This 100-year-old family enterprise focuses entirely on quality
When a family-run company has been in business for over a hundred years, it can sometimes prove difficult to trace its origins. In the case of Gravati, a firm of artisan shoemakers, there’s an old photo that attests to who, where and when. It was taken in 1914, and shows the founder, Cesare Gravati, together with his family and employees in his Vigevano workshop, right in the heart of one of the world’s most renowned shoemaking districts.
Not a lot is known about Cesare Gravati. What we know for certain is that in 1909, when his son Mario was born, the small firm had just started producing children’s shoes. The chronology of events then skips a few decades, taking us to the post-war period when Mario Gravati, by then an adult, took over the firm and turned it into a proper industry, abandoning the production of children’s shoes to concentrate entirely on men’s footwear.
Over the years, Gravati started to make a name for itself both in Italy and abroad; but it was not until the ‘70s and ‘80s that the company had a real boom period, thanks to the success of its extremely high-quality classic models — from lace-ups to moccasins.
The year 1980, at the height of that golden period, also saw the arrival of the third generation, with the brothers Cesare and Ettore Gravati. Having practically grown up in the shoe factory, the brothers – both hard workers and of few words – immediately divided up the areas of responsibility and work space: Ettore on the top floor, overseeing the modelling and stitching departments; Cesare on the ground floor, in charge of shoe bases (or soles) and – with the assistance of his brother – administration.
The ‘90s saw the addition of a new production line of classic women’s shoes, made using the same techniques as for men’s models.
Today, the Gravati brothers still run the family firm and continue to focus on what they know how to do best: making timeless, high-quality shoes.
Gravati shoes are traditionally hand-crafted. From cutting to finishing, every step in the manufacturing process is carried out inside the factory and all the shoes are assembled on the last, without prefabricated components and using the main construction methods: Goodyear, slip-lasting, Blake.
The materials used are all of the highest quality, appreciated by customers who come mainly from Europe and the USA, currently the company’s two most important markets.
«It’s hard to find workers; here in Vigevano there are far fewer shoe factories than there used to be and unfortunately there just aren’t that many youngsters who want to work in this sector», says Ettore Gravati despondently.
With sneakers dominating the market, classic shoes are going through a difficult period. For this reason, in recent years the company has tried to keep up with the constantly changing trends by producing some more casual, sporty models.