Why These Italian Shoe Dynasties Have Ruled for Generations

Arianna and Cesare Casadei.
Arianna and Cesare Casadei
Casadei

This week, we spotlighted the Ferragamos — one of Italy’s most powerful fashion families.

There are several other Italian shoe dynasties that have ruled the industry for generations. Here’s a look at four of them:

The Casadeis: 

Quinto Casadei founded the eponymous Italian shoe label with his wife back in 1958. While he’s now handed the role of creative director to his son Cesare, Quinto is still in the factory every day at 8 a.m. sharp. “He has the eye,” marveled Arianna, his granddaughter and a third-generation Casadei, who heads up marketing and communications. “He can see if the angle of a last is 2 millimeters out.”

Arianna, Cesare and Alessandra Casadei. Arianna, Cesare and Alessandra Casadei Casadei

In a family like this, board meetings can happen over lunch on a Sunday. There are no arguments, just “differences of opinion,” laughed Cesare. Such was the case when Arianna petitioned to launch e-commerce. “I found it too cold and impersonal,” he recalled. His father also shrugged off the idea. “So we send it to a customer’s home, and if they don’t like it they send it back? What is this system?” Quinto said.

These days, the family workforce includes production manager Alessandra, Cesare’s second wife, and Arianna’s fiancé, Nicolo. There is also Blade the dog, named after the iconic Casadei heel.

The Caovillas

The sprawling terrace of René Caovilla’s Milan headquarters affords a bird’s eye view of the city, with the gothic spires of the Duomo cathedral in the distance.

A key element of the space? The metal sculpture of the brand’s signature serpent coil sandal created by second-generation leader René Caovilla in 1969.

Rene Caovilla with his son Edoardo Caovilla posing in front of a sculpture at their Milan headquarters with a view of the city behind them René and Edoardo Caovilla Courtesy of Caovillas

His son Edoardo is now at the helm as both CEO and creative director. It’s not an easy mix of skills, he admits. “I don’t want  to say I am the best,” he demurs, “but I did grow up smelling the perfume of the company and seeing the previous generations doing such a great job.” And while the shoes are still created in the same factory near Venice, Edoardo has worked hard to make the brand a major global player with a diverse consumer following. Three stores, including a New York boutique, will open this year.

The Rossis

“Everything I know about shoes I learned from my dad,” said Gianvito Rossi of shoe legend Sergio Rossi. Living in a house on top of his father’s factory in Italy’s San Mauro Pascoli, the young Gianvito grew up totally immersed in the Sergio Rossi business. The two worked side by side until the company was bought by Gucci Group (now Kering) in 1999.

Gianvito Rossi Gianvito Rossi

Seven years later, Gianvito launched his own namesake business. “He was naturally upset at having sold the company,” said Gianvito of his father, “but he is very proud of the fact that the family is still doing the same high-quality work. His mantra is: You can always do better.” Gianvito’s own son Nicola is now involved as well, in the merchandising department.

“When you are in a family business, it’s very difficult to separate life from work, and people expect a lot from you,” Gianvito observed, “but I hope that pressure won’t disengage him from staying in this fantastic world.”

The Della Valles

Tod’s chief Diego Della Valle turned the family business into a global empire. His father, Dorino, and grandfather, Filippo, taught him to love shoes at a very young age — and he grew up taking trips to the factory.

In the 1970s, Diego created a collection of handmade leather driving mocs with distinctive pebbled soles under the Tod’s label. He went on to develop that brand into a full lifestyle collection and also made a big statement with Roger Vivier.

Tod's Diego Della Valle Diego Della Valle REX Shutterstock.

Today, Della Valle and his brother, Andrea, share ownership of the company.