The journey of launching Peter Nappi rested heavily on finding artisans we trusted to produce our designs. With no real leads or contacts upon departing for Italy it took a great deal of persistence. Phillip reflects on the voyage and the people who made it possible…
For the most part, all of the fabbriche (the plural of fabbrica – which is an Italian factory) are in the countryside. In the morning I would jot down directions to various locations. Driving in Italy is hard enough— with its rocky roads and especially with no GPS- but the names of streets kept changing and there were no highway numbers—just arrows pointing the direction towards the next nearest town.
I rode my bike to the car rental and borrowed a small little matchbox car. I would then spend all day driving from one fabbrica to the next. Sometimes they would be in someone’s backyard.
I would knock on the door and begin to speak in my pitifully broken Italian… “Sono Americano” I Am American (If it wasn’t already noticeable)
“Sono calzolaio e mi nonno e stato calzolaio di Basilacata” I am a shoemaker and my grandfather was a shoemaker in Basilicata.
“Abbiamo I desgni. Posso fare gli stivali con voi?” We have designs. Can we make boots with you?
At about that time the door would often slam in my face, or occasionally they would politely tell me to leave. But I didn’t give up. Day after day I spent driving around, knocking on doors.
UNTIL ONE DAY IT FINALLY PAID OFF…
My friend, Roberto Ugolini, finally told me of a friend of his who might be willing to help — Reinhard Plank. He is a famous designer of women’s shoes and hats. We now sell his hats in our studio and online. To see his designs and creations visit his website at reinhardplank.it
After about a week of unsuccessfully attempting to schedule a meeting with Reinhard, with the imminent date of our departure from Italy fast approaching, we finally set up a time to rendezvous at a little bar (Italians call bars coffee shops) in the middle of nowhere.
I arrived at our schedule meeting place at 9am sharp. No sign of Reinhard. I saw a few cars pull up and different sorts of men get out. None seemed to look like Reinhard. Then a dusty old Saab rolled up and out stepped a gangly handsome man in a vintage t-shirt with American writing on it that seemed too small for its wearer. Along with the shrunken looking t-shirt, he sported vintage trousers about three inches too short and loafters with no socks. His fading hair was standing on end. I thought, certainly this could not be Reinhard. I waited a few moments and just to make sure I called his name. Sure enough, it was him!
I’ll never forget that day. The six foot three Reinhard ducked into my small matchbox car and together we drove through the windy roads of Tuscany. We went from fabbrica to fabbrica together, until finally he brough me to the office of an older man who is a Professor of shoe design. Everyone, now including me, calls him Prof. It is through this meeting that my designs found their makers. Prof has become a part of our family, and we have become a part of his.
From Roberto Ugoloni to Reinhard Plank to Prof… Peter Nappi would have remained a dream and a vision without them, their confidence in us, and their connections to the family who now skillfully crafts all of the Peter Nappi boots.