Made in Le Marche : Tod’s Dots of Life

Be a part of the Tod’s story, share your moments with the Gommino and join the coolest trendsetters

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Tod’s invites you to discover and join the picture gallery dedicated to the Gommino created by the most influential trendsetters. The Tod’s Gommino, a brand icon, was inspired by the 1950’s driving shoes and is the perfect accent to complete a contemporary look.

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The creation of Tod’s products is a unique process in which Tod’s artisans, specialists that perpetuate a unique tradition, use the best quality leathers, which they cut, work, and sew by hand.

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Every single object becomes a unique piece, a masterpiece of handcrafted leather that is recognized and loved around the world.

Tod’s Group is an Italian company which produces luxury shoes and other leather goods, and is presided over by businessman Diego Della Valle. Dorino Della Valle started the shoemaking business out of a basement in the late 1920s.

Filippo Della Valle at the beginning of the last century, launched a small cobbling business in Le Marche, in rural Italy. It was from within the basement walls of this modest enterprise that Diego Della Valle’s grandfather first applied the borderline obsessive attention to standards — quality in design, quality in construction, quality of materials — which today is etched indelibly onto the Tod’s manufacturing blueprint.

Diego’s father, Dorino, was another stickler for quality; in the 1940s, he parlayed the small firm into an international outfit, supplying private-label shoes to glitzy foreign outlets including Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. And here’s where a young Diego’s involvement begins. To give the teenaged Della Valle foundations in English and the basic tenets of international commerce, his father would take him on business trips regularly — more often than not to America. During one of these trans-Atlantic excursions, when Della Valle was 16, he made a discovery that would ultimately turn the family business into the Herculean enterprise it is today.

“I was walking around in New York, and saw a pair of moccasins in a shop window,” he explains, reclining into his swivel chair. “They’d been made by a Portuguese artisan. The concept was interesting, but the shoes were very bad: no quality, cheaply made, no technical realism had gone into them. But it was a starting point.”

The young Della Valle couldn’t have known, as he returned across the Atlantic to Italy, that the pair of shoddily made mocs in his luggage would evolve into a shoe that today is for Tod’s what the Stratocaster is for Fender, or the E-Type for Jaguar. But the young man The New Yorker would later dub the ‘Italian Ralph Lauren’ had certainly gotten his first scent of the preppy elegance the American middle classes carry off so well, and knew instinctively that his family’s stock in trade, steeped in the ancient traditions and methodologies of the Old World, would be devoured, hungrily, in the casual, informal-but-affluent penny-loafer-wearing milieu of the New World.

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The ‘ain’t-broke, don’t-fix-it’ policy he’s describing is perhaps best represented in the Gommino — the astonishingly comfortable, quietly stylish loafer named after the 133 rubber pebbles embedded into its sole, which has barely changed since its arrival on the market, shortly after Tod’s was founded.

Headquartered in Casette d’Ete, close to the spot in Le Marche, Eastern Italy, where Della Valle’s grandfather first set up shop over a century ago, it is elegantly rendered from marble and glass, it has a polished-steel staircase designed by Ron Arad. Along with his grandfather’s wooden workbench and tools, plus eclectic artworks in every nook and cranny, a red Ferrari driven by Michael Schumacher in 1997 is on display (it was donated by Della Valle’s close friend and counterpart at Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo). Most impressive of all, though, is something intangible in the building’s atmosphere: an all-pervading sense of quiet, efficient industry. Tod’s is famous for valuing and nurturing its staff, and to this end, the building offers a free nursery, a gym, restaurant and even an auditorium for lectures and exhibitions — which locals are also welcome to attend.

Altruism towards workers, unsurprisingly, is part of a strategic philosophy. “Amongst the manufacturers, a lot are second generation,” he says. Breeding family-led loyalty to a company, he explains, encourages staff to pass down an ethos, philosophy and attitude, as well as specific skills.

“Italy being part of us is a big part of our success,” he says. “Italian life — and real life, not that portrayed by actors and models or in movies — is our roots. It’s so important for Tod’s to be 100-percent Italian.” This is why the idea of moving production to cheaper parts of the world — something the economic downturn has persuaded many illustrious labels to consider — is anathema to Della Valle. “If we moved it to other countries, the quality would change. The Asian people want to buy ‘made-in-Italy’ quality. They want that philosophy.”

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