ALIMENTARI - Melbourne
Designing a modern classic
It’s an interesting thing to design a collection and then watch how your clients receive it. When you’re actually designing products it’s a really personal process. They are a reflection of your ideas, your tastes and your contribution to the industry discourse. So it’s always a nerve-wracking moment when you launch those pieces out into the world and the public have their say.
Once in a blue moon, the stars align between your concept, your clients and the market and you create a cult classic. Or at least that’s what it feels like with our signature loafer, The Positano, which sells out in a matter of days every time we release a new batch in store and online. I have several clients who are now up to their fourth pairs.
Back with another limited run this month, in chocolate, black and tan, we’ve decided for the first time to make them available for pre-order. This is largely in response to feedback from our international clients, who feel their chances of snapping up a pair in their size are slimmer. It also gives us the opportunity to increase our order to meet seasonal demand. Lately though, I’ve been reflecting on why this particular pair has resonated so strongly with both our local and international client base more so than anything else, and have come to a few conclusions.
1. Comfort is king and we’re all here for it
I generally think about comfort as a proxy for quality. When things are made with durable, high-quality materials in a thoughtful way, you can tell from the feel. Selecting the leather was the tricky part for these loafers. With the drop heel I needed to find something thick enough to endure a battering, malleable enough to fall like fabric for the look I was aiming for, and soft enough to feel like slippers.
In terms of functionality, it had to be breathable too, as I expect clients to wear them without socks regularly. A lot of this comes down to intuition as you touch each swatch, but I must have gone through almost 100 different leathers before I landed on one I was happy with. After cutting the first samples from this pick, my factory nicknamed the leather ‘softy’ which probably says it all.
Recently a few clients have told me about how the comfort element makes these loafers perfect for travel, particularly en route when you want to look presentable but be comfortable, with the ease of something you can slip on and off through security and on the flight itself.
2. People know that price isn’t a determinant of quality
It used to be the case that the higher the price, the higher the quality, but that simply isn’t true anymore. As people become more savvy about quality and comfort, they care less about brand, which is all that’s inflating those premium price tags. Interestingly, as a buyer five years ago I noticed a trend of conspicuous consumption rife in menswear, particularly in markets with less variety available. People felt as if they needed to tell you what they were wearing with logos. However, these days I’ve seen a marked shift in the number of wealthier clients now actively avoiding heavy branding altogether.
I’ve never been a big fan of logos as I believe those who understand beautiful craftsmanship don’t need to be told. The term ‘fashion victim’ comes to mind when I see people who look more like a walking billboard than a conscious expression of a personality or lifestyle. I also feel as though the brands that play into this game have lost their way a little bit, with many now trying to recover their credibility by establishing diffusion labels. But I digress.
I started my business to make luxury quality clothing and footwear more accessible to men and over the years I believe we’ve stayed true to this cause. For the same quality as the players in ultra-luxury, we’ve found a way to produce comparable products for half the price. It’s a pretty simple proposition, but one I think men are increasingly appreciative of as they take the time to know more about what they’re buying.
3. Modern lifestyles are changing and people are dressing for it
A core pillar of my design process is how a piece of clothing will enhance my clients’ lifestyles. I start the process for any new piece by thinking about functionality and durability. What lifestyle scenarios will this address? How will it wear in that context? How will it last? In terms of my signature loafer I was prompted by what I see as the return of recreational loafing. With globalisation and technology really honing efficiency in every aspect of our lives, it seems to me that people are increasingly desiring a little less structure in their off-time.
When I talk to my clients I’ve noticed a lot more men enjoy having no plans on the weekend, just heading to a neighbourhood for a meal and seeing where the rest of the day goes from there. They want to feel untethered where they can and that’s what this shoe is all about. It doesn’t get more relaxed than a drop heel, and a loafer is versatile to enough for almost any situation.
I wore these bad boys every day of my honeymoon in Sicily last month and they reflected that very mood, looking fancy-free in the day and eccentrically chic at night. It’s why Smith Street Alimentari in Fitzroy, Melbourne felt like the perfect place to showcase them in a recent shoot. It’s my local and go-to for brunch with mates, business meetings, or cocktails with the wife.
The Positano loafer is currently available for pre-sale here with orders due to arrive in early October.