A Towering Success

Cesare Casadei takes footwear to the height of fashion

With silhouettes ranging from rock ‘n’ roll to regal, making beautiful shoes runs deep in the Casadei family. Its footwear redefines craftsmanship, heritage and quality to such an extent that the Casdaei brand has become a standard-bearer of the ‘Made in Italy’ badge of honor. The company’s creative director and second-generation custodian, Cesare, gives a hint of the passion that spurs him and his family on in their drive for ever greater achievements.

How long have you been using crystals in your designs? What do they add?
Casadei started using Swarovski crystals in the Sixties, and we still use them to this day. Because of their multifaceted shape, they reflect light in a unique way, which adds a special sparkle to our shoes.

What is the secret behind the perfect shoe?
It’s a combination of things—the perfect shape and balance between the heel and shoe last, innovation, the fusion of technology and craftsmanship, and sourcing of the best materials.

How do you incorporate crystals in the design process? Are there any that you particularly like using?
I always think of Swarovski crystals when I’m designing a couture piece. It’s easy with such beautiful and unique stones. My favorite crystal is a big decorative stone that I keep on my desk.

Which women inspire you? What inspires your designs?
One of my all-time favorite muses is Marilyn Monroe, the quintessential symbol of femininity and sophisticated style. She once said: “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world,” which is a quote I love and I repeat quite often. Otherwise, I’m inspired by nature, art and music. Every season I try to channel my imagination into my shoes.

What motivated you to become a shoe designer? When did you launch yourself?
Casadei was founded in 1958 in a small workshop in San Mauro Pascoli. My parents made sandals for tourists vacationing in the Italian Riviera. I always knew I’d end up in the family business! My parents were passionate about their work, and they passed that passion on to me. I lived and grew up in the shoe factory, so shoes have always been a part of my life. I started working on the retail side of the company around 1980, which gave me a clear understanding of our clients and their connection with our product. Soon after, I got more involved with the creative process, and in 1994 I was appointed creative director.

What are your favorite spots in Milan?
My favorite restaurants are Langosteria 10 and Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone. Other places include the Museo delle Culture (MUDEC: the exhibition and research center that holds Milan’s ethnographic and anthropological collections, such as works of art, textiles and musical instruments); and Fondazione Prada (the arts center at the century-old distillery converted by architect Rem Koolhaas).

What are the future trends for accessory design—shoes and handbags?

I believe the future of accessory design is all about taking the style revolution of yesterday and reinterpreting it so that it resonates with the internet revolution of today. The reinterpretation of timeless classics will take center stage: the chunky heel (soul mate of the Seventies bell-bottom) and the Mary Jane, with its pure elegance, will both make comebacks.

What is your life philosophy?
Passion is the driving force that rules my life.