Meet one of the most passionate leather artisans in the industry
There are people in this world who live so passionately for their craft it’s humbling. Simone Cecchetto is one of those: a Rome-based leather artisan who wakes up at 6AM every morning to work until 2AM to ensure that the products of his label A1923 are entirely hand crafted, which is a big feat, as he takes the term very seriously. It means constructing the shoes’ heels from layers of leather, creating soles that can be found both inside and outside the shoe to ensure comfort, stitching exotic skins by hand, tanning— and even culturing his own leather.
That leather, in fact, is always the starting point of a product. He elaborately studies animal skins, selects one, and experiments with it. And, when he buys the leather, he buys it with the hair: “you have the blood, you have it all.” If the leather ain’t perfect, the product ain’t gonna work. After the selection procedure and developing shapes, the next step is the treatment: Simone tans the leather by himself and experiments with oils to create new types of tan, as tanneries often give clients skins that look very similar to one another.
“I CONDUCTED MY OWN RESEARCH THROUGH EDUCATION AND EXPLORATION OF WELL KNOWN AND LESSER KNOWN TERRITORIES OF SHOE-MAKING.”
Having worked for Rick Owens he realised that their ideas weren’t aligned— Simone’s approach was more focused on creating wearable products than Rick’s avant-garde vision, and thus he decided to go his own way. In 2006, a first collection of A1923 shoes was presented in a Paris showroom, and Cecchetto has been slowly crafting them ever since, working by himself in a small space, making up to 800 shoes singlehandedly each season.
“I put my all in to my work — work, work, work,” Simone has said in an interview with boutique H Lorenzo. “Sometimes I think it’s super heavy. I do it all. I think of the collection, I produce all of it, and my wife and I sell it. So, it’s not simple. I hope people will understand this. Sometimes I think it’s time to stop because I can’t do all this work completely by myself. Then I look at my shoes, and I think… I love my work too much and so I’ll find the energy to continue my work because I love it. I’m tired, but I’m very happy because not many people in reality can really love their work. For me, it’s very important. It’s my life. It’s really my life.”
When we ask about what comes first, the craftsmanship or the design, he states that he “operates within a sphere consisting of shapes that aesthetically and functionally resonate with me the most”: mindfully acknowledging his own aesthetic inclinations as naturally as possible. Being familiar with construction methodologies, the design simply stems from a desire to accentuate the properties of leather as opposed to exploring a fixed, artistic concept. And so for him, research has a continual presence and a pair of shoes could even be based upon “the associations attached to a given colour”.
Pitted blacks, stone greys and lustful reds: there is an evocative romanticism to the shoes which are vivid and attractive in both colour and texture. This allure is achieved through his production methods which are as organic as possible, something he, no doubt, learnt through his ongoing dialogue with local artisans in tanneries. Unlike most design houses, A1923’s process “starts with the skin of the animal with its hair still on”. And I can’t help but feel that it is refreshing to stumble upon a designer who is so eager to appreciate the many aspects of production. In buying the leather in its purest form, he portrays an unequivocal understanding that leather is an animal product which deserves to be treated with the highest quality. Indeed, he informs us that vegetable tanned leather is both risky and time consuming as no one model requires “the exact same time to be constructed”, once more highlighting his mindful and selective attitude towards production.
“I BELIEVE IT IS CRUCIAL TO MAKE A PRODUCT WHICH IS AT ITS BEST AND CAN STAND THE TEST OF TIME.”
Part of creating a luxury good and honouring its origins is through acting sustainably. It is about “utilising the resources at hand to their best purpose.” “In my first collection I worked with a Goodyear stitch by hand” he says, but just as he enjoys exploring the potential of leather, he is “always exploring the opportunities that lie in other stitches”, proving that the very techniques used to create shoes, can provide much inspiration and development.
Through his conscious engagement with shoemaking and leather manipulation, Simone’s brand A1923 is generating products which are direct, affecting and quite simply lovely to behold. His aspirations congregate around extending the wearer’s experience and enabling them to feel the history of the product, through the product, which he deems a “service of communication”. His products are a token of his enjoyment of good craftsmanship, which you can’t deny makes them all the more desirable.