Meet Tommaso Melani. He is the owner of Stefano Bemer and, for me, the credit to where that name is today. His is a story that I hold dear as I always felt that Stefano deserved more recognition as one of the greatest minds the shoe industry has ever known and Tommaso managed to make that idea come to life.
Here, I discuss with him his background, what the ‘Stefano Bemer‘ name means to him, and what his plans for the future are. He has a lot up his sleeve and I dare say will be making a lot of moves that will keep him in the limelight in 2023. Exciting times for him and the Stefano Bemer brand!
1. What is your background? I.e. Where are you from? What did you do before Stefano Bemer?
My name is Tommaso Melani. Born and raised in Florence and actively involved in real-craftmanship and true heritage Florentine companies such as Scuola del Cuoio (founded in 1950), Stefano Bemer (founded in 1983 and acquired in 2013), and Sartoria Vestrucci (founded in 1950 and acquired in 2017). I also created Rforpeople in 2021 and Schola Academy that same year.
I graduated in Business and Marketing and worked as an auditor for three years before joining SDC in 1998.
2. What made you decide to purchase the Stefano Bemer brand? Were you friends with Stefano? A client?
Neither. He was too expensive for my student pockets and older by almost 8 years, so we never got the chance to meet outside of the professional environment. I was very close friends with Mr Capozzoli that, at the time, was helping Stefano with marketing. The first and main motivation has been a strong empathy for the brand, its values, the quality… Coming from four generations in the leather trade (my great-grandfather and my grandfather established together Scuola del Cuoio in 1950), I really appreciated what Stefano himself had achieved in his business and passion. I felt, for a reason, that both myself and my family had what it takes to bring it on…
3. What were your goals with the Stefano Bemer brand when you decided to purchase it?
It first started as a decision to venture outside of the confinement of a family business to experiment with my ideas and strategies. Honestly, it could have been any product I would proudly buy as a consumer. I just happened to be shoes but, for that same reason, it keeps developing in the direction of a brand that embodies and represents all the qualities I look for in a product: heritage, quality, artisanship, elevated customer experience, and strong identity. That is why I am now merging Vestrucci and CKC New York into it: customer experience must improve and evolve constantly and we have the mindset and skills to do it.
4. You have done a great job at building the name to the international attention I always felt it deserved. Can you share a bit about how you managed to do that so quickly? It is quite impressive how quickly you managed to make it world renowned
I believe that my edge was in the fact that I could think and act as a consumer first. I could see what the client would like to find in a niche and legacy brand like Stefano Bemer and I over delivered it. I was also able to bring the brand in the right environments and do it in a very authentic and credible way. I believe that our best marketing campaign is being ourselves! No sugar or flavor added!
5. You created a shoemaking school that has been a great asset to the shoe industry. What was the vision there? Do you plan to grow it further?
At Scuola del Cuoio, training is part of our DNA and we have always sourced, in the 73 years of our history, new craftsmen from our training program. The plan I had for Stefano Bemer required training even more! Because our shoemaking technique was unique and specific, I knew that we could not just hire any shoemaker to grow our capacity of production: they could be good but they would have all had a different technique, a different “accent”. Our shoes, instead, must be consistently Stefano Bemer-like! So the training became key in our growth: training a group of motivated students and selecting the best two to become apprentices every year has proved to be a successful formula. It’s a guarantee for the students that we are giving our best in performing the training and gives us the chance to find talents for our team! It enabled us to upgrade our skills and remains core to our growth.
6. The Stefano Bemer brand is currently based in Florence and New York. Do you have plans for further expansion? I.e. locations in other countries?
Yes. 2023 will see the beginning of a slow but steady expansion that will go hand in hand with the growth in the capacity of production. Just a few days ago I signed the contract to purchase another space in Via San Niccolo’ to implement a new workshop entirely dedicated to the Tradizione line.
We are scouting locations in Italy (Milano) but also have a rather innovative (and challenging) strategic plan that should bring the brand to work directly with consumers in six cinties in the USA… More to come soon!
7. If I am not mistaken, you also are expanding into menswear too? Can you divulge more about that and what the brands are and your vision there?
As I said, I think as a consumer first. Our clients entrust me and the vision I have for the brand because they know that my philosophy over quality, style, and the experience that comes with them is authentic and authentically elevated. So the vision is to get those values at work in complementary fields, such as clothing (not just tailoring. We’re presenting our first casualwear and denim collection in April!) and accessories. Stefano Bemer must become synonymous with an idea and a lifestyle.
8. With regards to question 7, you seem to be quickly expanding into a one-stop shop where a gentleman can go and get bespoke and/or rtw fitted from head to toe. Is anything else to be added to the company and further expansion? I.e. cigars, grooming etc? Or just leave it at clothing and leather goods?
I’m working on a vintage watches project at this very moment and fragrances should be presented in April…
9. What is your ultimate vision for the Stefano Bemer brand? Has that changed since your initial ideas from question 3 and the early days of owning the brand?
The more you love an idea, the more the idea becomes your way to look at the world. Stefano Bemer has become, in my perception and my vision, a philosophy even more than a brand.
10. I must confess that I am impressed by how you managed to keep the ethos of Stefano’s vision, with regard to quality and design. Most takeovers see a drop in those aspects in pursuit of profit expansion. You stayed true to craftsmanship. What makes you different? And can you scale those things? There is a fine line between expansion and quality maintenance. Do you think about that fork in the road? If so, do you have thoughts on how to overcome it?
I started it basing quality at the core of the business and I invested so consistently in dipping each step of the development into it that it would be impossible now to change direction. Yes, there is a threshold that determines the inevitable loss of quality but we are not only monitoring our organization closely but also making sure that we achieve growth by exploring lateral strategies so that we do not exhaust the capacity of generating quality products and quality experiences.
11. More about you, what are your hobbies outside of shoes and business?
I’m a very determined person, with very high expectations. I demand a lot from myself and expect much from my team. I’m passionate about what I do and feel the responsibility of finishing what I start and doing it in the best possible way. I know that there are three ways of doing something: the easy way, the hard way, and my way, which is normally the most challenging one! J I have passions that I pursue in my spare time and I believe that one should treat himself when possible. Experiencing, well beyond possessing and owning, is what mankind is on this planet for! So I picked cycling as a sport to test my determination and art and wine to treat myself. Makes sense, right?
12. How many languages do you speak? I know that you speak Italian and English perfectly, any others? French or Spanish?
You would not want to hear my French but I would survive in that land if I have to!
13. What inspires you?
I find inspiration around me, everywhere I go. beauty is a multi-faceted jewel and you can find it expressed in small and large things in life. But I especially look up to men and women whose personalities (and not just their achievements) are well reflected in their style. I love coherence…
I’m also fascinated by the human mind and I find it beautiful that all we see is in reality just a drawing painted in our brain by our perception. If only we needed another reason to pursue quality over quantity… Time is the currency we pay for everything in life with.
Stay tuned for all of the great things Tommaso Melani has planned for his expansion of Stefano Bemer. I have gotten the inside scoop and it is good to see a brand that I admire take some giant leaps to further not only the legacy of a great person but also the classic menswear world through quality suits and shoes. While most are going toward sneakers and a false idea of comfort (think Cole Haan), Stefano Bemer is going head-deep into more suits, more jackets, more dress shoes, and nothing shy of keeping that world alive and expanding! Here’s to his success in this grand mission!
Learn More: https://stefanobemer.com/