Beetroot, tea and saffron. These are some of the ingredients that Gianluca Occhiuto uses when he paints shoes. In his men’s shoe store Il Pantheon in Oslo, Norway, he sells shoes from Italian makers Bettanin & Venturi, among others, and he himself is responsible for the extraordinary finish.
Il Pantheon used to be located in central Oslo, the capital or Norway, but nowadays has moved a bit east in a village outside. Its owner Gianluca Occhiuto is the most Italian man in town, and in his shop he has gathered a select few high-quality clothing, accessory and shoe manufacturers from his home country. For example, he sells shirts from Lino Sentiero and suits from Sartoria DeBernardis, but it’s the shoes that really stand out. Il Pantheon has some models from Ivan Crivallero, an Italian who makes shoes with a very characteristic patina, and also some models from the Parma-based brand Barrett.
But above all it’s shoes from the renowned Bettanin & Venturi that are on the shelves. The brand makes classic Italian shoes with long lasts, wide soles and a lot of Norvegese stitching.
– I’ve had many different Italian manufacturers in the shop over the years, but Bettanin & Venturi has become a favourite and the one I continue to work with the most, Gianluca says.
He buys the shoes from B&V in uncoloured crust leather and paints the shoes himself, which is done in a rather special way.
In the years that Gianluca Occhiuto has been painting shoes, he has developed experimentation as a working method. He makes his own colours out of all-natural ingredients, testing what works best for the results he wants. On the shelves in the shop are a pair of bright yellow single monks, coloured by saffron. Next to them is a pair of tasselled loafers in a light green shade that he coloured with tea and other ingredients. And below them, a pair of chukka boots where beetroot has given them a deep red-purple tone.
– You don’t have to use lots of chemically produced colours, you can just as easily use what nature offers. It takes a bit more preparation and knowledge, but the end result is just as good, Gianluca says.
Also when it comes to shoe polish products, his favourite is not what the average shoe enthusiast uses. Gianluca prefers to use shoe polish from the Swiss company Huwyler Schuhmacherei, which he finds easier to work with and gives better results than most other products on the market.
– You can think that what is the largest and most recommended brands should automatically be the best, in terms of shoes, shoe care or anything else in life. Or you can think that what is the largest and most recommended is there because people haven’t bothered to find out about other alternatives. I work on the basis of the latter.
Note: This article was first published on the Swedish menswear site Manolo a few years ago.