In 1975, Andrea Santoni launched Santoni footwear from his home. His son, Giuseppe, now the CEO, grew up surrounded by the materials and textures that were in each handcrafted pair. Over the past 43 years, the brand has gained global recognition thanks to a commitment to quality, excellence, and a responsible manufacturing processes.
Whitewall spoke with Giuseppe Santoni about the brand’s sustainable choices, the value of quality, and the balance of tradition, innovation, and contemporary design.
WHITEWALL: Since Santoni’s inception in 1975, how has the brand stayed the same?
GIUSEPPE SANTONI: It’s really a matter of philosophy and values. I grew up with the idea that quality was the most important value to be pursued. That kind of excellence means beauty, too. I love to consider myself and my company makers of beauty. We create valuable objects with a distinctive style by using the most authentic traditional techniques. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy to remain loyal to this philosophy. It means refusing any kind of compromise and making difficult, and sometimes unprofitable, choices. However, I can ensure that it’s possible to evolve and grow, not only as a company but also as a brand, while maintaining traditional values. Our collection is a perfect example of the combination of tradition and innovation, quality approach, and contemporary spirit.
WW: Santoni’s headquarter office in Corridonia is a perfect example of innovation—an eco-sustainable center constituted by 90 percent recyclable materials. Can you tell us a bit about that?
GS: Our headquarters is in the heart of Italy, a very nice and welcoming place surrounded by sweet hills and very close to the sea. I’ve grown up with the idea that the environment is a precious value to be protected. When I decided to build a new headquarters in 2010, I really wanted it to be eco-friendly. I think this should be part of any entrepreneur’s responsibilities.
It is a contemporary space based on the predominance of natural light, energy-saving solutions, and eco-compatibility. The materials used in the production of the building (glass, steel, and aluminum) are 90 percent recyclable. A “double skin” facade allows the building, which is completely transparent, to significantly reduce the energy consumption. It also features a dedicated system for the recycling of rainwater. The amazing vertical gardens give an unexpected touch of green to the space, making it more pleasant and purifying the air. Most of all, all the buildings—the offices and the three production plants—are covered by almost four thousand photovoltaic panels that ensure the production of more than a million kilowatts per year of “green” energy. For all these reasons, we can say that Santoni shoes are created with “zero impact.”
WW: The same sensitivity is used in making footwear, by using the finest natural materials. How do you ensure the production of a quality product through a sustainable approach?
GS: The strict selection of the materials is essential to the final quality of the product. There’s no way you can deliver something excellent if the raw material is not the best. Today, to find high-quality leathers is really a major challenge. We try to build long-term relationships with our suppliers to ensure privileged options, especially because we employ a great variety of leathers in our collections and we need to secure the purchase of the best ones in terms of quality. What is essential to us is that all the leathers we use are tanned with the vegetable tanning, which is natural and chrome/metal free.
WW: Are you seeing customers gravitate more toward sustainable goods?
GS: The Santoni customer is usually a “connoisseur”—a man or woman who is an international citizen of the world, aware of the most important cultural themes, generally savvy, and very much interested in the intrinsic value of the product he or she purchases. To our customers, authenticity is an important value. They are obsessed with those details that make a difference, they have a discerning eye for what is distinguishing, and they are constantly reinventing the classics, making masterpieces contemporary. I believe sustainability is becoming more and more important to these kinds of people, so that it can really influence their choices and purchases.