend of vintage elegance and modern sophistication. I particularly enjoy combining classic pieces with contemporary accents, creating a unique and timeless look. One of my favorite ensembles is a tailored suit paired with vintage-inspired accessories, such as a pocket square or a statement watch. This fusion allows me to express my appreciation for tradition while embracing the innovation of modern fashion.

MMD: When you heard the word 'style', what does it mean to you?

GS: Style, to me, isn't about chasing trends — it's about embracing individuality and timelessness. It's like curating a collection of pieces that speak to who you are, regardless of what's "in" at the moment. It's about feeling confident and comfortable in what you wear, knowing that your look reflects your personality and stands the test of time.

MMD: Besides being well-dressed and well-groomed, in your opinion, what qualities should a modern gentleman have?

GS: Besides being well-dressed and groomed, a modern gentleman should exude a positive attitude, seek a sustainable work-life balance, and actively work towards a greener future.

MMD: If someone asked you how to become a great bespoke shoemaker, what would your advice be?

GS: My advice would be this: when someone feels the desire to pursue the path of an artisan or shoemaker, they should do so out of a genuine love for the craft. It's essential to find satisfaction in the creative process and the work itself, prioritising passion over monetary gain. This deep dedication is the foundation upon which true mastery is built.

Special thanks to Mr. Giuseppe Sannino.

Image courtesy of Giuseppe Sannino Bespoke Shoes, Naples, & Ph. Narciso Miatto.


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