Luxury shoe brand Rene Caovilla set to sparkle in China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 9:54am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 9:54am

It's quite a treat to discover brands in interesting places. Author Truman Capote once said that Venice was like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go; and since visiting for the third time a few weeks ago, I feel he might be right.

The ancient centre of romance, carnivals and art puts you in the mood for opulence and indulgence like no other city. So, it was a fittingly warm welcome, in the ancient salons of the Hotel Danieli along Venice's main strip, when I met Rene Caovilla, founder and artistic director of his eponymous luxury shoe brand, and his son, Edoardo, its chief operating officer and creative director, over an Aperol spritz.

I first encountered their rather interesting, family run Italian shoe brand Rene Caovilla two years ago, and since then its been continuing to offer the most glamorous of red carpet footwear styles. Kicks for tomboys this isn't. This is unabashedly feminine footwear. Crystal encrusted, colourful, delicate and embellished, Rene Caovillas are the royalty of cocktail heels, all made in its factories just outside of Venice.

The brand has a prestigious history, having been a stalwart of Venetian craftsmanship since Rene's father (also named Edoardo) began making and embroidering couture shoes with his wife after studying under the pioneering Italian shoemaker of the late 19th and early 20th century, Luigi Voltan.

It was Rene, however, who took the brand to a new level, building a name for high-end, evening shoes after studying design in London and Paris. His work became so renowned that he was collaborating with Christian Dior, Valentino Garavani and Karl Lagerfeld. But in recent years, the luxury footwear space became crowded and the brand lost some of its youthful appeal in the ruthless, digital, fast world of fashion. Now the father and son team hope to set this right.

One clever move is sponsoring the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. In return, the museum allowed the label to shoot its lookbook on the property of the late American socialite and art collector. The brand joins 19 Italian labels in the Intrapresae Collezione Guggenheim project, the first of its kind in Italy, which pairs up corporate sponsors to the museum.

Since Rene's son, Edoardo, returned to the company two years ago, he has been helping his father update the brand with modern styles, colours and inventive new shapes - and, importantly, looking to capture emerging markets like China.

"Our styles are popular in Hong Kong and China already," says Eduardo as we visit their jewel box Venice boutique near Saint Mark's Square.

In Asia, the brand has partnered Lane Crawford, and is proving popular with some Chinese glamour girls. Styles like the knee-high neon yellow laser cut leather sandal are also engaging a younger, more daring client. And the label is making waves in the industry in Italy, as we hear from sources.

We predict growth for the brand in China, too, where its sparkle, Venetian craftsmanship and feminine eveningwear designs are likely to appeal to many.