Fabi shoes may not be familiar to you, but they should be. The fifty year old brand, based in Monte San Giusto of the Marche region, is well-known on the streets of Italy for making footwear for men and women that is beautiful, stylish, and comfortable. In a way, it’s one of Italy’s best-kept fashion secrets, owing to a commitment to its core customers and a focus not on global expansion, but on the innovation, artistry, and functionality of its shoes.
Established by brothers Enrico and Elisio Fabi in 1965, Fabi shoes has since then evolved into a sleek, high-tech manufacturer of many different styles and models, all with the same DNA of hand craft and care that the brand started with. It’s also still wholly family-owned and its products produced 100% in-house, a rarity for most Italian luxury brands today.
That first set of twelve samples were tubular models, cut by Elisio and hemmed by his then fiancée, soon to be wife, Gina Di Luca. His brother-in-law Gino assembled them. Enrico and his wife Vilia stitched them by hand. The process involved the entire Fabi family and happened in their mother’s dining room, while production was still being set up on the ground floor but had not yet been completed.
“It all started there, in that house, that year, in the midst of the incredible ‘60s, the era of our youth!”
Today, Fabi is anything but old fashioned. Its designs are modern, speaking to the needs and desires of today’s consumers who want style, comfort, and perhaps a less formal, but no less elegant shape. These come in the form of Fabi’s mens sneaker models like the Kempes, Challenge, and Jesse. While they may look casual, they are still painstakingly constructed of fine hand-distressed and hand-embellished calf leather, hand-dyed deerskin, and lightweight, perforated suede.
The brand also makes dress and formal shoes, but has modified the traditional shapes to improve long-term comfort and wearability, with innovations like the Flex Goodyear sole. Goodyear stitching is a classic style of shoe construction with a highly durable union of the upper, insole, sole and welt components that ensures longevity. Through many years of research, Fabi’s designers and master shoemakers, who still stitch the shoes by hand, have improved upon this production technique to make it more relevant to today’s consumers.
In a patented 102-step process, Fabi has created a shoe with ultimate duality: the look of a classic, stiff dress shoe with the comfort of a sneaker. The Flex Goodyear sole is constructed of various layers of leather, cork, and rubber so it moulds to the shape of the wearer’s foot and reduces stress on the foot muscles while remaining on the outside a more traditional look. Fabi’s Flex Goodyear shoes are considered to be among the most comfortable in the world, and they’re available in several styles: lace-up, loafer, monk strap, sneaker, and boot.
It should come as no surprise that Fabi also makes chic, stylish shoes for women with an emphasis on comfort and wearability. From sexy sandals to practical flats and leather pumps, they’re the shoes you’d only find browsing at one of Italy’s countless intimate, independent boutiques in one of its many city centers. Or here on italist.com, of course.
Every season, Fabi’s design and research team invents new shapes and reinvents materials in new ways to entice and excite its loyal fanbase, all while maintaining a commitment to the Made in Italy (and made in Marche) label. For example: the brand’s effort to use only natural dyes and pigments to color leather and textiles.
Renewable and environmentally sustainable, these dyes are extracted from native trees, plants, flowers, and fruits using traditional manual techniques, which Fabi’s designers learned from the treatises on medieval art. Tinctorial plants like the reseda luteola l. (yellow), rubia tinctorium l. (red), isatis tinctoria l. (indigo blue), and rhus cotinus (brown) make up the core color palette from which many other colors can be created.
The buffing phase is the last color-application phase and, guided by the artisan’s practiced hand, the unique, organic colors leave their mark on the final product—a mark that delineates Fabi’s unique story in terms of both art and fine craft, against the ancient backdrop of the Marche region and the broader landscape of Italian fashion.
It’s a painstaking process as the application of natural colors on leather is not easy, but Fabi is developing it with patience, understanding that great things require time and care. In our ever-quicker digital world, it’s rare to encounter artistry in fashion that is so dedicated to its method and gentle pace.
Fabi shoes for both men and women are the kind of thing one discovers by accident while on holiday in Italy, falls in love with for its perfect combination of Italian design, artistry, and practicality, and in time, receives many compliments on. And then, one wonders why more people don’t know about it!
Fabi’s story is ultimately a reflection of Italy’s deep cultural appreciation for artisans and craftspeople, and its vast landscape of families and entrepreneurs who’ve been quietly and steadily honing their creative skills for decades. It’s just one element that makes Italy so special, along with the things we all know—cuisine, wine, art, history, lifestyle.
Still to this day, strolling the streets of Rome or Florence, you’re likely to discover luxury brands you’ve never heard of; even as the world of luxury fashion has “flattened” with the internet, global e-commerce, and fast worldwide shipping, there are still localized gems to be mined and stones to be uncovered, and Fabi is one such brand you might find.
Fabi makes some of Italy’s most elegant, stylish, and comfortable shoes, and is a great example of our commitment at italist to bring the best of what the small, independent boutiques of Italy are selling to our discerning consumers.