Last week, the winter edition of the world’s largest shoe fair, Micam, was held in Milan, Italy. Shoegazing was there, here’s a summary of the impressions from the fair as well as some impressions from some of the exhibitors.
Micam is a bit of an institution in the shoe world, as it is the only trade fair that brings together actors from all different parts of the shoe sphere, everything from luxury fashion houses to small obscure children’s shoe manufacturers. However, like most trade shows in the world, Micam has struggled with a reduced number of visitors and exhibitors for a number of years. Last time I was here was five years ago, and it was noticeable how they have widen the aisles between the different stands to still fill the same area but with fewer exhibitors. The trade shows need to be developed to maintain their relevance, since ordering don’t take place in the same way as before for many players (for example large web stores and similar), and need to become more of meeting places and happenings. Here, Pitti Uomo is a typical example of a fair that has succeeded, and many of the manufacturers of classic men’s shoes are now only at Pitti, and have stopped exhibiting at Micam. That being said, you still find a lot of interesting stuff at the Milan fair.
It is hardly a secret that the general trend is towards more casual shoes and clothes, and this is also evident among the manufacturers of classic shoes, where in principle everyone also offers more casual models in addition to their dress ranges, and often also sneakers and similar. What you also see is that with the increased competition, brands are trying to find different ways to offer something unique, something that stands out, either model-wise, design-wise, price-wise (what you offer for the money), etc. As I usually say, good time for us customers who have more than ever to choose from and often get a lot for our money.
As one may, we start with an Italian brand. Francesco Benigno, founded in 1976, is a progressive Italian, where their big thing in recent years is pushing Goodyear flex models. There are lots of different variants where you use the same designation, in some cases it’s a shortcut to be able to use cheaper materials, but the Italians who use the method basically all follow Silvano Sassetti’s method where the welt seam is sewn with a machine with angled needle making it easier to sew directly to the midsole, without the canvas rib glued there on regular Goodyear. If you choose soft materials, you can get flexible models, but for my part, it’s mainly the lack of glued on gemming that is the great thing about the innovation, and I wish that more brands used the modified Goodyear machine that sew directly to the insole for ordinary Goodyear welted shoes too.
Apart from this, we have a lot of colour and relatively daring model variants found at Francesco Benigno.
Another interesting Italian, who is not very well known outside its home country, is Arbiter. Again, you will find a lot of colour and the regular Italian flair, but what is most interesting in my eyes is the rather large part of the range which combines this with more British last shapes. Just look at how successful Antonio Meccariello has been internationally with this approach, and we’ve seen it a lot in tailoring, so it should be something that we get to see more of also in this area.
We slide over to the British altogether. At Loake, most of the news is in the more casual sphere. Partly with some new boot models offered in leathers that are new to the brand, such as the characteristic chromexcel leather from the American tannery Horween, and an oiled suede leather. Also we finally have a new loafer last launched for 1880 and the Shoemaker ranges, which has more room for the toes and an improved fit overall. Among other things, a tassel loafer in many different leather options is made for the 1880 range on this new last.
Next door to Loake, both here at Micam and in the county at home in England, we find Cheaney. Here, many of the bestsellers in recent years are more casual, country-styled grain leather models and similar, especially the Japanese market is fond of several of these. But also the nice and considerably more dressy top range Imperial wins ground, here the range has recently been revised with for example models being moved to new lasts etc.
At Portuguese Carlos Santos, what stood out most for my part was a newly developed last that was made with the British last and shoe tree manufacturer Springline, one of these elegant classic round lasts that almost everyone appreciates. It’s available in a variant for low shoes, but then also a version specially developed for chelsea boots. This is for the fit to be as good as possible, as chelseas needs a bit different pressure over the instep and tighten over the ankles compared to how regular boot lasts often are made (this is one of the reasons why many like how RM Williams fits, the lasts are made solely for chelseas, not to work for other boots as well). The shoes on this last belong to the slightly finer Handgrade range, where they also added a closed channel on top of the welt for the sole stitch, so the seam is concealed on both the top and bottom, so to speak. Becomes clean, neat and a bit different.
Spanish Berwick stands out by offering specific material choices that are associated with clearly higher prices, such as shoes with oak bark tanned J. Rendenbach soles for around €300 and shoes in cordovan leather at under €500. Such attracts and stands out some, and draws with them the usual budget-bound sewers that actually account for the lion’s share of the brand’s sales.
Not only were Europeans found on the Milanese trade show floor last week, Japan was also represented. Here you had a small “Japanese square” with various Japanese exhibitors, several of my favourites For example, Fugashin, which is Japanese-owned but where the shoes are made in Vietnam, brought with them their new seamless wholecuts, which are hand welted with hand-sewn sole stitch, real delicious pieces. Another thing worth mentioning is Rendo’s new mini-collection with more casual models, a bit like Paraboot though more daring.