Calzoleria Carlino is an Italian maker who slowly but steadily started to make a name of itself domestically and internationally in recent years. An old-school, traditional Italian style enhanced by the extensive use of some amazing vintage leathers, combined with a good price tag, makes them highly interesting. Here’s a buyer’s guide to the brand, with a pair of remote bespoke lazyman oxfords in vintage pigskin they’ve made for me as a base.
Riccardo Cianci is the man behind Calzoleria Carlino today. Now 28 years old, but already at 14 he started hanging out in his grandfather Carlino’s “bottega” – a shoe repair and shoemaking workshop in Sassuolo, a town in the Province of Modena close to Bologna in the north-central parts of Italy. After finishing school Riccardo started working in the workshop doing shoe repairs, first simple ones but with time more and more advanced things. He learned how good shoes were made, and the basics of construction – and learned basics of fit from grandfather Carlino who not least did a lot of orthopaedic shoes.
On his spare time Riccardo also started making shoes of his own, and realised this was what he wanted to focus on. In a pursue to learn more he spent weekends learning pattern and upper making from a specialised maker, and later lastmaking from a lastmaker who worked for one of the shoe last and shoe tree factories but also did wooden bespoke lasts. He took over his grandfathers workshop, and albeit focus is on the making they continue the tradition to also do shoe repairs, as well as making of leather goods. This is done by Riccardo’s wife Chiara Cianci, who also do the closing of the uppers. They also offer shoemaking courses, making them a real old school “bottega” in the same style as was more common back in the days.
During the first years they felt they weren’t completely skilled enough to do the shoes customers ordered, so they used freelance makers for both uppers and bottom making, while Riccardo made patterns and lasts. A few years ago Taichi Shimizu from Japan joined the workshop as an apprentice, he was very dedicated and worked very hard, and nowadays he is skilled enough to do all their bottom making for their hand welted bespoke shoes. Recently a new apprentice came, Mattia Rufo, who do repairs, trial shoes and just started doing some work on their Blake shoe offerings.
Riccardo Cianci early on fell in love with the shoes from some of the old classic Italian brands when he did repairs of these, like Calzoleria Gatto in Rome or the Milan legend Mario Orio, and he eventually also started collecting vintage Italian shoes, who inspired the house style a lot. He is also a vintage leather collector, and those who follow Carlino’s Instagram knows that they have access to some seriously amazing vintage skins of various kinds. Riccardo explains that in Italy, with the large leather tanning tradition they have, there’s many chances of finding nice older skins, not only really old ones but also great stuff from for example the 90’s.
Offerings and prices
Calzoleria Carlino has three different type of offerings, where they all are made to the same standard. They are hand lasted, hand welted and hand stitched sole, and lasted or bespoke shoe trees are included in all orders.
Price starts at €1,750 (prices incl. VAT). Many of the models you see on their Instagram can be ordered as MTO, made on standard last shapes (including their wide square Roma style, soft square, chisel toe, smart round and full round).
Price starts at €2,100. This is like MTO but small modifications are done to the last to accommodate the customer’s feet. All their base lasts can be used for this. Standard is without fitting shoe, but can be done with a fitting at an upcharge.
Price starts at €2,600. Here all last shapes and styles can be accommodated according to the customer’s preferences. Always done with at least one fitting.
Worth noting is that all order types can be done remotely, also full bespoke. One gets detailed instructions on how to measure ones feet, take photos and give other info on how one likes shoes to fit, what RTW that fits well etc. Prices refers to regular calf leather, higher boots are more expensive, and some vintage leathers and other leathers incur an upcharge. For example Shell cordovan adds €700, crocodile €3,400. They also offer Blake stitched shoes, which is mainly ordered by domestic customers, this starts at €1,300. Also, they are working on introducing some RTW hand welted models in a wider way.
Riccardo reached out to me quite some time back when they were about to introduce their remote bespoke service, mainly due to the situation with Covid, and wondered if I would be interested in trying this out for free. Given the still very limited info found about them online, the good pricing which is likely to intrigue many Shoegazing readers, and the fact that I personally quite like this type of Italian style, meant that I happily accepted the offer. As always when I receive shoes at a discount or for free, the brand don’t have any impact on what content I will produce. Riccardo has not asked any questions on this, he has only been interested in feedback on the process and the shoes.
The model I chose was one I’d seen on their Instagram, a lazyman oxford with a bit of brogueing and a cap toe, made on their soft square last. One of the vintage leathers I know they had access to were a lovely looking pigskin, which they hade in several different shades. I chose between two brown ones (surprise…), and opted for a sort of tan, chestnut coloured one.
When doing a remote bespoke order, I sent a number of measurements of my feet along with outlines of them (they have a handy document they send which one can print and work from), photos of my feet, plus a bunch of info on common fit issues, how I like shoes to fit and also sizing and fit of some well-known RTW shoes. After a couple of months, I received a pair of fitting shoes, made up in a scrap leather. There were quite a bit of work to be done, among other things they were too tight over the vamp, too short causing troubles for the pinky toes and had some excess space in the arch area. To be honest, at this stake, I was a bit sceptical on if we were going to be able to reach a good final fit.
I took photos where I draw on areas to be fixed, wrote down input, and also recorded a movie where I showed the issues further and could give Riccardo an image of how they were on my feet, when walking etc. It was given that a second fitting were to be made, and a few months later a second fitting pair were sent. Now, there was a clear improvement from the first pair, but still some things remained like pinky toes being a bit cramped and excess in arch, as well as some excess space at the feather edge of the inner ball area that had appeared when they made the last wider. Here I was pretty certain that we would end up with something quite good, even if there was work left to be done.
Same type of feedback on the new fitting pair was sent, and then I were to wait for the final pair. Now, at this stake business had picked up again for Carlino, and they have prioritised their regular customers, which of course makes total sense. So it’s been almost 1,5 years from final fitting input to receiving the finished pair. For regular customers this is quicker, I believe it’s around 12 months in total from order to finished shoe, given that one needs one fitting and a bit more if two fittings are needed.
The shoes are delivered in a green, classic shoe box with the Carlino logo, fabric bags with bubble plast wrappings around them, a leaflet with info about shoe care etc. I opted for shoe trees made of lightweight obeche wood, they are hinged and fits perfectly, as one expect. The shoes have a nice high shine already out of the box, I haven’t done anything before taking the photos here.
We start with the part I was most uncertain about, given the remote process and the fact that there still was some work to be done after the last fitting pair. Gladly, the fit turned out to be really great. Many normally difficult parts ended up nearly perfect, like the arch area even behind the ball where makers usually struggle, and the pinky toes have just the right amount of space.
During my first couple of wears only thing I really noticed is a bit of pinching on top of the big toe, classic thing when shoes are new and in almost all cases this goes away completely once the leather softens. There’s some excess space at the inner facing, and given that you have no lacing to adjust things with, plus the soft pigskin, this creates a visible dimple here. But overall there’s really not much left to sort for a potential second pair from them, which is indeed way better than I expected, especially after the first fitting. Likely, to have experience with many bespoke orders before as I have makes it easier to solve a good result when doing things remotely.
The pigskin leather is just as lovely as I had imagined it to be. It’s thin but not as super soft as pigskin often is, so it works really well for a pair of semi casual men’s shoes like this. The structure is beautiful, so much natural life and character. This also gives the colour a natural depth, which I expect to become better and better as years go by.
The making and finishing of the shoes is of really good standard. The bottom maker Taichi Shimizu entered the World Championships of Shoemaking contest back in 2019, this was when he was very new to making which was highly evident in the entry, he did it as a way to challenge himself, and his shoe ended up in 19th place. He has indeed developed a lot over the last 3,5 years.
That said, it’s not the finest made shoes I have, but definitely really solid and nice make. If you go really into details you can see how welt at one toe has a bit of fuzz up towards the upper leather, a tad bit of glitch between a few heel lifts, sole finishing not as crisp as it can be, and things like that. But the good surely trumf this, like the thin fine layers of the heel, the neat blind welted waist, the distinct fudging and clean 12 spi sole stitching that works great with the slightly wider edge, straight fine lines around the edges and so on. Upper making is also done well, just punching in some area that were a little bit off. Given that all at the Carlino workshop, especially the main bottom maker, are relatively new in the game, one could expect them all to continue to develop and improve further.
Overall, I’m really pleased with the shoes from Calzoleria Carlino. The style and leather form a semi casual shoe that is perfect to my taste. Full bespoke at this level for the price of €2,600 including VAT is not bad, and the MTO and MTM made to the same standard should attract interest.