I have always admired the style and direction of the young Italian shoe brand called Barbanera. For me, anyone out there trying to do something different with their own sense of style embedded in their product is alright in my book. It’s all too easy to copy but to create a ‘look and feel’ of your own is another ball game, one that is definitely challenging, particularly in this day and age. So when Barbanera first came out with all of their spectator styled shoes and two toned riding boots (motorcycles that is), I really liked what I saw, as it was different. It’s not that they were the first to make a spectator but no one has really used it as their staple piece. No one has used one to promote their brand and style with, adding their own personal twist to it, and that is what really drew me to them. Not to mention that they also stood for quality.
A bit of background info for those that don’t know, Barbanera is comprised of 4 gentlemen, 2 sets of brothers. The faces of the brand are that of Sergio and Sebastiano (who are brothers, pictured at the very top) and the other two brothers Alessando and Filippo are more in the background but equally involved in the driving of the company. Their style is comprised of a mix of many things. First and foremost, they are very Italian but also non-Italian at the same time. It’s hard to explain but I guess that you can say that while many Italian brands would get their inspiration from other Italian things, they get theirs from the likes of jazz, blues, rock & roll, motorcycle riding, style icons like Steve McQueen & James Dean etc. many things that are actually quite American. This mixture of influences blended with their Italian roots, for me, really creates a very cool look and style, both in their shoes and in the way that they dress. And it shows.
Their story is quite a cool one, at least that of Sergio’s. You see, before he decided to become a shoe designer he was actually quite a well known rock musician (playing bass) in Germany. He had been doing that for quite awhile, travelling a lot, playing gigs all over but came to a point where he got burned out. He had an epiphany on life and the idea of where he wanted to next chapter of life to take him. Being a rock and roll artist was no longer part of it. So, he went back to Italy, teamed up with his brother (who was working in advertising) and decided that they had wanted to start a shoe line (something that they had talked about for awhile, but never went ahead with) that embodied their essence of style. So they did.
Okay, fast forward to present day. I have been in contact with Sergio for quite some time now (as a reader of TSS). We exchange emails every now and then as I was always curious to see what they were up to. Then funny enough Sebastiano and I just happened to run into each other by chance at the last Pitti Uomo. We had never talked before but nevertheless we got on like a house on fire. After that encounter I realized that I liked them even more and when I found out that I was coming to Milan I got in touch with them so that we could all meet up and so that Sergio and I could finally meet. They were definitely up for it so we made plans for dinner and drinks.
I have to say that hanging out with them felt like I was hanging out with my friends from back home. i.e. like we had known each other for years. It was so natural and quite pleasant really and I just love the idea of people in the industry being friends, even if we have brands that naturally compete (due to pricepoint). I could go on and on about how hospitable they were and this sensation, for me, is what makes me love the brand even more. It’s cool to have nice, stylish, well made shoes, but for me a brand is more about the people behind it. And if those people are good people with true passion then it gives me all the more reason to want to see them doing well. And the 4 gentlemen behind Barbanera are good people with a lot of passion. They truly care about what they do and that for me is all that matters.
Now about the actual shoes. They are 100% Italian. They are made in Tuscany, goodyear welted using leathers that come from Italy. I have to say that I was always curious about the quality and I must admit that it is top notch. I tried a pair of shoes on just to get a feel for them and they felt amazing. You could feel the sturdiness of them, i.e what a quality shoe should feel like IMHO. The materials were very good (i.e. the leather, suede and sole) and in reality surprised me as I was not aware of a factory in Tuscany that could make such a shoe. Always happy to learn new things though! At a pricepoint between €350-€450, I have to say that they are very justified and promote a good value for money. I would certainly be more than happy to shell out that price for their shoes.
The downside of the brand, which I had a chat to them about, is that they are not easily accessible. You cannot just purchase a pair if you liked one. You have to order it and wait 2-3 months for it to be made. The reason being is that when they first started they wanted to be a MTO type company, promoting the fact that you could create what you want and not just get what is shown. I presume that they also did not want to have a stock, because if we are all being honest here, it is a big upfront investment and an even bigger risk to sell. But I told them that they needed stock and I think that they knew it was true. So hopefully they will be getting one soon. In the meanwhile, if you are a patient person, I suggest ordering a pair. Believe me when I say that shoe is worth the cost!
Thank you to Sergio, Sebastiano, Filippo and Alessandro for showing me a great time in Milan!
Justin, “The Shoe Snob”