It’s been quite the emotional ride following Riccardo “Freccia” Bestetti since he started out his small business in 2010 in Vigevano, Italy – about an hour’s drive from Milan.
Freccia, meaning “arrow” in Italian – as his friends and family call him, struck a cord with us. His shoes were unlike any others we’d seen to date, with patterns and lasts that hinted, to put it plainly, at the work of a creative genius.
Back in the day, we were particularly excited about Bestetti’s future, perhaps overly so. We went so far as prophesying that he would bring a breath of fresh air to the market, akin to the influence Berluti enjoyed in the 1980s with the Warhol and Alessandro “One Cut” models – or more recently to what Corthay created with the emblematic Arca model.
Yet our hopes got somewhat dashed, despite promises of grandeur, despite a growing fame in educated circles and a resolutely artistic and passionate approach to the craft, despite a quasi-cult status among connoisseurs, despite trunk-shows in NYC at the excellent Leffot, and worldwide distribution with displays at the great Sir Max in Amsterdam.
Despite an impressive number of signs hinting at an explosive future, Bestetti never truly left the exclusive world of the “underground gems”, producing just over 600 pairs a year.
But a few weeks back, we payed another visit to Freccia – we wanted to stage a photoshoot for the need of my second upcoming book, “The Italian Gentleman” (Thames & Hudson). Of course, we seized the opportunity to sit down and have a talk with the man himself to get the freshest Bestetti news. And we’re happy to say, those proved to be quite uplifting !
We went over a great deal of subjects during the afternoon we spent at Freccia’s humble warehouse / workshop, including interesting tidbits on Freccia’s family background…
So before we reveal what we learned about Bestetti’s upcoming ranges, projects and pricing, we believe a little background is necessary to better understand the brand we came to love so dearly :
Freccia is from a family of artists. His great-uncle Emilio Bestetti was well known as an early 20th century publisher of high quality art books—including a monumental reproduction of the Borso d’Este Bible (produced in collaboration with the famous patron-of-the-arts Giovanni Treccani).
Emilio’s company, la Casa Editrice d’Arte Bestetti & Tumminelli also published the works of illustrious artists like Gregorio Sciltian, Renato Guttuso, Mario Sironi, Massimo Campigli, Carlo Carra and Grabiele D’Annunzio.
Later, Emilio’s nephew Carlo, Freccia’s father, took the helm of the publishing company and renamed it Carlo Bestetti Edizioni d’Arte. Under Carlo, the company published books in collaboration with Giorgio De Chirico—founder and leader of the short-lived yet influential Metaphysical Art movement.
Freccia’s brother Luca is incidentally a respected painter in Italy today.
Unlike many of his national peers, Freccia was not trained in the bootmaking trade in Italy. Believe it or not, Riccardo learned bootmaking under the tutelage of a Texas bootmaker who specialized in…cowboy boots.
Quite the unlikely beginning indeed – as Freccia made his first steps into the world of bootmaking by crafting cowboy boots in the United States. His passion for cowboy boots has not faded, as he’s still crafting a few bespoke pair of boots for a select clientele in America (see the picture below for an example)
So where does Bestetti stand today ?
The man still produces some of the most amazing shoes in the market today, that much we could confirm first-hand – but what about the collections ? What about the prices ? What about the random delays so many who ever ordered a pair from Bestetti lament about ?
More importantly, what about the promise of the elusive RTW line we’ve been longing for, but is so hard to find ?
In the most anticlimactic way conceivable, Freccia was frank. And so we’ve learned that most of Bestetti’s problems can be attributed to a dreadfully simple fact :
Riccardo Freccia Bestetti insists that each and every shoes he sells must be made in his small workshop out in Vigevano. In other words, outsourcing from another location is out of the picture – meaning that each an every Bestetti shoe or boot, from blake-constructed RTW to traditional bespoke must be made in his small and intimate “definitely-NOT-on-your-GPS” workshop an hour’s drive from one of Italy’s biggest fashion hub.
A drastic decision that Freccia wears as a badge of pride – but that poses the very real challenge of setting up an adequate production line. This means sourcing proper bench-machines and working alongside a few highly qualified and hard to find employees.
In fact, as crazy as this might sound, Freccia used to employ only two part-time employees when the workload became too great to bear. And to futher complicate matters, the amount of shoes Bestetti sells in Italy is next to zero – but he does receive numerous orders from all around the world. While this may not seem like much of a problem, it added to Freccia’s logistical load.
Such a strict self-imposed discipline can become maddening – and to keep up high standards in such an environment requires time and money. Considering the cost for qualified craftsmen in Italy, capital costs for space and equipment, maintenance fees for high level bench machines and the time it takes to craft one shoe at a time, it’s a miracle Riccardo was able to manage at all.
Still, Bestetti might just make it now. Even if his workshop remains endearingly vintage, it is now fully equipped with the machinery needed for efficient production of all of the house’s ranges. Furthermore, Freccia (finally) hired full-time help – two persons to be precise, which should be enough to take the production line to the next level, to the modest goal of around five pairs per day across all ranges.
In the long term, Freccia’s goal is to reach a work force of five employees to be able to reach a production of about 12 – 15 pairs a day. This will take some time unless an investor takes an interest in Freccia’s work in the near future…
In terms of products, Riccardo Freccia Bestetti offers today five distinct ranges of shoes :
– A quality blake RTW (christened “Super Flex”) sold at 600€ (one example shown below in a British-style last).
– A splendid hand-welted RTW line sold at 900€ :
– A MTO, hand-welted line sold at 1200€ :
– The sublime “Novecento” line, made entirely by hand (to an almost bespoke degree) with modifiable lasts and fittings (including trial shoes)— sold at 1650€. Quite possibly Bestetti’s best offer :
– Finally, the traditional bespoke offer is priced at around 3000€. Per Freccia’s own admission, Bestetti only makes about 20 pairs of bespoke shoes a year so far – probably a good thing too, considering the time-consuming nature of the endeavor.
Meeting Ricardo Freccia Bestetti is always a memorable experience. The man is a natural-born talent, obstinate to a fault, but also brutally honest – which is particularly refreshing in today’s luxury market.
Bestetti’s stellar reputation was not earned by chance. When asked about his infamous delays, Freccia didn’t try to justify himself, but agreed that slow delivery is his biggest problem. Half-jokingly, Freccia added that most of the complaints he received instantly faded when the customer finally received their shoes – a testament to the quality of the finished product.
To date, a pair of Novecento, made entirely made by hand, requires six to nine months until delivery– a long time indeed, but you can trust me when I say it is well worth the patience.
The good news for those who may find themselves in Paris : Freccia Bestetti’s handwelted RTW and MTO lines are now available at Made To Order Paris, within a more reasonable timeframe than the delays stated above.
To put it plainly : Riccardo Freccia Bestetti may be one of the most exciting bootmakers of his generation, if not the most audacious and interesting. In my humble opinion, a pair of Bestetti shoes should be on the wish list of any true aficionado of quality men’s shoes.
In an age where millions of euros and dollars are invested in companies and workshops with tradition-washed “stories” and lackluster products, Bestetti’s artistic bloodline, relentless passion for the craft and genuine story made of blood and sweat should easily capture the attention of the right investor.
If this is not the case, then there is no justice in the world.
If I could, I would even personally wager a penny or two on Freccia Bestetti. Simply because he deserves it.
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Riccardo Freccia Bestetti, Calzature Artigianali
Laboratorio Via Manara Negrone, 32R, 27029 VIGEVANO (PV)
Tel : +39 (0)381 82531
email : email@example.com
Made to Order Paris
7, rue de Hanovre 75002 PARIS
Tel : +33 1 42 65 86 24 ou +33 6 65 02 00 33
email : firstname.lastname@example.org