We interviewed Jacopo De Carli, a shoemaker who reinvented himself as a sneaker restorer.
Let us introduce you Jacopo De Carli: a shoemaker who thanks to his creativity and dedication gave a twist to his career, becoming a successful sneaker restorer, with clients of the likes of the designer Heron Preston.
Passionate about shoes since he was a kid, he didn’t plan shoemaking was going to be his career, until one day he decided to learn doing something he knew he was going to enjoy.
Here is our interview with Jacopo, have a look to find out more about his story!
Questions for Jacopo De Carli
- How was your passion for shoes born?
- Have you always thought about being a shoemaker? How did you start? What is your background and training?
- Can you describe one of your favorite restoration techniques?
- How do you combine craftsmanship and innovation?
- Did Instagram help you grow your career? If so, how?
- Is there a pair of shoes you’ve restored that you’re particularly proud of?
- What advice would you give to those who would want to do your job?
- Desires and aspirations for the future?
- Is there an anecdote you would like to talk about?
#1. How was your passion for shoes born?
My passion for shoes was born unintentionally. When I was a child I used to go shopping with my mum to buy me clothes and stuff I needed.
As a teenager, shoes were the thing of my outfit I cared more about: it was important for me to have the most particular one, the most pricy one that nobody could copy. I started being interested in luxury shoes brands, but it was nothing more than a passion back then.
#2. Have you always thought about being a shoemaker? How did you start?
I never thought I was going to be a shoemaker. School wasn’t really my thing: I had quite a temper and often I got in trouble, so I started working in a mechanical workshop.
Anyways, after two years and some health issues, due to the fact I didn’t like the job, I decided to change and learn to do something. I figured out that being a shoemaker was going to give me satisfaction.
I found a 2 years classic shoemaker course in Bergamo (a city located in the north of Italy, not far from Milan. editor’s note) I began to attend in the evening, while I kept on working during the day. Later on, I quit and moved to Milan.
As I specialized in restoring classical footwear, the second year I was already working as a shoemaker while still attending the school.
#3. Can you describe one of your favorite restoration techniques?
What I prefer doing and always makes me eager to see the final result is to create a pair of shoes. For example, I can take the sole of a Nike shoe model and then an upper of another Nike shoe model and try to combine them together.
It’s something I’ve learned to do by testing and I’ve always had great results. Some of my clients only ask me for this kind of work so that they can have their unique pair of shoes.
#4. How do you combine craftsmanship and innovation?
I started as a classical shoemaker in a big workshop with many employees where everybody had his role, so I decided to find mine. In three to four months I became a restorer and just for fun I started restoring some sneakers.
I was one of the first professionals to bring the processing of classical shoemaking into the collectible sneakers world, where a pair can cost up to € 100k.
I can say that I combined craftsmanship and innovations by using and modifying old techniques in order to apply them on the newest type of shoe. Don’t mean to brag, but I found myself being the most wanted sneakers restorer, the greatest sneakers collectors want me to restore their shoes.
#5. Did Instagram help you grow your career? If so, how?
I’ve never had a website and I’ve always used Instagram because I think it’s the fastest way to reach a national, european or global public. As a matter of fact, many of my works got known globally because clients immediately see what I can do thanks to my Instagram profile.
#6. Is there a pair of shoes you’ve restored that you’re particularly proud of?
I think I’m proud of every single pair of shoes I’ve made, because I’m very fussy about what I like to do. Certainly, a pair I’m especially bonded to is the pair that stepped up my career path, meaning the one I’ve made for Heron Preston, a really famous designer.
Restoring his shoes made me famous in this field as “Jacopo, the guy that restored Heron Preston’s shoes”. From that moment something changed in the industry for me.
#7. What advice would you give to those who would want to do your job?
It’s more important for me to be satisfied of my output rather than just making an income. Being a shoemaker requires a lot of time and patience, often it can happen you make a beautiful work but nobody understands it.
To anyone who wishes to become a sneaker restorer, firstly I suggest to learn all the regular techniques and everything possible about classical shoemaking. In this way you can understand if this kind of job suits you and then you can start testing and testing again. In shoemaking the key point is trying and see what happens, there are no dos and dont’s, at worst you’ll learn from your mistakes.
8. Desires and aspirations for your future?
Right now I don’t have any plans. In the last couple of years I’ve had quite a hard time, I had some projects but they didn’t go well and so I focused on myself and my own work. I want to get better in my techniques being more and more detail oriented and becoming faster, in order to always give the best service to my clients.
Moreover, I’d like to go to the US because the sneaker culture is americans’ daily bread. Also I’d like to bring Made in Italy there, showing Americans I’m the best and maybe one day collaborate with important sneakers brands.
9. Is there an anecdote you would like to talk about?
Maybe it isn’t a nice anectote to tell. Anyway, I’ve always litterally fought with my teachers in order to learn about what I was interested in. With one of them I got almost engaged in an actual fight because of a certain exchance of ideas.
To those who want lo learn I say: do not assume you’ve got all the rights as sometimes you have to conquer some knowledges and notions. I can say I got to this point to prove I was right and firmly stand by my opinion.
We thank Jacopo De Carli for this interview: we got to see how craftsmanship can be both traditional and innovative at the same time. We really suggest checking out his pioneering work. Keep up to date with Jacopo’s activities on:
P.S. read more about the history of sneakers in our article!