Mannina is one of Florence’s oldest bespoke shoemakers, with a more restrained and conservative style than many other Italians. When the founder passed away two years ago it was first a bit uncertain what would happen to the business – today the workshop is at full capacity.
Mannina’s workshop is tucked away in a small alley just south of the river Arno, a stone throw away from the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. One place many people probably would have missed if it was not for the fact that on the other end of the house they since a number of years also run a more traditional shoe shop with RTW shoes. It’s located on the pedestrian street of Via de Guicciardini where thousands of people pass every day during the summer, an excellent showcase for the brand. The shelves are packed with shoes, mostly men’s shoes but also some women and children shoes, and the store has a very traditional feel to it, which does well in this district. Here in the shop one usually find Antonio Mannina, son of the founder Calogero. Dressed in jacket, vest and pants in various shades of beige and patterns, still Italian but classic and dimmed, as Mannina’s shoes.
– We do not stand on the edge and scream. We make good, affordable, timeless shoes that you will not get tired of, Antonio says.
Calogero Mannina founded the brand in 1953, the same premises as the workshop is in now. He slowly built up a solid customer base, including trips to Japan not least in the 70s and 80s. Still today, the Japanese are the largest clientele together with US customers, though they have their Florentine and Italian clients too. When Calogero became older, the idea was that Antonio would take over the work in the workshop, but he was more interested in the business part, less of making shoes himself. Therefore Calogero searched for someone who could take care of the workshop, and found Giovanni Lorenzo. A young man from southern Italy who left university studies in chemistry to learn a tradtitional craft. It was five years ago, and two years ago went Calogero Mannina away, and since then it is Giovanni who runs the workshop, while Antonio owns the business and manages the shop.
– I am very happy that I got the chance here with Mannina, and do all that I can to continue to learn and operate the workshop in a good way, Giovanni Lorenzo says.
Giovanni is their main lastmaker and the one who handles the contact with the bespoke customers, and also makes patterns and cutting. Two employees are doing mainly making, and together they produce a bit over two hundred pairs of bespoke shoes a year. The waiting period is about 4-6 months.
– The interest in our bespoke remains high, which I’m very happy with. And it’s both new customers and old regulars, Giovanni says.
The price is relatively low, it starts at € 1,300. RTW shoes in the store is starting at € 450 for Blake stitched and a little more for Goodyear welted.
– We have a good mix now with RTW and bespoke, it provides stability to the business. When my father passed away two years ago, we discussed how we wanted to do and how the employees of the workshop felt about continuing. We all agreed that operate Mannina in the same way as before was the natural choice, and I am very glad that we did, Antonio Mannina says.