The art of shoe making | leMastro

July 30, 2018

Give a girl the right shoes and she will conquer the world – Marilyn Monroe

My Mom use to be surprised after my visits to Rome: “What? You were in Rome and you didn’t buy a single pair of Italian shoes?” She wouldn’t have missed the occasion. Neither would my Father. The last time he was in Rome, he bought five pairs! Their generation loved Italian shoes and, as many times before, they were right.

With today’s vast international trade, Italian shoes are everywhere and you don’t need to travel to Rome to buy an authentic, Made in Italy pair. However, if you are in the mood for a spin through Rome and you are passionate about shoes, there is a shoe experience not to be missed – LeMastro. Created by two fantastic Roman female artisans, this young shoe brand seamlessly fuses creativity, Italian elegance and a youthful spirit. 

Who is LeMastro?

Mastro is an Italian word that in slang means a teacher, mentor or master. Master craftsman produced artistic objects and handicraft and passed their secrets and techniques along to the next generation. Le is the article that indicates feminine plural – in this case, Francesca Latini e Giovanna D’Ulisse, two young and energetic craftswomen. They both listened carefully to their Maestros, but decided to go on their own adventure.

Francesca studied Fashion and Costume, while Giovanna majored in History of Contemporary Art. They were privileged to have studied under two excellent professors, Mario Vitalucci and Orazio Giustiniani. 

Giovanna and Francesca, the team behind Le Mastro
Giovanna and Francesca, the team behind Le Mastro

Three years ago, inspired by Italy’s long history shoemaking and their globally recognized quality, beauty and elegance, Giovanna and Francesca, created their own bottega, or shop, situated on a charming street not far from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. LeMastro specializes in unique, handmade shoes, designed and crafted just for you. If you are as passionate about learning how shoes are made as you are about wearing them, you can participate in making your very own pair. Join a workshop where you create and make your own personalized Positano sandal. (Part of our Spotter Travel Relax and Shopping package).

How was the idea of la bottega Le Mastro born?

(Giovanna) I really just wanted to create something with my own hands. Francesca however, has always been passionate about shoes, and worked at the Opera House in Rome, decorating all of the beautiful ballet shoes. We met while in the same shoemaking workshop. Our teachers introduced us to handmade shoemaking, and we were fortunate enough to work with them for six years. Three years ago we struck out on our own and founded LeMastroBuilding our own business and brand was not an easy journey, but we are both satisfied. We believe in the concept and we are having fun. Slowly, we are going in the right direction.

Le Mastro shoe workshop
Le Mastro shoe workshop

Who are your clients?

(Giovanna) We have various types of clients. Some come to us because they want an original piece that’s beautiful and isn’t from a well-known brand. Others come to LeMastro because they have a special occasion and want something unique, or they struggle to find shoes off-the-shelf and love the ability to create a personalized pair that fit perfectly. Clients can either start from one of our existing models and personalize it, or we can partner with them to design their dream shoe from the scratch.

You like to say that in the masculine art of shoemaking, your art is feminine. Are you clients only women?

(Giovanna) Our male clientele is increasing, though men rarely come because they have a special occasion. Most come to us because they simply want to look their best.

(Francesca) Our men’s shoes are primarily inspired by sport/vintage shoes, rather than, say, classic loafers. Still, on demand, we can make whatever our clients desire.

Have you ever made the “perfect” shoe that you subsequently didn’t want to give away?

(Francesca laughs) I have! I get emotionally attached to the final product of my work, like some kind of art piece. Unfortunately, we don’t have a room full of shoes at home, nor a special wardrobe for our personal collection. We could work more on shoes for us, but it is time-consuming, and we prefer to dedicate our time to our clients. We need approximately 30-40 hours to make a pair of shoes, which is a long process. There are only two of us, and each shoe is fully handmade – which means that we personally are shoeless! (Both laugh).


Do you have a Roman Carrie Bradshaw as a client?

(Giovanna) We do have a couple of very loyal clients that are crazy about shoes and have been following us for years. They usually have ideas for each season and buy at least four pairs of shoes a year. 

(Francesca) With time, many of these relationships evolved to friendship. They come to have a cup of coffee, discuss shoe models and talk about life…it is much more than a simple artisan- customer relationship.