As part our Grazie series we’re taking a closer look at the most exciting artists, designers, chefs and creatives inspired by Italian style.
With its iconic designers, sharp suits and world-famous models, Italy has a proud tradition of taking style seriously – and it’s a tradition that Velasca’s Enrico Casati is eager to continue. The company, which makes beautiful Italian shoes using traditional artisan methods, was founded on the idea of combining the old and the new: classic Italian style with modern convenience and service. We spoke to Enrico about the importance of quality, his appreciation of craftsmanship and why Italian designers need to continue pushing boundaries.
Hi Enrico. Can you tell us about Velasca and what inspired you to start the company?
The inspiration to start Velasca came during the summer of 2012. I had been living in Singapore for almost a year at that time and I was looking for a nice pair of Italian-made shoes that wouldn’t cost me a fortune. Funnily enough, that turned out to be a difficult task – all I could find were the super luxury shoes of established brands of the really cheap ones that I couldn’t bring myself to wear.
Talking with my brother and Jacopo (Sebastio, Velasca co-founder), we decided to launch our own brand of shoes to address this underserved market. We made many mistakes from that summer in 2012 until now, but I’m proud to say that we managed to bring our project to life, and we now have a wonderful team of people helping us to grow the brand internationally.
How did you choose the name?
This is a funny story as it was actually my mum who found the name! We were looking for a name with character that people would remember, linked to the city of Milan. Enter my mum: she came to me with a newspaper article talking about the Velasca Tower of Milan and its role as a symbol of the post-WWII city renaissance. It’s a building that’s often associated with the innovative period of the 1950s, and it’s studied by architects around the world. It immediately resonated with me – we knew we had the name.
How did you get introduced to style – shoes in particular – and what do you find so fascinating about it?
Jacopo and I have always had a passion for high-quality niche products that last a lifetime and help us express who we are. Shoes, in particular, are one of the few items in a man’s wardrobe that can really change the entire outfit. That’s why they are so powerful, and that’s why we spend so much time prototyping new shoe models to bring the best to market.
All of your shoes are handmade using traditional methods. Why do you think it’s important to continue traditions?
This is a really crucial point at Velasca. We strive to be at the intersection between tradition and innovation – making products the old way but selling them in the new way. Italy has so much to offer in terms of tradition and craftsmanship that it would be a real pity not to bring it to the present.
We as Italians are a bit behind in the digitalization of our economy but I’m starting to see a lot of attention on the topic and the mood has changed. I’m definitely positive about the future.
Why do you think people are drawn to handmade, artisan items?
Simple answer – quality. It’s just so different when there’s a skilled artisan behind every product. Watching them work whenever I’m visiting our suppliers is my favourite part of the job.
Tell us about your approach to designing your shoes.
Our approach to design revolves around the idea that our audience wants style and quality before anything else. That’s why our collection doesn’t show flashy colours or the latest new fad in fashion. We’re really much more into timeless style that gets modernised by a few meticulously chosen details.
From Ferragamo’s shoes to Armani’s suits, Italy has a history of leading the world in style and design. What do you think gives Italians such a unique sense of style?
Italian style has defined the market for many decades and it continues to do so. I think what it’s really about is a nonchalant elegance that never over-promises but always over-delivers. It’s about the detail, the presentation, the fabric, leather or style that makes a difference and yet is un-noticeable at the untrained eye. It’s about being authentic.
We Italians share a great privilege to be the heirs of such famous names as Armani and Ferragamo. We shouldn’t be pretentious though. We have a responsibility to continue pushing the boundaries.
Who are your style icons?
The list is long but if I could name one influencer of the past that never fails to impress me, it’d be Marcello Mastroianni.