Crafting Shoes Never Meant to Be Walked In

Last week at the Venice Biennale, the milliner Giuliana Longo wore gold earrings in the shape of hats as she showed off a hat sculpture made of natural agave. Ms. Longo, who has worked as a milliner since 1969, said through a translator that she fell in love with hats because “if you wear a hat, you become a different person.”

Dotted with 500 “pebbles,” each hand stitched to the fabric, the hat was in fact not just a hat but a tribute to a shoe: the Tod’s Gommino driving shoe, a hand-stitched loafer in leather or suede with rubber pebbles on the bottom and back that make it look a bit like a soft, chic cleat.

Tod’s, the Italian leather goods and fashion company, had assembled 11 Venetian craftsmen to interpret the Gommino using their own tools and artistry. The works, created by Venetian glassblowers, mask makers and other artisans, were exhibited at a cocktail party on April 19. At an airy warehouse across the canal from the Italian Pavilion, craftspeople stood proudly by their work.

Sara Menegazzo, the daughter of the last family in Venice to practice traditional goldbeating, showed sheets of gold leaf that her father, Marino Menegazzo, had beaten by hand. With Ms. Menegazzo’s mother, Sabrina Berta, the family runs the last battiloro workshop in Venice. In partnership with Tod’s, they created a Gommino shoe and corresponding shoe box entirely covered in gold leaf, which Mr. Mengazzo beat for two hours by hand with a heavy hammer.

Sara Menegazzo, a goldleaf artisian, demonstrates her craft.Credit…Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times
Roberto Beltrami, a Murano glassblower, speaks with a guest near his glass shoe.Credit…Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times

Roberto Beltrami, a young glassblower who operates a family business called Wave Murano Glass on the nearby island of Murano, created a Gommino shoe in the Tod’s signature orange. It was made entirely out of glass.

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