Put Your Best Foot Forward in Business
Impeccably dressed feet really are the starting point to every successful businessman, as Tod’s CEO Diego Della Valle demonstrates.
When Esquire visited Tod’s headquarters in Casette d’Ete, Le Marche, eastern Italy (about a four-hour drive from Milan) recently, Mr Diego Della Valle, President and CEO of Tod’s Group, is fresh from a trip to Florence where he and his brother Andrea were watching their beloved Fiorentina FC play (Diego also happens to own the club). While we are waiting to sit down with the Tod’s boss, a tanned Andrea, who is milling around, warmly welcomes us and briefly walks us around the bottom floor of the impressive building, which also houses the streetwear offshoot Hogan, outerwear line Fay and luxury shoemaker Roger Vivier. The space is filled with art works, notably a polished-steel staircase in the heart of the building designed by Ron Arad and a red Ferrari driven by Michael Schumacher in 1997 (donated by Diego’s close friend at Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo). A life of art collecting, yacht hopping and fast cars is a life that is certainly representative of the business that 59-year-old Diego, said to be worth Dhs5.7 billion, now runs.
Set up in the early 1900s by the brothers’ grandfather Filippo, not far from where the company is now based, Tod’s was, and still is, focused on producing the most luxurious shoes and leather goods a man’s money can buy. Since 2004, the company has had nine consecutive years of net income growth, while revenue has grown every year since 1997 — an impressive span of 16 years. These enviable figures suggest that customers continue to purchase Tod’s shoes and leather goods through bad times and good. Aimed at the very people the Della Valles represent, Tod’s is now a multi-million-dirham company, largely thanks to the success of Tod’s Gommino loafer. Named after the iconic sole that’s made up of 133 rubber pebbles, the suede shoe is not dissimilar to the original that was launched after the company was first founded, with many of the hand techniques still used today in the Le Marche factory. “The huge success we have had is a result of hard work that has been done over these years”, explains Diego. “We’ve always focused on the best quality for all of our products — qualities that our clients appreciate — and that’s been our recipe for success.”
Which brings us nicely to their latest project. JP Tod’s Sartorial launched this season and is aimed exclusively at high-flying businessmen. Debuting last month at select Tod’s boutiques around the world, the collection is made up of six pairs of shoes including a lace-up, monk-strap and a loafer, and two Double Stripe bags (Tod’s iconic leather man-tote), and is dedicated to executive men not unlike Diego and Andrea. Made from some of the most luxurious leathers in the world, each piece is hand-stained, buffed and polished by a trained artisan in Le Marche, which means no two pairs or pieces are exactly the same. There is also the option to customise each piece by monogramming your initials on the inside of the shoe or bag. Tod’s flagship store in Milan has even built a Sartorial Experience room where any client can go through the full collection with a private assistant before making a purchase. “I think, when it comes to work, we should always strive to have precision and attention to details,” continues Diego. “These details are then represented in our work and in the search of beauty. I am sure that the Sartorial project will have a strong response because it expresses the values of quality and excellence that the man who wears Tod’s loves.”
Attention to detail is certainly ingrained in the Tod’s DNA. The company is well known for valuing its staff, with a free on-site nursery for staff with children, and a restaurant and a gym. Lunch breaks are also mandatory, as is going home on time. “I believe that taking care of our employees is beneficial and creates a relationship of respect and trust,” he explains. “My employees are good workers and they’re precious to the company. I think that giving them these benefits is both right and necessary.”
The result? A loyal and dedicated team of passionate staff, many of whom are second generation, like Tony Ripani, who has been the company’s chief quality inspector for over three decades. “Tony is one of the milestones of our company,” Diego continues. “He has so much experience in his work and knows how to evaluate what is best for Tod’s.”
As Esquire goes to print, the press are reporting that Diego is one of a few businessmen in Italy who is willing to put money forward to help rescue regional bank Banca Marche shortly after going into administration. Apparently Diego is willing to help the bank fill its capital gap. If only we could fill his shoes.