Riccardo Bestetti, a premier artisan and a legendary shoemaker passed away earlier this week due to a lung related ailment. He leaves behind a wife and a young son. I am deeply saddened by the news and this loss. As a patron of artisanal shoe making, one gets to know the artists and artisans quite well and as a result the sense of loss is felt deeper. The big companies have brands, but they lack the humanness that only a passionate artisan can bring.
Bestetti was one of the most respected shoemakers in the world. He was based in Vigevano, a small Italian town about 25 miles from Milan. The 49-year-old had been in the business for two decades. His friends called him, Freccia.
A self taught shoemaker, he started making boots about twenty years ago. His love affair with shoemaking began in Texas. He ordered a pair of cowboy boots from a guy called Pablo Jass and it took a year for the boots to be done. While visiting his brother in Los Angeles, the brothers Bestetti decided to visit the boot maker in person to see why it was taking so long for the boots to be made. Little did he know that this trip would change the course of his direction.
It was while visiting the shoemaker he realized that he should try and make his own boots. He started teaching himself how to make boots and eventually became so good that he started to make them professionally. After five years of doing so, he shifted focus to making bespoke shoes and has excelled at that. He only make a very few pairs of shoes every month and that is why they are frightfully expensive!
I met Riccardo two years ago at my friend Steven Taffel’s temple of men’s shoes, Leffot. We got along famously. I loved his natural talent, his honesty and directness, but most importantly, his gentle manner in which he pointed out why you might be wrong about your choice. We collaborated on a pair of shoes that sit in my closet, still in the original greet velvet encased box. The workmanship on those handmade shoes was exquisite and perhaps it will be unmatched. I am unlikely to wear them ever – for they will be momentos of Ricardo’s memory.We had plans to work on another pair – a nice boot — but his illness prevented him to work on new pairs. It would now remain a dream.
Riccardo, you will be deeply missed by this one fan.
Adapted from a piece on Storehouse and republished today. Most photos snapped by yours truly with an iPhone6+ while some photos are courtesy of Ricardo and my friends at Leffot. You should check out Leffot and also Ricardo’s website.