Franco Sarto is a man of experience. He’s been in the footwear industry for over 45 years, having started as a factory worker at age 14. His knowledge of the manufacturing side, paired with his less-is-more design aesthetic, has proven to be a successful formula. When asked about Italy and it’s reputation for bearing beautiful shoes, he insisted the quality coming from Italy is thanks to the centuries of experience the country has. “I am very proud to be a part of a country where the beauty and the experience is reflected in the footwear [we create],” Sarto told me in the lofty shoe department (the largest in Canada!) of The Hudson’s Bay on Queen Street location in Toronto. “And experience,” he said, “you can’t buy at the super market.”
FLARE: What sparked your interest in shoes?
Franco Sarto: “It was a natural choice. Since I was a baby I always felt I loved shoes. I wore beautiful shoes; my mother always bought me very well-made shoes. I grew up in an area with a lot of shoe factories and naturally I started to develop the desire to learn how to make shoes. I started to design and little by little I began to feel more in love with it. I speak as a father, I don’t think there is a choice to teach our kids what to be in life, as a career. It is not something [somebody] else decides. I don’t think we are born deciding what we want to be. It is going to be a natural factor and luckily I grew up in an area where they made beautiful shoes and I wanted to learn more and more about it.”
FLARE: Who do you design your shoes for?
FS: “Typically every designer likes to have a muse or woman they design for—I design for everybody. I want every woman to wear my shoes. I want the mother, the grandmother and the daughter (and eventually the daughter of the daughter) to wear my shoes. I do not have a particular muse in my mind when I design a product. I always do my designs thinking I want every woman walking on the street in my shoes. “
FLARE: What shoe should every woman have in her closet?
FS: “We are in fall right now and in colder weather it’s always good to have a flat boot. It will always be in my collection. Women must always have a comfortable boot and a comfortable flat. Oh, and also the pump: a very comfortable mid-heel pump.”
FLARE: What do you think of the menswear influence right now?
FS: “I did it already. It’s in my collection. What you’re asking is what you’re already seeing. That oxford, that moccasin has always been a staple in my collection.”
FLARE: Do you have a favourite shoe?
FS: “Twelve years ago I designed the stretch boot. I think I was the first one to start this trend. From there efvery other designer in the market designed with stretch material. I don’t have just one I have two. The moccasin. I keep repeating throughout every collection whether it be spring or fall. It is part of that boyfriend look.”
FLARE: What is your advice for aspiring shoe designers?
FS: “It is always important to keep your personality in the work. What you design is who you are. I always think every designer should have a passion for what they do. But at the end of the day, what sells the best is the simplest.
I’m one of my own worst critics and I also criticize the work of others. It is a good thing to have because if you are not your own judge you don’t know what you’re doing is actually good. As a new designer I advise knowing what you’re doing, and putting your passion and personality into everything you design.
There will always be competition and changes in the market but it is always important to keep your identity.”