Pantofola d’Oro, Italian for “golden slipper", was inadvertently named by the late Welsh football legend John Charles on a visit to the Italian shoemaker’s factory. “He said, ‘These are not football boots, they are golden slippers!’" recalls CEO Kim Williams. The company, which stocks a selection of luxury sneakers and football boots at Takashimaya Singapore, also offers a made-to-measure service.
Founded in 1886 by the Lazzarini family in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, the brand is renowned for its handcrafted shoes, in particular, a lighter style of football boots. As a prisoner during the Second World War, the senior Lazzarini picked up new shoemaking techniques from the other prisoners on how to make lighter footwear. When he returned in 1945, the factory started making boots for the local football team. “He always worked with a good selection of uppers," Williams explains. “Like young calf, which is very soft and very light."
In the 1970s, Pantofola d’Oro started using kangaroo hide, which, due to its uniquely strong hide, allowed the leather to be cut very thin and light. This set it apart from the football boot producers at the time. Even though Pantofola d’Oro was also making casual sneakers, 90 per cent of the company’s turnover came from the soccer boots.
“We were always seen as the Ferrari or Maserati of soccer shoes." In the beginning, the brand remained small, due in no small part to the founder’s curmudgeonly temperament. “He was a really hard guy, argued with everybody. He had a lot of enemies in the trade." As the family business was handed down to the following generations, they tried to compete with the big guns in terms of marketing and sponsorships, but ultimately fizzled out.
Williams, who took over in 2000, decided to differentiate the company by focusing on premium materials and craftsmanship. The made-to-measure service, introduced two and a half years ago, was a natural but necessary progression for the label to distance itself from competitors. Since it was especially important for football players to be shod perfectly, the brand had already been customising boots for them.
Luxury sneakers, on the other hand, are the brand’s new focus and are customisable in almost any configuration. “We’ve made shoes in real python, shark leather, even a pair in elephant. We even had a French customer who wanted to add diamonds."