CULTURE

Olympic luxury items shoed in

In the luxury world, Diego Della Valle is known as the man who turned rubber pebbles into urban chic. As the visionary CEO of Tod’s, Della Valle took a small shoemaking family affair, established by his grandfather in 1890, and turned it into a major luxury success. The brand, famously known for its moccasins – walking fans include Juan Carlos of Spain, Sharon Stone, Julia Roberts and Michael Douglas – eventually became Tod’s group, when it was subsequently joined by Hogan (casual footwear) and Fay (apparel). From Paris to New York and Tokyo, and from Jeddah to Shanghai, Seoul, Moscow and Istanbul as well, Tod’s stores are key players, while in 2000, the company was listed on the Milan Stock Exchange. In Greece, Tod’s is imported by the Lemonis family, leading Greek footwear manufacturers and importers. For this Olympic summer, Tod’s has come up with a custom-made collection for the city of Athens; it is a celebration of sports, comfort and style. «We decided to launch a special collection, the Owens, in a limited edition, exclusively available at our boutique in Voukourestiou Street. This should be a little homage to this year’s Olympic Games in Athens, a sort of tribute,» said Della Valle to Kathimerini English Edition. Officially presented during an elegant event in Athens on June 15 – in the presence of Della Valle and Mayor of Athens Dora Bakoyannis – the series is already a hit. Made in clean white, sky-blue and shimmering silver, it includes the Owens shoe – which gets a new twist through this fresh color combination that recalls the Aegean Sea – and a small Owens pochette made of high-tech waxed canvas, calf-leather and nappa with signature rubber pebbles on the side. These items join other Tod’s must-have pieces, such as the Driving Shoe and the D bag. What is the brand’s recipe for success so far? «Tod’s has always tried to remain loyal to its philosophy: creating items of refined, understated luxury, impeccable taste and enviable quality. These are the signposts that have always distinguished our brand, and this is what has created loyalty among our fans,» said Della Valle. «Good taste, excellence and a sense of style are always the principles that give birth to every collection, along with the needs of the consumer, which are crucial.» One of the keys to Tod’s success is the company’s focus on making the kind of products about which it enjoys top know-how and superior workmanship. «We will keep on doing what we know best, this means making luxury accessories of excellent quality, good taste and functionality,» said Della Valle. «Our core business remains the creation of leather accessories and we are not giving any licenses.» Tod’s is particularly proud of being a «Made in Italy» brand – the company produces all of its collection at home. If this guarantees quality, how much of trendsetter can Tod’s be, given its original concept for comfort? «Tod’s is not exactly fashion, it is a lifestyle,» said Della Valle. «We are producing items that are of need to people, because the real secret, the one I define as the ‘contemporary luxury of Tod’s,’ is exactly this: high-quality items of use to people.» In this light, the brand has broadened its creative spectrum: Besides the trademark loafer, this summer’s boat-style comes with a heel, for instance. But just how mad can Tod’s get creatively? «With every new collection, the aim of our stylists is to introduce new and contemporary elements; there is always room for creativity, but always keeping in mind the philosophy and main characteristics of the brand: quality, usability, good taste and excellent materials,» said Della Valle. This translates into a broadening of Tod’s collections, with the launch of novel lines including scarves, gloves, bracelets and leather jackets – customers will discover these in the upcoming Autumn-Winter 2004-05 collection. Meanwhile, according to Della Valle, all of Tod’s planned investments have been respected and in some cases accelerated through the opening of several new boutiques all over the world, with a particular focus on the Far East as well as in previously unexplored markets. And although Tod’s might never turn into a madcap design house, Della Valle’s personal involvement in the revival of a footwear legend shows what is close to his heart. Roger Vivier, the innovative French shoemaker, once described as the «Fragonard of the shoe,» who collaborated with Christian Dior and developed a plethora of shapes and styles, died in 1998 at the age of 90. «The brand Roger Vivier is just one of my private initiatives and it is not part of Tod’s Group,» said Della Valle. «Through Roger Vivier, I just wanted to recreate the myth of one of the greatest shoes designers that ever lived.»