One of the most successful websites to offer handmade, artisan products – Etsy – quietly changed its policies last Fall and allowed in manufacturers. One year later and the site is flooded with items like $3 wrap bracelets supposedly “handmade” in China. Many of the true artisans on Etsy have seen their business plummet as their goods are much harder to find among Etsy’s one-million-plus storefronts.
Even as the movement toward handmade, local, artisan-produced products grows, there is a struggle to define and maintain true handmade status. Etsy broadened its definition of handmade to include “partnering with manufacturers.” Yet they still define themselves as “a marketplace where people around the world connect to buy and sell unique goods.” The same thing has happened in Italy, where companies selling leather goods are allowed to ship pieces overseas and have most of the manufacturing done there while still using the “Made in Italy” label.
At Marcopoloni, our owners travel to Italy every summer to visit the artisans who make many of the leather goods for sale on our site. We are able to see with our own eyes that these products are truly handmade, and offer that assurance to people who buy from our site. So, if you are looking for true handmade products, you have come to the right place!
My first interview with Alessandro revolved around finding out more about Maledetti Toscani. Alessandro began by giving me a little bit of his family business’s history and then elaborated on how his family has, since 1848, defended the true made in Italy, which, he defines, is a label that should only be allowed when something is really entirely made in Italy (not somewhere else for the most part) and by a company legally operating in Italy who employs legal Italian workers.
Finding companies that embrace this philosophy has been extremely hard but it is a philosophy that matches ours completely. So we are elated to do business with Maledetti Toscani. The point may seem extremely simple. But it is not simple at all. Companies taking advantage of the fact that they can say something is made in Italy while it is mostly made in China, India, or Bangladesh are allowed to make false claims about their products. Since “Made in Italy” implies a certain type of skilled craftsmanship, environmental concern, and respect for worker rights, being able to apply the label while getting the product made somewhere where these aspects are bypassed means that the consumer is led to perceive something that is extremely far from the truth.
One of the pillars upon which we founded our company is authenticity. Authenticity is the word we use to also mean honesty and integrity. If we allowed anything that is not 100% made in Italy be described as being 100% made in Italy we would be breaking our promise to our customers and to ourselves: we would be straying from our beliefs for the sake of following the easiest road to profits. That is why we recognize that profits will only come for us when we have delighted our customers with integrity: so we treat profits as a byproduct of helping our customers be confident when they buy from Marcopoloni, not as a primary goal. I will talk about that in greater detail later, for now go check out some Maledetti Toscani shoes and watch this genuine video.
The Marcopoloni Team as captured by the Campbell Reporter photographer
When Allison Williams with the Campbell Reporter set a time to come and interview us, Emi and I realized that we needed to get a few points across very clearly. We figured that Allison would want to know what drives us to be in our business. We have been trying to clearly define our brand, which we interpret as the expression of what we are about, for years now and it is still definitely a work in process.
One message that we have tried to communicate since the very beginning is that we are trying to preserve the way of the artisan. Personally, I grew up in Italy with the fortune of visiting every region by the time I was a teenager. In the process I drove through so many places and saw so many artisans at work and small shops creating wonderful goods that I feel that this artisanship is the fabric of the Italian way of life. When Italians don’t cut corners, the results are amazing. I expanded the saying “you are what you eat” with “and drink, breathe, and wear” because I really think that everything we experience affects our well being and I believe that it is worth it to make those experiences the best they can be.
That Italian way of life that gives us so many wonderful experiences is under the pressure of greed. When we figured out that there was money to be made by selling imitations that are the result of cutting corners at every corner, everybody started doing it. This has caused a great number of artisans to lose their jobs and the number of young apprentices to drop. I think that this is short-sighted because if we lose our artisanship we lose that artistic flair that got us here.
Allison did a very good just to capture our feelings. Read the full article here: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_26509143/campbells-marcopoloni-supports-artisan-craft
In my previous reviews about the TOSTA Silver Leather Sneakers I talked about how much I fell in love with them. Now that I have had them for three months I am starting to get to know them a little better. One thing is for sure, I like to wear them with long jeans so I did not bring them to Italy where I was expecting it to be really hot, and I couldn’t wear them here in San Jose when it was pretty hot until the middle of August. By the time the weather cooled just a little bit I was really anxious to wear them again. I do not know how to express this but my feet were longing for the time I would be able to wear them: they’re just absolutely in love with these shoes.
After three months of use I am starting to get to know them and here are my impressions. It took a little while for the shoes to break in at the beginning: they felt a bit stiff, but that is normal in new shoes and part of if was caused by me tying my laces too tightly. Figuring out exactly how tight to tie them took a little while. If they are too tight it will hurt your ankle and if they are too loose they will easily come undone. Part of the fear of tying them comes from the silver dust that you generate when you tie your shoes during the first few days of use. By now I expected all of the silver to be gone from the the top of my laces but it looks like some of it will stay–enough to still look silver and not completely brown.
Yesterday I walked for more than two hours with them because I took Marco along to get the car serviced and then we went for a really long walk while we waited. That was after we had taken another walk to the park in the morning. I think that because the weather was cooler, it didn’t reach 80 degrees, I didn’t get hot and uncomfortable so I didn’t get tired at all. I felt that my Maledetti Toscani shoes were broken in and fit perfectly snug.
Ultimately, the reason why I love my TOSTA Silver Leather Sneakers is that I believe they look great on me when I wear my distressed gray jeans. Feeling like you are wearing something cool is priceless.
On August 25 I suddenly realized that it was my birthday. It was a sudden realization because we had already celebrated with friends over the week-end, and now it was just another boring and busy Monday. Then, I had another realization, and this one wasn’t as exciting: I am finally older than my shoe size. Well, that, along with the many MP bucks I accumulated over the years [note: I have gone on a bit of a spending spree this year and my balance is getting a bit low], pointed to a very simple decision. I need to celebrate this stupendous occasion with a pair of STUPENDO.
STUPENDO Artisanal Italian Leather Ankle Boots
This is my second pair of Maledetti Toscani shoes in three months. But it is totally justified: I just happened to read the you shouldn’t wear the same shoes two days in a row because shoes need to breathe so I had let my TOSTA take a breather. Since I had every objection covered I went ahead and got them. So how did they feel?
Just like the TOSTA, the STUPENDO feels stiff and it doesn’t seem to provide much arch support. It also makes me worry that the zipper will open on its own. On the other hand, the leather looks like it can take the abuse and regenerate (unlike the TOSTA which is not going to regenerate its silver shine if you rub it off).
Despite the fears, I love wearing the boots for their looks. They are a dressy casual that I really love and I can certainly feel the difference, as I wear them, between these shoes and the cheaper ones I used to buy. My Italian feet can finally be happy. I am going to wear them on my long walks and see if they hurt my feet.
Oh, and my birthday turned out to be fun. Peggy brought a wonderful cake and we had a fun afternoon at the office. This was definitely a good birthday!!
I have been using a GOTO SBRUFFO Murano Glass Tumbler for a couple of years at the office and I love it. It is very luxurious and it has such a wonderful texture I really enjoy holding it and drinking out of it. But there is another style Murano Glass tumbler that has been calling my name and I want to buy a set to bring home where, at present, I don’t have any Murano glass.
To be more specific what has caught my fancy is the GOTO COLATA Murano glass tumbler. We have six in stock and I want all six because I envision using all six. We either invite two or four adults over with their kids. I wouldn’t dare giving these to the kids so with a set of six I will be all set. The question remains whether these could work as informal wine glasses. I have been using the set we got for our wedding and it is so nice to drink wine out of a proper glass that I wouldn’t want to downgrade too often. Perhaps they will work great with beer, I don’t know, I will have to figure it out.
One of my favorite Murano glass tumblers.
The biggest problems that these tumblers would solve are, first, that they are smaller than wine glasses so they are less likely to get broken, and, second, that people always seem to misplace their glass and we don’t have to resort to other methods such as writing on the glass or using some kind of charm to identify each.
Above all, what I am looking forward to is falling in love with these tumblers. Holding the result of millennia of glass blowing traditions and watching the beauty of each item as it interacts with my friends and family is priceless.
When we went to Italy we decided to bring a Crivelli canvas Campomaggi backpack as an easy to carry carry-on that we could take everywhere with ease. We filled it with mostly Marco’s stuff so it became a sizable diaper back during the trip.
The Crivelli Canvas is a spacious Campomaggi backpack
Besides being spacious, the backpack had quite a few features that I appreciated during the trip. The first thing was that I could get to the contents with just one hand. The magnetic buckles are easy to find and undo, you can flap the flap open, undo the drawstring by pulling on the fastener, loosen the tightened closure string and you are in. The way I described it sounds laborious and it is, but given that it is a backpack, you really don’t want it to be too easy to access when you are worried about pick-pockets. This leads me to the other thing that I liked: for access to emergency items, such as wet wipes, the two front pockets were absolutely perfect. The magnetic buckles closed them securely and made them easy to open. I thanked Marco Campomaggi many times for designing the backpack like that.
The Crivelli canvas backpack is very nice as it almost feels like Campomaggi created it so that he could use it. It is extremely robust and the shoulder straps are padded so that it is not only comfortable to wear, it is also not painful if you choose to pick it up by one of the straps. There is also a very solid short handle that you can use. I thought that it was well designed, light, and a pleasure to carry.
Italy is a beautiful country and Italians are great. I am extremely proud to be Italian and absolutely love to go to Italy on vacation. I left Italy because living there is too frustrating for me but a piece of my heart is still there. But there are a couple of things that are particularly noticeable in Italy and that really bother me.
The first thing that I don’t like about Italy is that there is cigarette smoke everywhere at every hour of the day. This is because Italy finally banned indoor smoking in public places. But, of course, they didn’t ban smoking outdoors. I first noticed the impact of this at a trade show in Milan when I stepped outside and entered a cloud of smoke. My first thought was that this was temporary and it will pass. Unfortunately it didn’t pass. As I started travelling with my family I often felt like sitting at a cafe` in a busy pedestrian area to enjoy a Cappuccino. Well, if you do not like the smell of second hand smoke you cannot do that in Italy. By the end of this last trip we took we were having dinner indoors as far away from the doors as possible. And that is pretty pathetic.
The other thing is waiting in line. I hate to admit this, but we are like water: at the counter to ask for your cappuccino after you paid, you cannot stand in line or you will NEVER get a turn. Like water, you have to melt into the crown and push your way to the counter, then you have to shout before the barista can pay attention to someone else. But the best place to see this is at the airport. They shouldn’t even try to do priority boarding for little children any more. And the best came as we were about ready to go through the x-ray machine. A couple (granted they did not look Italian) came from behind us, put their bags on the rollers in between our bags and headed for the x-ray machine ahead of us in one very swift motion. I really felt like removing their bags, but I desisted. It would have been fun to watch them wait for their bags at the other end.
I don’t know if everyone acts like this, but certainly it is a significant number of people that forces you to act the same way if you want to get what you want. I might master waiting in line Italian-style, but I will not begin smoking: I am afraid that a nice cup of Cappuccino enjoyed with a beautiful view of the sunset, the smell of the sea, and the sound of waves crashing will have to wait.
In Italy summers are pretty hot and it stays nice and warm on most evenings. After spending the day evaluating so many products in the new Campomaggi collection, I was ready to chill with a nice gelato. Actually, that night I was in the mood for an even more refreshing granita and decided to try a new ice cream shop with Emi and Chiara. Sidebar: after we arrived in Italy we quickly discovered that Marco would also like to have gelato and he gets really, really upset that he can’t have any yet so we waited until he fell asleep.
We went to Affresco, which turns out to be one of many independently owned gelaterie that draw on the experience of renowned Italian gelato craftspeople and a team of people who design the store layout.
Affresco helps gelato craftspeople perfect and market their product. I tried only one location where I noticed a clear difference in the quality of the gelato.
When I finally (the line was long) got my granita (shaved ice) all menta (mint) I was astounded. I was quickly reminded, yet again, of the difference between a mass-produced product and one carefully refined by people who care. I was expecting the usual crushed ice with mint flavored sugary syrup. Maybe they were able to trick me with a syrup that finally tasted like it was made from fresh mint leaves. I have lots of mint in my yard and what I got tasted exactly like it and I am convinced that it was actually made from fresh mint leaves. The ice was also finely crushed and the product was very enjoyable and refreshing: exactly as I had envisioned.
This granita alla menta (mint) tastes like real mint. I have mint in my yard and I know what it should taste like. This was the first time that I found a perfect match.
This is the experience that I want to provide to my customers. When a product is made by people who care enough to seek and use the best ingredients for their work, and use skills developed over a lifetime aided by generations of refinements, the outcome is usually a notch or two better than the mass produced imitation.
When the Maledetti Toscani shoes arrived we received three models of children shoes that we wanted Chiara and Marco to wear. Marco doesn’t walk yet and his foot is smaller than the smallest size we got: he will have to wait until fall. Chiara instead still fits in the largest size Italia leather sandals.
Although Chiara doesn’t spontaneously say “thank you” or “daddy, this is one amazing pair of shoes” she did say that they are “super-comfortable” but, what is more telling, she wore them every day she was allowed to do so (they don’t allow open toe shoes at summer camp).
The sandals have already taken their share of abuse. In Italy we have to walk a lot (one of the reasons why Italians care so much about shoe quality) so the sole is dirty but still shows no wear and tear. Other than walking the shoes seem to have undergone a rigorous series of tests: jumping, landing from heights in excess of four feet high, skipping, hopping on one or two feet, forwards, backwards, sideways, running, walking on ledges, balancing on narrow platforms, swinging, sliding, climbing, and some other things that I cannot possibly imagine that resulted in some little scratches on the upper part of the sole, the part that comes in contact with the foot.
The upper part of the sandals and the straps are still in surprisingly good shape. They still look beautiful and clean, even though they are mostly white and they went through the above multiple times (almost daily).
I am happy to have given her such joy. She feels like a princess and is happy to wear them. I really hope that she will outgrow them and that they will be able to be handed down.