Nov 13, 2023
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Nov 13, 2023

At almost 50, Santoni has earned its place among Italian handcrafted luxury footwear brands. Now, the family-run business is setting its sights on a serious handbag division with the introduction of The Pluto style. CEO Giuseppe Santoni, who grew up in the business his parents started in their garage in 1975 when he was seven years old, celebrated the new shoulder bag in the heart of New York, where the Santoni label first achieved its success.

Santoni CEO Giuseppe Santoni (centre) – Courtesy

Speaking to during a lavish Italian dinner at Arva—chosen as Santoni knew the chef and his cooking— atop the relatively new Aman Hotel on 57th Street, the CEO explained the significance of the Big Apple for the brand and a recent new bag launch.
“When we launched our brand of high-quality leather shoes, they were too expensive for the Italian customers though we were less than the big names,” Santoni said over a lobster rigatoni course, presumably referring to some of the more well-known leather goods brands at the time, Ferragamo and Gucci. He also noted it was exactly 40 years since he first came to New York and the U.S. when, with his father, they sold the shoes out of suitcases in hotel rooms.
The American market proved steadfast until the economic fallout from the Gulf War, which sent oil market prices downward. This time, Santoni set its sight on Asia, making stops in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Shenzhen, among other places.

“I visited [Asia] for three weeks, but it took three years to establish selling relationships. They want to know if you are serious and can deliver the goods. I was young but a shoe expert and very passionate about the business. I could explain a lot about the shoe’s quality, etc.,” he continued. At the time, he noted only Japan was “a mature market” at the time.
Eventually, the New York market bounced back, and it became the most important in terms of retail too. It opened its first location on upper Madison at 70th Street in 1997 and moved to its current location at 625 Madison at 58th Street roughly seven years ago. Santoni has more retail plans upcoming in Las Vegas and Beverly Hills. He also hinted at further distribution opportunities in the U.S. market, especially for its women’s offerings. Thus, the timing for the new bag is spot on.
With its modern, asymmetrical shape, handcrafted on a wood frame, The Pluto bag exudes a luxury mood, befitting its $2,650.00 price tag. “It’s really cool and comfortable for a modern woman and looks beautiful, but there is a lot of technique to this bag. Its practical functionality is important too,” he said, adding, “The size is well thought-out; you can fit a lot inside, but it’s not too big, and the straps adjust for a shoulder strap or short handle.”

Indeed model Martha Hunt and uber-stylist Kate Young made it look extremely modern as they sported them flanking Santoni on each side.

The Pluto Bag – Santoni

The names reflect Santoni’s humorous side. “The flap design is borrowed from our men’s brogue double-strap design, which resembles two ears like Pluto, the Disney character. I am an ironic person, and Pluto was funny,” the CEO said, adding the bag will have further development, which will retain the flap but evolve the shape. “The aim is to expand the bag business.”

The New York event introduced a new aqua color.
The executive started working at the company at age 14, learning how to make the shoes, which he continued to do until he was named CEO.

“My father was my hero; I always dreamt of making shoes, to do this job,” he recalled. Santoni said he forwent typical teenage pastimes such as sports to spend time in the factory.
According to the second-generation cobbler, Santoni’s craftsmanship focus has always been comfort; it’s all in the arch. And the last construction.

“Imagine you are making a size 10 men’s shoe last, but there are a billion people in the world with this size, but the feet are shaped differently,” he pointed out.
The company, headquartered in Corridonia in the Marche region near Italy’s Adriatic Coast, had about 15 employees when he took over, and it now employs 700 of the town’s 8,000 residents. A luxury that few companies can attest to in today’s hyper-globalization environment, which isn’t lost on the younger Santoni.
“I consider myself lucky. Luxury is something everyone speaks about, but very few are, but it’s what the consumer is looking for. Wearing our shoes and the new Pluto Bag makes you feel good. We do luxury above fashion. We want it to be timeless and stand for quality.”

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