In the small town of Montegranaro in Italy’s Marche region, a tiny, family-run atelier has been honing its craft for the last 69 years. The craft in question? Artisanal leather shoes. And the brand, Alberto Guardiani, has become synonymous with its refined craftsmanship and innovation ever since it began in 1947. In fact, it’s thanks to these values that the brand enjoys a long-standing Handmade collaboration with Wallpaper* – the last of which resulted in a Robert Storey-designed window display in its Milan flagship.
This year, however, marks a significant turning point in the history of the shoemaker: Serena Guardiani – daughter of Alberto and granddaughter of founder Dino – is stepping into the role of creative director, of the brand's women's collections. The 26-year-old graduate of Milan’s Istituto Marangoni joins her elder sisters Rubina and Guya within the company, making the transition to the third Guardiani generation complete. ‘I’m excited to bring a woman’s point of view and a touch of femininity to the functionality we’re known for,’ Serena says of the direction she intends to steer the brand in.
Her father will continue to oversee the men’s side of the business, and will remain her visual sparring partner. ‘My father is definitely “King of the style office”,’ Serena laughs, before adding: ‘He is the kind of man who very much believes you have to earn your space before you can take it. Because of this, I spent a long time developing my experience outside of the business.’
This experience has culminated in the brand’s second collection under Serena’s creative guidance, something that’s both a throwback to the glamour of the 1970s and 1980s, and a nod to the future. For A/W 2016, dainty brogues grounded with tough tread and a pair of snakeskin-embossed gold leather booties are standouts. The meeting of glossy leather and chunky lug soles is the kind of classic-versus-modern contradiction that embodies Guardiani to a T. ‘I have a big respect for our history and brand DNA,’ says Serena. ‘From a design perspective, this will always be my starting point.’