From left to right: Vinny Bassi, Gianluca Bocache and Aidan Chappell. Vinny and Aidan sat down with Gianluca at Brisbane haberdashery The Cloakroom to learn more about the brand and its modus operandi.
The distinguishing factor between the artisan and his counterparts is that of compromise – specifically a lack thereof on the artisan’s behalf. This philosophy of artisanship thereby culminates in a desire to create only the very best of something, with not a single external considerations interfering with this objective – a concept embodied to its utmost by Roman shoemakers Bocache & Salvucci.
They craft a staggeringly low two to three pairs per day between 11 makers – all in the name of trying to craft the finest shoes in the world. Whilst the customer may not understand or fully appreciate the intricacies of the craft, it is the passion of the artisan, which is inextricably transposed into their products, which garners the customer’s attention.
Beautiful arrangement of bespoke shoe samples at The Cloakroom in Brisbane, Australia.
Whilst essentially Italian in design, Bocache & Salvucci's shoes remain within the boundaries of what most would consider classic and subtle.
Bocache & Salvucci, established in 1997, is the brainchild of shoemaking wunderkinds Gianluca Bocache and Roberto Salvucci – both of whom are in their mid 40’s – young given their experience and proficiency. Having established their store on Via Francesco Crispi, the duo were so inundated with orders – all of which are labour and time intensive – requiring approximately 20 to 30 hours of handwork, that they were forced to open another store only a mere 170 metres down the road at Via Sistina. Now Via Sistina serves as their boutique, whilst Via Francesco’s primary function is housing the workshop.
Aside from the ethereal quality of their shoes, the defining essence of Bocache & Salvucci is their global presence – the likes of which transcends the vast majority of artisans – all thanks to Gainluca’s incredulous travel schedule, which sees him travelling for 250 days of the year to all continents except for the Poles.
Recently we had the pleasure of chatting with Gianluca Bocache whilst he was conducting his inaugural Australian trunk show at Brisbane’s The Cloakroom.
Gianluca Bocache, the first half of the shoemaking duo that is Gianluca Bocache and Roberto Salvucci.
Shoes of the maker. Donning a pair of beautifully made Bocache & Salvucci fringe tassel loafers.
You solely offer a made-to-measure and bespoke service?
We have never made ready-to-wear shoes, and never will, however we make ready to buy accessories – bags, belts, and wallets – but this is a small part of our business. Our clients often require leather goods to accompany their shoes, however our main focus is shoemaking.
What we both found really interesting is that when some people talk about handmade shoes, a number of key processes are done by machine. However with your shoes, there is no machinery used, is that correct?
No, we don’t use machines, except for some very small processes. We will use a machine to reduce the sole, however the essential processes are done completely by hand. We cut and finish the sole with glass, we use natural wax for the soles, we use natural colour to paint the shoes – everything is natural. We use real fire to heat up the alcohol for the finishing process.
"Working by hand is the best way to complete a shoe; it makes the shoes more durable, avoiding the stress that is placed on the shoes by machine work."
Some of my shoes are 10-15 years old, yet they still look beautiful, and are comfortable to wear. Making by hand gives you more control; you can adjust a shoe even by 1 millimetre. By hand you can adjust a little bit on one side, adjust a little bit on the other and check. This is important when working with exact measurements.
How many hours of production time or workmanship go into making one pair of shoes?
From order to delivery we take a minimum of eight weeks if we are fast. If I start today, and I can put all the process together, I need 20 to 30 hours. More or less four days. We are eleven shoemakers with one factory – with machines we could make 300 pairs of shoes per day. However we make two and a half pairs per day, maybe three if we are lucky. Quality is key.
Mr. Gianluca Bocache taking the measurements of one of his clients at the trunk show in Brisbane.
What is the most time consuming process?
The sole is a very long process – to attach, to stitch, and to finish. We build the leather around the shape. To make the second part, the heel is a very long, slow process; the leather must be stitched, and welted. Sometimes you work on the same point of the shoe twenty times in a day.
So what goes into the sole?
Everything is natural. The insole is leather, the middle sole is leather, and the last sole is leather, the full heel is leather. On the middle we can use two different types of material – cork or natural latex. It depends on the client and the weather it is to be worn in. Russians maybe use latex as it is safer for rain. For here in Australia where it is hot, we would use cork.
We take a flexible approach with each commission. All factors are considered. If a client is big, we must use a solid sole, if they are thin we use a softer sole. Everything must be proportional.
It seems like a delicate process. What is your view on the use of technology in the shoemaking process?
Some clients in the past have wanted to use a scanner to measure the foot. It is an interesting technology, however it doesn’t work – we have tried. It is not a purely mathematical process. It is harder than that to create the shape of the shoe.
These days a lot shoemakers purport that Goodyear welt is the best form of construction. We heard that you believe that Blake Rapid is the best form?
We do every kind of construction. For me Goodyear is not the best. It is something that is just talked about by people who do not truly understad the construction of a shoe. Every shoe must be built around the client. I can’t make a Goodyear construction for a client who lives in the Congo, much like tailoring a silk jacket for a man who lives in Moscow wouldn’t work.
Bocache & Salvucci believe in creating shoes that fit the needs of each individual customer, and as such, they employ a variety of different construction methods.
What are the main differences between a Blake Rapid and a Goodyear welt?
They are both are methods of stitching the sole. A Goodyear sole is horizontally stitched, whilst a Blake Rapid is vertically stitched. Goodyear can be done by hand, and by machine. Blake Rapid can only be executed by machine; everything else in the process is the same. The Blake Rapid is twice stitched, both inside and outside of the sole. The result at the end is almost the same. The Blake Rapid can only be done by machine. Blake Rapid is the name of the machine itself.
How do you maintain consistency in your shoemaking?
If there are three shoemakers and if each attempted to make the same shoe, three different shoes would be created. Each shoemaker has his or her own interpretation and individual style. So to maintain a uniform style, each shoemaker in our workshop is responsible for a certain process.
The same shoemaker always makes the sole, another only the shape, whilst the other one cuts. This achieves consistency. If one shoemaker made a shoe from beginning to the end, the final result would vary. So one shoemaker starts each shoe, another moulds the leather to the last, another the sole – to ensure the same style is followed.
Attractive takes on the double monk strap and the austerity brogue.
Much has been made of the talent drain in the sartorial world. Do you find it hard to find good shoemakers for your workshop?
It is almost impossible. We must teach everyone ourselves. Our staff have been solid since the beginning. We work together like a big family – everyone knows what to do. Every person checks the person next to him or her. We have a new young, talented guy from Milan. Our oldest shoemaker is 76, and then I am the next oldest at 46. The rest are younger. We don’t want old shoemakers. They don’t understand the new concept of business, of ‘consumismo’, of what the consumer wants. The young staff understand the consumers better.
When people think of master shoemakers, they typically envisage an older gentleman. It is quite refreshing that you place an emphasis on youth.
We must refresh. However each generation is important, we need to understand the past, present and future. But for the future we need youth.
Bespoke sample models displayed during the trunk show.
How did you learn shoemaking? Did you teach yourself?
When I was young, I was always in the workshop of a shoemaker near my house. I was excited just to touch something. He was an older gentleman from Naples. Unfortunately I don’t know what became of him. At that time he was 75, then I moved on to a different lab in Rome, under another individual.
We heard that you demand is so high that you have opened up another store on the same street as your original store.
We had to open another store, as the first one was not big enough, especially in consideration of our expansion into general leather goods. The second store is more of a boutique, inside we also have a small lab, but we slowly want to mirror the concept of The Cloakroom with a bar and barber shop, but at the moment it is just a project – a concept, as for now we are very busy. Our next step is to open a shop in London and New York. That for us is very important.
So what does the future hold for Bocache & Salvucci?
The future is very easy for us: we don’t want to commercialize, we want to remain niche, we don’t want to make ready-to-wear through massive production and we are not interested in the money. We are only interested in making beautiful things. Money is something that comes, it is of course essential, but it is not something that consumes us. We work for our passion.