features, HDI, interviews — 04/10/2011 at 6:16 pm

Diemme, Interview with co-founder Dennis Signor

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Given our combined hobbies of traisping around areas of outstanding natural beauty of a weekend and trying to simultaneously look really cool whilst we ramble around, it’s perhaps no suprise how much we rate Diemme footwear. Not only does it do it’s job in providing excellent support for all your outdoors needs, they also look fantastic. So much so that we’ve been cursing this recent warm-spell as its getting in the way of us pulling on a pair of Italy’s finest boots. As with all the labels we love, we decided to catch up with one half of the creators of Diemme footwear, Dennis Signor, to find out how they got started and what makes them tick…
 
How and why did you start the business?
The passion and curiosity to produce shoes was born growing up around my grandfather. During the World War II he worked for the best shoe factories in Montebelluna and manufactured made to measure shoes for German soldiers who were stationed in that zone. He worked within the shoe industry for many years and continued repairing shoes in his home untill the day he died. When I was a child I loved to learn from him and he was my main source of inspiration. In 1983 (when I was thirteen) I started working in a factory which produced hunting boots. Later in 1992 me and my brother Maico produced a small quantity of shoes for a German distributor as our first seperate work. This was before we started our company CALZATURIFICIO DIEMME, but gave way for a continued request for more. It was very difficult to start because these were tough times, but never the less we slowly got more and more work and over the years have been involved in production for brands such as Chanel, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and so on. However, all along our main objective was to start to build DIEMME as a brand. A brand we wanted to be known worldwide for its handmade Italian production, well-know Italian and European materials, guaranteeing a comfortable and durable product.
Montebelluna is world famous for making quality mountaineering footwear and has been for nearly 150 years. Why has this area become synonymous with ‘great boots’?
During the World War II German and Swiss settled in this zone for production of military boots, mainly because labour was cheap and there were a lot of workers avaliable to work on production. My grandfather worked in one of the most historical shoes factories – Calzaturificio Rondini (a now defunct brand) as well as Calzaturificio San Giorgio, Calzaturificio San Marco, La Robusta all during this period. Later in the 1950s brands like Diadora and Lotto started making a wider range of footwear all hailing form this area and venturing on into the 1970s to become multinationals companies or spilt into other brands.
Have any mountaineers (or mountains) in particular inspired you? Who are your heroes?
Actually we are not inspired by anyone in particular, but for numerous years we gave mountain boots to mountaineers to test at the “Scoiattoli” group in Cortina and to their leader Di Bona. From this we got quality and performance tests with really specific feedback which allowed us to improve our products. As for many at the time, our main issues were concerned with weight and insulation due to the cold temperature in higher mountains, as well as sole constructions. So for us this feedback was very usefull and gave us even better knowledge and inspiration to continue trying to make great boots.
Quality and craftsmanship are clearly key elements that go into making your boots, can you talk us through the process undertaken to make them and the people/products that are involved?
If you make one pair for say, sample production, one pair takes about 12 hours of work. From material sourcing, to leather- cutting, to assembly, However when in production a team of 35-40 people produce one pair in about 1 hours and 20 minutes.
How do you feel when you see your boots being worn away from the mountains and in an urban environment?
We are very satisfied to see our shoes in so many great shops around the world. Thanks also to all the people we work with, our sales team and our distrubutor, we together ensure that quality is maintained at all levels. Further, our perhaps biggest satisfaction is that our children want wear DIEMME shoes now! For many years they refused to wear our boots and bought boots from other Italian brands. That is very heartwarming!
Diemme is very popular in Japan, have you been over there much?
No unfortunately, we still have not been able to go there. We’ve had an invitation to visit Japan for 5-6 years now, but because we both work in the production hall, we havent found the time yet. We still invest all profit back into our company to ensure its growth. We hope that in the future we can visit many of the shops that sell Diemme worldwide.
Is it ever problematic having two brothers working together?
After 20 years of work together we have learned to function well together. But you know that all brother and sisters sometimes disagree, however we are a good team and a good team can’t split. If we did that – all that we have worked for would be left in vain.
Ski-ing or snowboarding?
We are very passionate about ski-ing. And in Montebelluna we are lucky to have some of the best mountains in Italy within close proximity.
Can you recommend some of your favourite areas/routes for walking/climbing in Italy?
The Alps of Veneto are one of the principal destinations for alot of Italian as well as European tourists. Here you can find both activities for beginner and experts (including glacier-walks) all at the same time. Our perhaps personal favorite is Cortina D’ampezzo.

http://www.diemmefootwear.com/

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