Finally I found the time to show you my recent visit to the Paolo Scafora Factory.
Technically a workshop, as it is small scale with a few number of artisans making handmade shoes.
Join me as I showcase pictures and talk about the process behind a Paolo Scafora Shoe.
Are we ready?!
A Short intro and tribute
For newer readers of the blog, Paolo Scafora is an Italian Shoemaker from Napoli in Italy.
In fact, he is one of the best shoemakers in the world with a very distinctive style specializing in the Norwegian/Tyrolese Construction.
I love his shoes so much that he is in my Top 3 Shoemakers of all time.
Since I now live in Florence which is about 3 hours train ride, I managed to sneak in a few days in the end of November and visit Paolo’s workshop.
This article is both a showcase to his craft and my amazing visit but also a small tribute to the unfortunate passing of Paolo’s father Gennaro in New Year’s Day.
I hope you will all enjoy this, even though some content (mostly pictures) had to be cut for confidential reasons.
Location and premises
Just like Antonio Meccariello, the Paolo Scafora Factory is right outside the city of Naples.
So if you intend to visit them make sure you have a car and contact them first!
As for Napoli, it is a city you will either love or hate, nothing in between.
It has some breathtaking sceneries that are a must visit during the warmer days and a plethora of Castles overlooking the city.
Even if you dislike the city, you have to visit just for the food. I promise you will eat the best pizza in the world here.
You might also notice that I will use the word workshop more than factory but in reality it is a bit of a mix.
There were about 30 people if I remember right in the Paolo Scafora Factory.
This was a big difference when comparing to the Carlos Santos Factory which was a large scale operation.
In fact, there are 3 separate entrances next to each other that house a different part of the Paolo Scafora operation.
Let’s take a look at them.
Trivia: Naples or Napoli comes from the Greek word “Neapolis” which means New (Nea) City (Poli).
Building 1: Leather & Upper Assembly
In the first building you will see a small workshop that mostly specializes in the uppers.
Uppers is a loose term to describe the upper part of the shoe, not including things such as the outsole or similar details.
Everything of course begins with the selection of the leather for each pair of shoes.
The main, most available hides are Calf, Suede, Alligator and Shark Hides.
However Paolo Scafora can source any leather you require for MTO or Bespoke including stingray, shell cordovan, ostrich and many more.
The Genuine Shark skin is an exotic favorite with very interesting texture and extreme durability.
Cutting the leather is an art by itself and you can use machines to laser cut the pattern or do it by hand.
The right selection of leather hide and part of the hide is important to avoid blemishes.
As soon as they cut the pattern into leather pieces, the next natural step is to sew them together with a sewing machine.
In the end you get the “upper” part of the shoe which is ready for lasting, welting and finishing.
One thing I like about Paolo is that he has important involvement and always gives his wisdom during all processes.
For example in the picture below where I assume he was demonstrating or correcting something (my Italian is still not so good!).
Essentially, this room stores the leather and is the first important stage to the creation of each shoe.
Preparing the uppers is the first step which will lead us to the next, larger building next door.
Building 2: Lasting, Welting, Norvegese & Finishing
The second building is larger and is both an admin office but most importantly the place where they finish the shoes.
I should also mention that they have strong sanitation protocols for everyone’s least favorite virus and they even shot me with a (temperature) gun.
Is it crazy that I didn’t even flinch when they pointed it to my head? Too many years of boxing I suppose.
There are probably things I forgot or could not show you hear, so my apologies.
For example, Paolo Scafora white labels shoes for certain brands but also understandably needs to protect their shoemaking techniques.
While I cannot show you, I did get a glimpse of how they make their renown Norwegian Construction.
Lasting the shoe first then folding the bottom outwards, before creating the trademark chain stitching with heavier threads.
In my shoemaking journey, I vowed to myself to master this type of construction.
What was amazing, inspiring and encouraging was to see younger people working in there and being a stark reminder that this craft should not (and will not die).
I am here to change your mind about classic shoes, just like they inspired me.
As soon as the lasting and construction is complete, they will attach and finish the sole which of course will have the famous Paolo Scafora crest logo.
Of course each shoe receives an individual handpainted treatment depending on the ordered color.
Hanging on the sides of the room were tons of lasts of people from their Bespoke.
If you notice, they also use plastic lasts in most occasions.
I inquired about that and Paolo told me that the initial last is wooden, but wood can expand, shrink slightly change shape.
So they create plastic duplicates for future projects to ensure the end product will be exactly the same.
I also got the change to meet Germano (Pronounce Ger as in Germany bit stress the “mano”) who is one of the most helpful people ever.
He helps me with all my inquiries and orders for The Noble Shoe and it was finally a pleasure to meet him.
Luckily they also finished an MTO for a client in Finland with impeccable taste which I managed to photoshoot.
And that’s about it here, wrapping up the full production of a RTW Shoe in the Paolo Scafora Factory.
However there is one more room in the third building with a ton of goodies!
Building 3: Paolo Scafora Showroom
The third place is up on a staircase and is a mix of a showroom and office for Paolo Scafora.
It has a ton of shoes in all possible combinations from different seasons, collections and eras.
I wish I had professional lighting or more time to show every shoe individually but it was like a treasure trove.
Such visits give me a lot of inspiration or the change to inspect certain leathers, constructions or make ups often not accessible anymore.
It was fascinating seeing how different a shoe can look simply by applying a different last, leather or color.
For example, when was the last time you saw a size EU 52 shoe next to a EU 42???
For my American friends, this is a size US 19 next to a US 9! Imagine that!
And to remind you what I meant above, here is a (crappy) picture of the same model in 3 different iterations.
It goes without saying that I had to take a picture with my favorite shoemaker.
I do have a very derpy face when I am happy.
What About paolo himself?
There are a lot of things I like about Paolo Scafora.
I am not going to tell you what his dream was when he was a kid, but it was not shoemaking.
However he does remind me of myself in many ways and inspires me in many others.
You see, Paolo was a hardworking kid going to the workshop every day after school or in the weekends.
Learning the trade at such a young age allowed him to gain experience and take the family business to a new modern dimension.
There is a very strong focus on unique art styles and shapes, as well as a focus on perfection.
And in spite of what many Italian stereotypes, the business is modern, professional, responsive with a great website and creative direction.
In the workshop there is an aura of mutual respect yet seriousness. A feeling that everything made in there is equally important.
Paolo is a light hearted individual, always smiling and is relatively young for this industry (Born in 1974).
Not only that, but he managed to stay heavily involved in the business but also having an actual family.
Just like when I met Mario Bemer, I am getting a very clear idea of what I want to become.
Both as a shoemaker and a person.
This concludes my short but hopefully informative article from my visit to the Paolo Scafora Factory in Naples.
It was only my second real factory/workshop visit after Carlos Santos and a completely different experience.
I hope you enjoyed it and got a glimpse of this high end workshop.
There are few brands out there making shoes with such art style and even fewer like Paolo Scafora.
If you enjoy such content let me know in the comments down below!
In the future I plan to visit a ton of workshops when the pandemic ends and we can finally live normally.
I will be back next week with more shoe reviews and my first Pitti Uomo!
Thank you for reading,