Stefano Maroni’s Hortense flat, in python with cashmere suede stripes and silver sequin toe accent.
Stefano Maroni’s love for design and impeccable craft started with his childhood in Varese, a town 45 minutes north of Milan in Italy’s Lakes Region.
Perched on the slopes of the Sacro Monte di Varese—a pilgrimage site dating back to the 15th century—Maroni’s home town overlooks the breathtaking Lake Varese, ringed by the snow-capped foothills of the Alps.
It’s obvious why 18th Century Lombard painters favored the place. It’s dense with picturesque castles, including its town hall, the lavish Palazzo Estense. Its numerous parks, including the Luigi Zanzi botanical garden and the Campo dei Fiori, a 5,000-acre nature preserve, make Varese a paradise for outdoors lovers. Museums like Villa Panza, a collection of contemporary art housed in an historic estate surrounded by formal gardens, also make the area a destination for art lovers.
In addition to basketball and soccer, Maroni loved sailing. He also savored the freshly caught fish grilled and served at Il Sole di Ranco, a lakeside eatery founded in 1850.
Varese is also a business and manufacturing powerhouse, home to, among others, the famed Missoni fashion house.
Maroni’s own father, Elio, founded his leather goods factory, Principe, in Varese in 1955. Maroni’s grandfather, Ezio, had also owned a leather goods factory which made components for luxury brands like Gucci.
Stefano Maroni’s love for footwear design and craft started at his father's leather goods factory in Varese, near Milan.
Among Stefano Maroni’s favorite memories are the times he spent around the artisans and materials at Principe. “Since the age of four, five, the thing that impressed me a lot were the skins,” he says. As a child, he loved the feel of them. “You have the nappa leather, which is very soft. The horsehide, which is very dry and stiff.”
Watching the workers hammer the skins smooth and then stitch the final products by hand, he was also deeply impressed by the care and pride that went into the work. The staff at Principe begin their apprenticeships at 18 or 19. Many have been with the company for decades. The pride in the work, and the bond between artisans and Maroni’s relatives, make Principe “a very family-oriented business,” Maroni says.
Eventually, Maroni left Varese to study, earning a degree in finance in London and founding his own shoe business in New York. Traveling the world and its capitals, he developed an passion for contemporary art and global culture, which now inspire his bold, innovative shoe designs. But the impeccable quality and craftsmanship he witnessed in Varese as a child form the foundation of his brand. “Those kinds of experiences get into your DNA,” he says.
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