The Italian shoemaker Riccardo Bestetti tragically passed away this week, after a period of illness. He was an amazing person who did amazing shoes, and he will be missed by many.
Riccardo Bestetti, or Freccia as he was called, caught my attentionfor four-five years ago, when his new semi bespoke range Novecento would soon launch and pictures of it began to spread online and in social media. I was immediately fascinated by what I saw. An elegant combination of old traditional Italian style with wider welts and beautiful patina, but with a slimmer design and very narrow, high pegged fiddle waists which looked more like something you would see on the finest cowboy boots. And the lasts was unlike any other, with terrific accentuated forms. About seven years ago he had had a bit of a revelation, and moved away from the quite traditional Italian style he had done before, and developed new lasts and changed the way he built his shoes. First just on the bespoke side but later then with the Novecento semi bespoke range, which also formed the basis for RTW models subsequently launched.
I started emailing with Riccardo to make a Novecento order, the wonderful adelaide Maverick in tan on a modified version of his almond toe last. I experienced him as genuinely courteous and friendly, he answered all the tedious questions I had, and sent continuous updates on how the production progressed. I soon learned that he in the classical Italian manner was an extreme time optimist, things he said would take a couple of weeks, probably because it was what he really wanted them to take, often took two months, since reality caught up between. When the shoes came they were of course amazing, and it might still be the shoes I received the most compliments for.
I met him in reality the first time in spring 2014, when he visited Gothenburg and the store Spiga 3 for a trunk show. Riccardo was tired after stressful travel day, but in a great mood. I was there early in the afternoon and sat for an hour with him for an interview. He told me how he as 26-year-old went to the US to visit his brother and became aware of cowboy boot-making, how he was sitting with books on the subject and took apart old vintage boots to learn how to make them, trained on his own, and then after a few years moved back to Italy and opened a bespoke workshop. He told me about the revelation I mention above, about how the internet helped him build a name for himself. About Vigevano outside Milan, where he lived and worked. About his family. During the whole interview, he had close to laughter and told the stories with feeling and passion.
Ever since then I have had regular contact with Riccardo, about orders, about general shoe subjects that we sometimes discussed and the things he needed help with, but also about the Shoegazing Super Trunk Show that he was part of last year. The first impression I got of him always accompanied, as a caring, friendly, funny and optimistic person. This summer I learned that he had problems with his lungs, and he was in hospital. The last contact we had was a couple of weeks ago, then he felt better and looked forward to soon be discharged. This never happened. Riccardo Freccia Bestetti passed away this week, before he even passed 50. Thoughts are of course with his family. What happens to his business is unclear, and not particularly important right now.
It’s a great loss to the shoe world. A great loss to the world.