A bucolic past, a present founded on quality and an all-female future
Born into a farming family, Alessandro Melchiorri was a hard worker right from the start. He helped his father on the farm without ever dodging the back-breaking work in the fields, but as time went by, he realized that this was not the life he aspired to.
Growing up in post-war Montegranaro, a small town situated in one of the oldest shoe-making districts in Italy, the young Melchiorri saw numerous new shoe factories spring up all around him, and dreamed of opening one himself one day. His goal was clear, but he knew he would have to work hard in order to achieve it.
Melchiorri started by learning the trade of a cobbler in an artisan workshop, after which he was taken on by one of the biggest local firm of shoemakers. Working late every evening, he spared no effort in learning every aspect of the trade while putting a bit of money away at the same time.
A few years later, in 1955, he finally managed to fulfil his dream and set up his own business.
He started off on a small scale, with a workshop that only produced a few pairs of shoes and the assistance of his future wife, Gina, specialised in stitching and binding.
The company gradually started to make a name for itself and, by the ‘70s, its turnover had increased substantially, distributing classic high-quality men’s shoes both in Italy and abroad: first France, Germany, Spain, Holland and Switzerland.
The real turning-point came in 1985 when the firm became a large-scale shoe manufacturing company. A new modern factory was opened – still in Montegranaro – and the name put up on the company signboard is still used today: Gal.Men.
Melchiorri, the sole owner, chose to name the business after himself and his sons — Gal is in fact the initials of the three names (Giampietro, Alessandro and Lucio) while Men simply refers to the fact that all three are male.
1985 was also the year in which Lucio (the eldest son) and Giampietro (the youngest) started to work in the family business: together they helped the company expand even further between the end of the ‘80s and the early ‘90s, with the addition of a new line of more sporty shoes that enabled Gal.Men and their flagship brand at the time — called Alessandro Melchiorri, like the founder — to conquer the Russian and South Korean markets as well.
In early 2000s a women’s range was introduced, and the casual and classic lines took on two separate identities. In 2000, thanks to the collaboration with the Basso family — four brothers, relatives of the Melchiorre family — a new brand Primabase, closer to the world of sneakers, was created; this was followed in 2003 by the Alexander Hotto brand, which carries on the company’s long tradition of craftsmanship in a more up-to-date manner.
Today, these two brands constitute the company’s core business, and the market is split evenly between Italy and overseas countries.
Focusing on quality, rather than quantity, the company’s footwear is 100% ‘Made-in-Italy’ and is produced using complex procedures — such as the San Crispino construction method or the slip lasting method — requiring numerous different steps, such as garment-dyeing or stone-washing and a maniacal attention to each pair of shoes.
The third generation of the Melchiorri family has already entered the business. About four years ago, in fact, Lucio’s daughter, Federica Melchiorri, joined the firm where she deals with communication and digital issues. Having practically grown up in the factory and with a degree in economy in her pocket, Federica is the first of her generation to become involved in the business, but she will soon be followed by her female cousins — so very soon, that Men in Gal.Men will no longer reflect reality!
Communication, in fact, represents one of the main strategies for the future: «It is of vital importance for SMEs like us», Federica Melchiorri explains: «we don’t have the same financial clout as the large groups, or access to investment funds. So we just try, in our own small way, to exploit every aspect of marketing and communications as much as possible».
The firm’s approach to market positioning is also changing. «With Alexander Hotto we aim to position ourselves in clothing stores, too. The idea is that shoes should be seen as a quality accessory, like handbags» adds Melchiorri.
With Primabase, on the other hand, the focus is on e-commerce, so as to reach customers directly; and recently, the brand’s Leitmotiv collection, a capsule collection of t-shirts and sweatshirts, has been launched.
«The world is changing, both economically and geopolitically» says Federica Melchiorri, «and markets are shifting rapidly. Our aim is to ensure we stay ahead of the game and to continue to grow, not just as regards our products but also as a brand».