When not just quality but above all passion makes the difference
Montegranaro, a town with just over 10,000 inhabitants on the hills in the Marche region just a few kilometres from the Adriatic and from Fermo, the province’s main town, is synonymous around the world with extremely high quality men’s shoes.
The first cobbler’s shops in the area date as far back as the 14th century, but only in the latter half of the 20th century did the area’s purely and typically crafts-based vocation give rise to the industrial district that is now famous worldwide.
The history of Lidfort started right there, in those hills, in 1945, where, by choice, a small enterprise has remained to this day.
The founder, Lido Fortuna (whose name was shortened to obtain Lidfort), was a cobbler’s son. After learning the trade from his father, studying at the Vocational School — as it was called back then — and working as an apprentice at shops of other local craftsmen, he began designing and making shoes in his garage at home, right after the Second World War.
“He started out with loafers,” Lido’s son, Vincenzo Fortuna, tells us. Vincenzo is now at the helm of the family business, along with his brother, Onelio.
Lido Fortuna sold his first creations in the local area, but Lidfort slowly moved away from the predominantly local market, making a name for itself outside the Fermo area. Fortuna moved from his garage into a workshop and, finding it impossible to fill all the orders, he employed some workers, as most future shoe craftsmen and industrialists in Montegranaro did apprenticeships there to learn the trade anyway.
“To this day I still meet people who tell me they worked with my father,” muses Vincenzo.
Lido lived above the workshop and his sons Vincenzo and Onelio grew up practically inside the company, , which was always operative, in the evening after dinner, on Saturdays and, even if only for half a day, on Sundays, too.
“We were born in shoeboxes,” jokes Vincenzo, remembering how as a child, in a primary school essay in which the teacher had asked the classic question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” he had replied: “A shoe designer”
When in the 1970s the two brothers took over the reins of Lidfort, they decided to revamp the brand, by modernising the lines and purchasing new machinery. However, they chose to remain a craft enterprise, without taking the leap, as many others in the area were doing, to become an industry.
“First and foremost, we’ve got the mindset of craftsmen,” explains Vincenzo, who however becomes quite nostalgic when recalling the “boom” in the 1980s, when “there were more Ferraris in Montegranaro than in Milan”.
The materials are of the highest quality, and the artisanal techniques used make the shoes unique and comfy, with attention down to the very finest details, from construction of the upper and stitching of the leather to dyeing. The latter uses dyes developed in-house, which are applied by hand onto semi-finished hides using the buffing technique.
But when asked to pinpoint an element that makes Lidfort shoes so special, the Fortuna brothers come up with a word, “passion”, which has always been the compass that has steered the company over all these years. That, they say, is what makes the difference. “We don’t put an item in the box until we’ve made sure that it is how it should be.”
Lidfort is now a small enterprise composed of just seven people – the two owners and five employees. Lido, the father, passed away in 2002.
Production occurs in small runs and distribution is “leopard spot-like”, as Vincenzo calls it, but with presence in some of the world’s best luxury shops, from New York to Dubai, as well as in Italy, of course.
Apart from distribution, which is managed by a showroom in Milan, Vincenzo and Onelio oversee every aspect, from production to communication.
“The current predicament of everyone can no longer be referred to as a “crisis””, explains Vincenzo, adding: “It’s now a system, which we all have to tackle with our own means and skills. We have to fight, day in day out”.
The latest developments include a new brand, Grano, which could be defined as a “side project”. It takes its name from the little town of Montegranaro, which in the early days was the location of one of the granaries that the ancient Romans used for providing the legions with supplies.
The production techniques of Grano products are the same as Lidfort’s, but the collections are in much more limited editions and made up basically of just one style, which might be a loafer in crocodile skin one season and a horse leather boot the next, and so on.
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