MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Calzaturificio Star Artioli

The entrepreneurial training and the establishment of the business

Born in Ferrara in 1912, Severino Artioli frequented a shop after school at the age of seven in order to learn the craft of shoemaking. At the end of the war, he purchased a stall with all the necessary tools and began working on his own. At the time, in fact, all shoes were still custom made by hand and industrialized shoemaking processes were still relatively rare. However, one of the first pret à porter shoe factories, Zenith, was established in Ferrara, and began production mainly using machinery rented from the United States.

Severino Artioli was hired by this shoe factory and quickly made a career for himself. Following the sudden death of the factory’s owner, for whom Artioli was a personal favourite, his hopes of being nominated general manager were dashed when another technician was appointed to the position. Offended and disappointed, Severino Artioli resigned from Zenith and began a lengthy period working as a consultant for various shoemakers throughout central and northern Italy.

In 1932, Artioli became the director of the Tradate Shoe Factory; three years later, in hopes of avoiding the call to arms for the war in Abyssinia, he left Tradate to work for the Battistini shoe factory in Forlì, a supplier of footwear for the army. Artioli was exonerated from military service that year and again in 1940 when he returned to the Tradate Shoe Factory to take on the post of general manager. In 1945, Severino Artioli decided to involve two co-workers from Tradate in a project to establish his own factory: Angelo Millefanti, a model-maker from Busto Arsizio, and Eugenio Stefanotti, former director of the “Tradate” shops. It was the beginning of Calzaturificio Star srl. The name reflected the surnames of two of the company’s three founding partners, but was mainly chosen as a result of the popularity of English words in Italy during the post-war period. The Artioli production method distinguished itself for its excellent craftsmanship; the number of factory workers quickly grew from 7 to 110, with a production volume of nearly 36,000 pairs of shoes a year.

When Stafanotti died in 1955, his heirs sold their shares to Artioli and Millefanti and the company name was changed to “Calzaturificio Star di Artioli e Millefanti snc”. A new factory was built two years later and, while remaining in Tradate, the company headquarters moved to via Meucci 12.


From 1958 to 1969

During the late 1950s, Severino’s fourth born child, Vito, joined the company, having been chosen by his father to continue running the business. Being a skilful and creative designer, Vito Artioli had always lent a helping hand at his father’s company, especially during the summer months.

After completing his studies in Italy, he underwent a lengthy training experience in the United States, where he also studied marketing and public relations at MIT in Boston. After returning to Italy, he went on to further develop his expertise in the footwear industry, graduating from Milan’s Ars Sutoria as a model maker and shoe designer. With his vast experience and newly acquired skills, Vito Artioli began selling his own shoes, which, at that time, could be found in nearly 80% of the shoe stores in Varese. Their orders however, were not satisfactory: not only did the shoe stores pay little, but they also forced Star to produce models that Vito Artioli considered to be old and outdated. He decided to design his own innovative collection, which would be stylistically refined in form, as well as in design and materials. These new collections, while drawing on the technical craftsmanship of his father, Severino, which guaranteed a lightweight product of excellent fit and durability, allowed Vito to showcase his products initially in nearby Switzerland, and soon after in Benelux, France and England. His success encouraged him to try his luck in the United States: he even established stable ties with a number of American clothing stores, who appreciated the Italian name Artioli more than the English name Star, and the birth of the “Vito Artioli” brand was marked by successful sales. His partner, Millefanti, was liquidated in 1966 and the company name was changed to Calzaturificio Star di Artioli Severino e Vito snc. The success of his innovative shoes in the United States, also thanks to the use of exotic leathers, above all ostrich, provided the capital required for a decisive modernization of the company’s equipment and facilities.


The seventies and eighties

In 1973, Calzaturificio Star became a joint-stock company: Vito Artioli became the company’s Chief Executive, while his father assumed the role of special legal representative. The oil crisis decreased the buying power of Europeans and Americans alike, and Artioli’s sales figures were adversely affected; at the same time, however, a rich new market was opening up: the middle east. Demand increased for fancier, more colourful high-heel models, decorated with clamps, buckles and even solid gold.

The production even went on to include golf shoes and tailor made polo boots. It got to the point that Vito Artioli was designing more than a thousand models per year and the client base was continuing to grow. In addition to footwear, in order to meet the customer’s demands, the company also began producing matching belts to go with the shoes, which were also designed by Vito Artioli, resulting in the recruitment of artisan belt makers. The company later undertook the manufacture of small leather goods, including handbags and articles of luggage, all inside the Tradate factory. Outside companies were engaged for the production of gloves, umbrellas, ties, leather clothing and socks, as well as various accessories, including sunglasses, shoe buckles and clamps and even cufflinks. Also in the seventies, the company began experimenting with retail sales through one multi-brand store in Tradate, three in Varese and a single-brand store in San Francisco. A portion of this activity was entrusted Vito Artioli’s wife, Grazia Mascheroni, who was appointed as the company legal representative.

During the same years, Vito Artioli intensified his contribution to public and social matters: he got involved in city administration affairs, helped to establish the Rotary Club of Tradate and, above all, starting in 1973, presided over the Varese Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Crafts and Agriculture for ten years. He also held executive positions in the national and regional chamber system, in entrepreneurial associations like the provincial craftsmanship confederation (Confartigianato), the Varese Industrial Union (Univa), the Association of Italian Footwear Manufacturers (ANCI) and the European Confederation of the Footwear industry, as well as in credit institutions such as the Bank of Naples and the Bank of Italy. He promoted international trade as commissioner of the National Institute for Foreign Trade, as well as by founding and chairing various export consortia.

In 1985, one of Vito’s two sons, Andrea Artioli, was sent by his father to the shop in San Francisco to incorporate it into the family business. Andrea showed himself to be quite a capable salesman and, upon his return, having earned his high school diploma and a diploma from San Francisco’s Berkley University, he began a career with the company.

In 1985, the company moved to its current headquarters at no. 3 via Oslavia in Tradate.


From the nineties to the present

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Eastern European markets, with the emergence of the new elite, became important to Artioli. With the help of Andrea, who was playing an increasingly important role, the company established various locations in Russia and the former Soviet Republics of Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, etc., as well as in Japan, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. The company’s fortune was also due to its ability to follow the new markets that opened up over time and with the onset of globalization. Today, for example, Vito Artioli is planning on opening retail outlets in India, relying on this country’s rapid economic growth.

Star’s founder, Severino Artioli, passed away in 2004 at the age of ninety-nine years and six months. He had always remained close to his son, Vito, and grandson, Andrea, and supported them in all of their corporate decisions.

Today, Vito and Andrea Artioli are developing the corporate structure and have begun hiring new collaborators to assist them in the management of the company, maintaining, however, a structure as close as possible to that of the original family business. In fact, this structure is considered to be the only one capable of allowing for lower production quantities and superb quality, thereby guaranteeing a product of high acclaim without succumbing to the need for profit. Today the shoe factory has about 50 employees and can rely on the external support of master craftsmen for the specialized processing of particular items, who work in close stylistic and technical collaboration with Star itself. Thanks to this stylistic affinity with a selected group of accessory manufacturers, Artioli is now capable of opening designer outlet stores worldwide, offering the full range of top fashion, luxury and custom clothing and leather accessories, in perfect harmony with the Italian lifestyle.

To date, Vito Artioli has designed more than 74,000 models of shoes and leather goods, with innovations that have been gradually copied over time. He has always declined to seek patent protection for his designs, focusing instead on continuous product innovation.