In conversation with Giussepe Santoni : An avid watch collector, traveller and luxury shoemaker
“With over 120 watches in my collection, I like to buy them as an investment and try to pick up pieces that increase in value over the years. But, I also buy what I like.”
‘La bella figura’ or making ‘a good impression’ is extremely important for Italians who are well known around the globe for their attention of dressing up. In the world of luxury fashion and style, many iconic brands from Italy have carved a niche for themselves for all good reasons. One such name is Santoni, the makers of high-quality leather shoes, and ‘Vishawatch’ caught up with the man-in-charge, Giussepe Santoni, during his recent visit to Delhi for the brand’s official launch.
Prior to this, Santoni has been in India a couple of times mostly for leisure, including the one time when he took off to Kangra valley to meet the Dalai Lama. A man of fine taste, Santoni not only likes dressing up people’s feet in high-end shoes, but also enjoys a few indulgences himself like travelling for pleasure and collecting watches. After taking charge of the business from his father at the age of 21 about three decades ago, Santoni has taken the family-owned label to greater heights and continues to chart out future course. Here are excerpts from the conversation with him.
You joined the family business very young. How has the journey been so far?
Yes, it has been over 30 years. I am pretty old that way (laughs). Santoni as a brand has been manufacturing shoes since 1975. We make a very high quality product and try to develop around the world a concept of quality luxury and design. We are famous for special colours, nice shapes, laces, very modern and detailed design in comfortable shoes. We make about 1,000 pairs of shoes every day, of which about 70% are for men. The brand’s annual revenue is about 80 million Euros with a presence almost all over the world. It has been a great journey so far!
You said you love watches. Tell us more about that.
I like watches and have about 120 pieces in my collection. I not only collect big ones like Patek Philippe and Rolex, but also have a lot of other brands like IWC, JLC, Panerai and Audemars Piguet. I like to buy watches as an investment and try to pick up pieces that increase in value over the years. But, I also buy what I like. For example watches with blue dials. I am not a fan of yellow metal so much, but like them in steel, white gold or platinum.
Tell us about some special watches in your collection and how do you go about picking a new one?
There are many special watches. For example, there are two from Patek’s anniversary collections, in white gold and platinum. There is a Paul Newman limited edition vintage piece, very rare. The one I am wearing right now is a very unique piece too. IWC makes this watch in black dial and brown bracelet, but I got one made for myself with a blue dial and blue bracelet. It is a big pilot watch and very special. Santoni has a collaboration with IWC watches. We produce the straps for them and some parts. They use our orange lining inside with Santoni embossing on it. It is a real collaboration. I do go out shopping looking for new watches and also go to auctions for vintage ones. I have my supplier who tells me what to buy. Besides all that, I am also well informed (smiles).
Many watch collectors, like yourself, see it as an investment. But when it comes to expensive shoes, that’s usually not the case. What’s your take on the passion of collecting shoes?
See in the case of shoes, one needs to be in love with the design, style and elegance. Shoes need to be an object of desire, exactly as watches but since they are usually less expensive than watches, you do not think it as an investment. You have to think of it as personal pleasure. We make a product that makes our customers feel happy. Basically our job is like that of a therapist.
How many pairs of shoes are there in your own closet? Which are the other brands you like?
About 400 pairs and they are all Santoni shoes. I do not wear any other brands and that is because I like to be comfortable always (laughs). It is not that I do not trust anybody else, but when it comes to comfort, they are not as good as we are. And when you start to wear nice quality and comfortable shoes, you do not want to wear anything else. So, it is not my fault.
Coming to your brand’s official launch in India, what gives you the confidence to do business here?
First of all, our partners. Secondly, I know that in India there used to be very few super wealthy families earlier, with 99.9 % of poor people. But now the middle class is growing very fast. People are getting jobs, they are making money and spending it too. When you see a country with growing medium class, you know the country is growing. Another positive thing about India is that people here love quality and design. They understand and appreciate good product, even if they are not super rich, but aim to look good and dress nicely which is a great for brands like us. I like India. It feels good here. I travel a lot. For example if you go to New York, you feel crazy. But people here are comparatively relaxed.
Is your pricing policy for India any different?
Compared to Europe, our products here may be 10-15 % more expensive because of high import duties. But considering the quality of the shoes, it is nothing. Other than that, our pricing policy worldwide is the same.
India is known for its craftsmanship and exports leather as well. Have you considered sourcing from here?
Our production is so complicated that we cannot think of producing outside of our company. Yes, India is famous for craftsmanship, but more on fabric side. When you compare our shoes with India made shoes, you immediately see a big difference in the quality. It is also true that this country produces a lot of leather, but it is not refined in terms of quality.
Santoni also has a Ready-To-Wear collection in the international markets. Any plans to bring that to India?
RTW is not very big for us right now. It is an initial test, but our main focus is on shoes. Hence, its too early to bring RTW in India.
Will you open more stores to sell shoes here?
We currently have one boutique in Delhi and I think having boutiques is the only way to express the concept of the brand. We do have plans to open one in Mumbai and another one in Delhi at some other location. Ends
Here are some more glimpses from the launch event hosted by Santoni team at DLF Emporio.
By Vijaya Rathore in March 2019.