Hello friends. Allow me to apologise in advance, because this is a very sad story.
I first discovered Italian shoemaker Riccardo Freccia Bestetti thanks to our friend Justin FitzPatrick of The Shoe Snob blog. In 2014, Justin made a pilrimage to Vigevano outside Milan to visit the workshop of Mr Bestetti — he’d had no choice, as the renowned shoemaker refused to do international trunk shows; such was his love for his son that he couldn’t bear to be away from him for even a couple of days. Justin was just as impressed by this caring, soulful attitude as he was by Bestetti’s shoes.
“He is a master in the industry and his works of art are simply amazing… what he does is beautiful,” Justin wrote in his report on the visit. Furthermore, he said, “Riccardo Bestetti is a fantastic person… Not only is he genuine, nice, hospitable, kind, passionate, humble and the rest of it, but most importantly he cares. Not only does he care about shoes, his own as well as others’, but he cares for the customer and how the customer feels… What was most admirable for me was the way in which he cared about his family, particularly his one and only son. The way someone treats their family says a lot about a person to me. And when Riccardo spoke of his son, you could see all of the love and passion that he possessed glowing out of his skin… I know that this has nothing to do with shoes, but for me it is important”.
Justin related the story of Bestetti’s journey into shoemaking: “Riccardo is a self-taught shoemaker, having started with Western cowboy boots before moving on to the masterpieces that we see today. It started about 20 years ago when he had bought some handmade boots in Texas. Having flown to the US to visit a family member he went to the bootmaker to collect two pairs of boots he’d ordered some months before. Of course they were not ready, so Riccardo told them that they needed to finish before he left back to Italy and that he was going to stay and watch as they finished them. He did just that and after having returned to Italy, thought to himself, ‘Why purchase more boots like this? I can do what they did!’ He therefore kept one and ripped the other apart only to examine it and start to try and build one of his own. With a bit of common sense, some trial and error and a few good books on bootmaking, he quickly became a bootmaker.”
After five years making only boots (which are still a Bestetti signature), Riccardo “started to become more curious with regards to the world of shoes. So he decided to make a switch and took what he knew from bootmaking and transferred it to shoemaking. He started with quite basic bespoke shoes, not having any of the fancy bells and whistles that he does today. The waists were quite normal and the lasts quite conservative. But he wasn’t completely satisfied with that so he decided to start doing things that he could attach a persona to, such as the pegged waists and the uniquely shaped lasts and patterns. With those, he created the ‘Bestetti look’, which is still very prevalent to this day and is easily recognized without doubt. The rest is kind of history,” Justin concluded.
Tragically, two years after Justin’s visit, Mr Bestetti very sadly passed away from a serious lung ailment. Urged on by Mr Bestetti’s mother and wife, Marco Facchinetti, who’d been friends with Mr Bestetti for 25 years and had been helping his brand reach the American market, vowed to keep the company alive and make the vast archive of designs and models the shoemaker left behind into a reality. Since 2016, Facchinetti has been carrying on the design and craftsmanship legacy of his late, great friend, expanding the Bestetti workshop and its customer base in Italy and internationally.
Next month, Mr Facchinetti will be visiting Singapore, where he will be holding a bespoke and made-to-measure trunk show at the Kevin Seah atelier. Soon we’ll publish an interview with him on our site. But to personally hear more of the story of how Mr Facchinetti is honoring the memory of Riccardo Bestetti, and to see for yourself the beautiful shoes this artisan house handmakes, we invite you to visit 5 Jalan Kilang on November 21.
Join us and raise a glass in tribute to Riccardo Bestetti — a gifted artisan who will always be missed, and never be forgotten.
Until next week…