LV The Book


In the Veneto region of Northern Italy, Louis Vuitton’s Fiesso d’Artico shoemaking workshop is a haven of calm and luxury. Here, expert hands lay an array of desirable designs at our feet. Stand by for a guided tour.
In the open entrance hall, the artist and architect Jean-Jacques Ory created a giant shoe whose lining conceals Botticelli’s Venus. Photographer: PATRICK SWIRC

At Fiesso, art and artisanship go together as naturally as left foot and right. Near the Riviera del Brenta, the cradle of the Italian women’s shoemaking industry, the architect Jean-Marc Sandrolini built a workshop with echoes of a cloister. Façades 100 yards long, veiled in a double layer of metal mesh; sensually smooth concrete walls; a patio with the serene atmosphere of a zen garden… Without arrogance, the building already speaks volumes about architecture reflecting what is inside – namely, the quintessence of all Louis Vuitton’s shoemaking expertise.

The workshop develops 43 lines of women’s shoes, and as many for men, adding up to nearly 1,000 references a year. In the design studio, state-of-the-art computers sit alongside such basic items as pencils, compasses and scissors. Not far from the design department is the materials store, where skins and fabrics form a dizzying whirl of colours, a dazzling palette to play with.

In the centre of the patio, Priscilla by Joana Vasconcelos, a huge shoe assembled from 600 metal saucepans and their lids, and I left my shoes in Guilin, a work by the Taiwanese artist Ken-Tsai.

Meanwhile, the production unit is divided into four workshops with a Mondrian-like colour code of red, blue, green and yellow. The workshops are named after two of Louis Vuitton’s iconic bags, the Alma and the Speedy, and two of its emblematic leathers, Nomade and Taiga. In each, the myriad operations involved in making a shoe follow each other with the regularity of clockwork. With swift, sure gestures, hands slice, cut, rub, retouch, stick, fold, smooth, while eagle eyes eliminate the slightest suspect product. Every movement of the artisans – or should that be artists? – is carefully choreographed as they hand-stitch a sole, smooth the creases from a piece of leather, or thread laces through a sneaker. Paradoxically, in this realm dedicated to feet, it is hands that dance.

Sixteen years ago, Louis Vuitton had yet to make its first shoe. Today, the Fiesso d’Artico workshop sets a gold standard with its combination of art, artisanship and luxury.

Shoes or art? Designs from the Louis Vuitton collection: EYELINE, SPARKLES, ARTFUL, SPLENDOR.
A vision of beauty on the patio, with Nathalie Decoster’s sculpture L’objet du désir.

Tags: Savoir-Faire, Shoes, Fiesso D'Artico