'It was a difficult time' he recalls. 'No transition is easy and I had to prove myself as the credible leader of a
group of craftsmen that are among the finest in the world. I had a more complex strategy and larger plan for them;
introducing fine quality ready-to-wear and made-to-order products. We also wanted to create a state-of-the-art
training programme to trigger a virtuoso circle of growth. It was hard, we had to let some people go who couldn't
see the vision behind this new strategy.' Fortunately for Bemer, Tommaso's curated and careful approach to the
development of the house has ensured that the unique vision and standards of Stefano himself have continued to
Furthermore, Tommaso's passion for things made with a genuine beauty and human touch, also extends to his work as an
educator and ambassador for just about every kind of artisanal craft he can find, including bespoke tailoring. Take
for example the very same 'gathering of immortals' that took Pitti by storm a few months back: 'the tailoring
symposium was a sequel to the shoemaker's symposium that I hosted with Simon Crompton in January. The intention was
to draw attention to the crafts of bespoke tailoring and shoemaking together, rather than the products themselves,
and also to enjoy discussing the intricacies of each craft - both for the sake of the audience and participants!'
Certainly, the symposium itself was fascinating, as six of the world's most talented tailors came together to
compare their house styles, but to do it in Bemer's studio was a stroke of genius. It drew attention to the
symbiosis between shoemaking and tailoring; the philosophies and techniques, the appreciation of craft and form that
brings tailors and shoemakers together.
At the cocktail reception that followed the symposium, each tailor displayed a new creation, cut in cloth generously
supplied by Vitale Barberis Canonico, and Tommaso paired every garment with an appropriate Stefano Bemer shoe,
highlighting the enduring synergy that exists between fine tailoring and fine shoes. Richard Anderson's navy fresco
pinstriped coat for example was paired with a two-tone Oxford, the red suede quarters of which popped against the
burgundy stripe in the coat. A slim burnished midnight blue Derby complimented Lorenzo Cifonelli's exquisite navy
blazer, and Edward Sexton's cream flannel cocktail coat sat alongside an angular chocolate and ivory box-calf
two-tone brogue. The pairing of clothes and shoes at this level is an integral part of the art of dress; a poor shoe
detracts from a beautiful jacket and vice versa, but there is of course also an art to getting even the finest shoes
and clothes to compliment one another. Colours, materials, last shape, silhouette and lines must work together
throughout the wearer's form and Tommaso's perfectly paired shoes embody the alchemic approach to shoemaking and
design that he speaks about.
The notion of the shoemaker as alchemist is a curious one, but amply justified in Tommaso's eyes: 'bespoke
craftsmanship is the essence of creativity, it gives shape and matter to one's inner identity and the vision a man
has of himself'. In his eyes, the shoemakers at Stefano Bemer give physical form not only to their shoes, but to a
part of themselves in the process; their ideas and inspirations are made manifest. Tellingly, those tailors who
featured in the symposium said the same, reiterating that their work is an extraordinarily powerful outlet for
personal expression. Even so, the artisan can never get too carried away, he must also respond to the requirements
of his clients. Tommaso continues: 'our work depends upon a personal, long-standing and knowledgeable relationship
between client and craftsman. Fortunately for us, these relationships are a great source of inspiration as well -
thanks to the refined tastes of our customers we give birth to creations that become a part of our collections. It's
like having a thousand designers and stylists working with you!'
A good job too, because every shoe made under Tommaso's eye has to reflect the personality of his customer and the
philosophy of the late Stefano himself: 'A shoemaker must have an identifiable style. I don't believe in a 'one size
fits all' strategy, so I put a lot of myself into each and every one of our creations. I love to work side by side
with our customers and they're a never-ending source of ideas. I also believe that taste is like a muscle - it
develops with training - so I expose myself and my team to every possible source of inspiration for our shoes.'
I have only met Tommaso a few times, but it takes just a moment to glean his passion for what he does. He is one of
the most genuine men you could wish to meet and his commitment to quality and craft is extraordinarily heartwarming.
Even more heartwarming is the fact that his is a passion which extends to beautiful things in every shape or form -
not just handmade shoes or suits. In Tommaso's work and dedication Stefano Bemer lives on, and his footwear is, if
anything, more iconic than ever before.
Part I of 'A Gathering of Immortals can be foundhere. Readers
might be interested to know that the original 'A Gathering of Immortals' feature appears in Issue 41 and paints a
further picture of how these great tailors approach their craft.