How It’s Made: René Caovilla
Rows of skilled artisans hunched over worktables, scrupulously cutting leather and forming the slivers into delicate adornments; placing crystals with surgeon-like dexterity onto the vamps of stilettos; stitching thousands of beads, sequins, and feathers by hand, one by one. This is the scene that greets visitors to the Venice villa workshop of shoemaker René Caovilla. Here, shoes are meticulously tooled into creations befitting a modern-day fairy tale. And that’s exactly how the calzolaio wants it.
The second-generation shoemaker learned his craft at the apron of his father, Edoardo, who made shoes for the highest-echelon clientele—fusing art, Venetian craftsmanship, and jewelry making. The pupil studied well and followed in the Caovilla tradition. His reputation as a craftsman and couturier led to several esteemed creative partnerships. In the ’70s, Caovilla joined forces with designer Valentino Garavani, creating shoes under the label Valentino by René Caovilla—an association that lasted more than two decades. Another brush with high fashion was in the early ’90s when Dior came calling, followed by a five-year collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld.
It wasn’t until 2000 that Caovilla made the decision to focus all production efforts on the house’s eponymous brand. Shoes lavished with jewelry would be the epicenter of his artistic expression. The divine results have garnered a celeb following and the highest standing among shoe devotees and fashion’s elite. Simply put, a shoe by René Caovilla is nothing short of a masterpiece.