Quote:Can you elaborate on this, Ron? What actually happens?
In the finishing? Or the work?
Berluti is a brand.....they don't make shoes. Ferrarese make most of the LV brands production, but it is common to have shared production, or if a special line is needed (say they want to introduce a small range of Goodyear), to find someone else to make them to your specs. In this case it was something for a different line, as the finishing requirements were actually less than what we had heard (2 hours per shoe for the Swiss leather[Venezia I think it's called]) and we supplied the leather. I have no idea who picked up the contract, or if it even was developed - samples and ideas fly around Italy all day long....most never see the market.
Anyway, it's not so complicated - brand builds business, hires modelist (either in-house or freelance, mostly freelance), they spend all day designing shoes, sourcing manager goes around either the Milan area or the Marche to visit factories, see the work, give the blueprint, ask for samples, finalize a price for production and the requirements of delivery.....brand takes samples to market, gets orders (or not, mostly) and off you go. For most brands who have some connection to manufacturing (like LVMH and Gucci Group), the early stages of a line are contracted and, if successful, is then brought into it's own production.
It's really no different than what I do here....take the potential work we are doing with Tom at LeatherSoleHawaii.....RM had no production in Shell Cordovan - I had a long talk with Tom in Las Vegas, we decided to see about a small group of shoes in SC, I talked with Skip Horween and bought all available shells on the market for our concerns (not #8 and black...all other colors) and worked with him to do 2 custom colors, Tom gave me a couple of pattern idea's, we took some out of our archives and developed one just for him, and now we are delivering the samples for final approval.....this work was all between Tom and I, and RM is simply making what we want - same thing as a brands work.
As for the finishing, this is really what you pay for in a Berluti shoe....everything else is readily available from many other brands at a much lower price. There is nothing special about the shoes from a construction point of view - many small factories make excellent shoes - and the Venezia leather is simply a small production calfskin that has little or no surface veining (which is why Berluti needs it....it is dependable in production and requires little thought by the finishers as they can strip color without problems), but the time requirements in finishing are unique, and costly. Let's say a typical factory in Italy employs 15 workers and finishes, on average, 100 pair per day (and this is the norm....if you employ over 15, I think, you are taxed as a 'production' factory as opposed to a 'artisan' workshop/factory whose tax base is MUCH lower - at least this is what I understand the numbers to be). The finishing room will employ 3-4 of the staff, and the average time in finishing for a high quality shoe is anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, and the work is shared, not individuals doing all the finishing of each pair. Now, lets say you have two groups of shoes being made....120 pair for A and 120 pair for Berluti (or anyone needing this sort of time...makes no difference). Customer A, if everything goes as hoped (and I think there was a Wednesday in 2005 where everything actually did go as hoped) can have his shoes finished in 2 days, basically, but customer B's shoes will take more than 1 week! Add to that the fact that now, since the finishing room is all backed up, you had to slow down production of other shoes and you have a huge premium to pay for those 120 pair with the long, alcohol finish. That's what you pay for.
Finally, most of us are probably just jealous of them as, using the picture posted above as an example (please, no offense intended...just using the available information to give my opinion and that's all...there are plenty of people who don't like my shoes), they can charge a premium for their shoes while, if the same thing happened in the finish on our shoes, we would have a return.