Casa Fagliano: Boots for the Sultan of Brunei

 

 

The Faglianos had measured the unusual feet with a customary precision that borders on devotion. The shape of the boot had been adjusted – a new fit for every foot – in keeping with over one hundred years of tradition. But the man with the six-toed feet died before he could pick up his boots. «I'm sure they would have made him very happy,» says Héctor Fagliano, sincere regret mirrored in his face. Wearing a dark-green apron, he gently cradles the boots that did not make it out of his workshop. He then carefully returns them to the rustic wooden shelf and reaches for a heavy hammer. Soon, he is driving brass nails into the sole of a bespoke polo boot.

The workshop where time stands still

The smell of leather, wood shavings, shoe polish and glue permeates the workshop. Shimmering in through the windows and wide-open French doors leading to the garden, the sun casts a gentle glow into the premises. The scent of tradition is in the air. Excellence. And an unassuming sense of refinement. The Faglianos came to Argentina as craftsmen, and that is what they have remained. "It was never about money for us; it has always been about the boots," says Eduardo Fagliano, Héctor's older brother. "They are like members of the family, I can pick them out among thousands of others." The 52-year-old is the face of the traditional establishment. He attends polo tournaments, greets clients, and receives them at the workshop where, together, they select the sought-after material from only the best leather, tanned exclusively with quebracho extract.
His father cuts the leather, son Germán joins the pieces, brother Héctor produces the soles, and at the very end of the process, if the client wishes, Eduardo stitches initials or a logo on the boot shaft using the ancient Dürkopp sewing machine brought to Argentina by European immigrants. Clients, for their part, need to contribute four to six months of patience. And, now that polo boots have become fashionable outside Argentina, sometimes even more. "Each boot must be perfect," says Eduardo.

A brand must be improved every single day.

The Faglianos do many things differently to their competitors. They do not run advertisements, preferring to trust in word-of-mouth. They work slowly, spending over forty hours on one pair of boots. They use the sewing machines and tools their grandparents used because they doubt that new techniques could improve their product. And, situated in Hurlingham, a suburb of Buenos Aires, founded by British engineers in the middle of the 19th century, they are far away from their clients. In 1892, the first Faglianos arrived from Italy where they had worked as cobblers. Around 1920, a British polo player stopped by the family business to have his boots repaired. And later he returned, asking whether the Faglianos could make him a new pair.

A clientele that includes Prince Harry and the King of Spain

The Faglianos did not own any horses. Polo was a sport for the well-born and the wealthy. To this day, the family stays away from the playing fields. "We stick with what we do best. Which is making boots," says Eduardo. "We're not even fans of a specific team. Our clients are everywhere." He reaches for a long, narrow notebook. More than twenty of these bound notebooks line a shelf and contain client details along with an outline of their feet. Using a simple ballpoint pen Eduardo, has outlined the feet of Prince Harry of Wales, actor Tommy Lee Jones and Adolfo Cambiaso, one of the world's best polo players. The King of Spain wears boots and moccasins made by the Faglianos. Prince Charles has a pair in his collection. Several years ago, the Sultan of Brunei ordered 120 pairs of boots in one go. The Fagliano’s good reputation reached Switzerland a few years ago. Private bank Julius Baer offered the Argentines a partnership. "They told us they strive for excellence, just as we do. We were convinced," says Eduardo. Right now, the Faglianos have just finished making a white pair of boots for a Chinese businessman. "He has asked us to stitch an emblem on the shaft, the Ferrari logo," says Eduardo as he fulfills the customer's wish – naturally with the old Dürkopp which has never let him down.

Each boot must be perfect. That is the best advertisement.

Eduardo Fagliano designed his first shoe when he was eleven years old after learning the craft from his father. Who had been taught by his father. Who, in his turn, had been taught by his father. The somewhat clumsily sewn moccasin made of beige leather decorates a shelf in the workshop. Young Eduardo liked shoemaking, and it soon became clear that he, too, would join the family business. Nevertheless, he decided to study engineering first: "Just in case, to have another trade to fall back on," says Eduardo, the thoughtful artisan who sings in the church choir on Sundays. "But my heart always tells me that this is where I belong: in our workshop."
His black leathers shoe are polished to perfection, and, naturally, made by Fagliano.

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Comments (1)

Lou Jacobs | 12.12.2011

Lou, I thought this article was pretty cool. Thought of you.

Happy Holiday's to you and your family.

Regards, Tod

 


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