Editor's introduction: Our product collaboration with Maison Porselli has been so inspiring that we have decided to begin this new series of interviews, Artisans & Craft Makers, with Vanna Porselli, the discrete and charming leader of Maison Porselli.
Italian family businesses are very close to our Heart and we do our best to support their work. Their owners are very often hard-working, elegant and warm people. In this regard, Vanna is not only a proud Italian but a fierce Milanese. Enjoy the reading.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself, your Life path and work? What’s the story behind the Porselli brand?
I am the last of three generations of craftsmen. My grandfather started the activity at the beginning of the 19th century. He was a young artisan in a workshop where they made shoes for the classic ballet, and when its owner decided to retire, my grandfather (at great sacrifices) acquired the business with the aid of my grandmother, who has always supported him.
Would you please summarize what you consider as the achievements of the Porselli company?
Our strengths are the priceless artisan tradition, constant commitment and our professionalism that has been acknowledged by all.
Picture source: Grazia Italia
What are the pros and cons of being a family business today?
The advantages of working "with the family" are certainly the opportunity to being constantly challenged by someone that you can trust and who can advise you for the best, to live and share the same reality, and a much faster decision-making. The disadvantage is that you always bring work home!
What makes your shoes different? Why are artisans important? How do you see their future? Tell us a bit about the artisans you work with.
What makes our shoe unique is that they are still made by hand, in the traditional way by experienced craftsmen. Almost all of them began working in the company when they were very young and have learned the secrets of the trade from their senior colleagues. Today they now teach the same to the new employees. Unfortunately, however, the love for such craft work is disappearing among young people and I do not think that it's just an Italian problem.
Why is producing in Italy/Milan important to you?
Our entire production is strictly Italian, starting from the raw materials. Working in Milan means not breaking away from the roots, not betraying our origins, although these days sometimes it is difficult. The daily challenge is to never lose sight of tradition, but at the same time to be open to the future.
Who is the Porselli customer, whether we talk about dancers or everyday women?
Our customers base is made of professional dancers and students from the Dance Schools, with whom we have always had an authentic bond made up of affection and active participation, but also of women and girls of all ages that love our ‘walking’ ballerina shoes due to their softness, comfort, and practicality. It is a love that is passed down from mother to daughter, and which goes beyond fashions trends.
What are the companies or brands that you find inspiring?
We have never sought inspiration from any other brand, not out of snobbery but because we have always preferred to follow our own path. Honestly, I have to say that we have actually inspired others.
What are your future ideal plans for Porselli?
I am proud that I have been able to continue the family business and my hope for the future is to always maintain the name Porselli at the highest level.
How would you describe your personal style?
I would describe my style as "sport / chic" just like the style of our most cherished clients.
Which Porselli shoe style do you wear most of the time?
My favourite ballerina shoes are the ‘walking’ models with right and left feet (Editor’s note: traditional ‘dancing’ ballet shoes –pointes- have identical left and right shoes in a pair), with the small half-centimeter heel: they look perfect with trousers and I have a pair of them in all the colours.
What do you never leave home without?
I never leave home without my mobile phone. I use it very little, but it gives me security to know I have it with me.
What does it mean to be Italian nowadays?
More than Italian I feel I am ‘Milanese’. Milan is 'my city', where my parents and I were born, and I love it in spite of its contradictions.
How would you describe Milan to someone who has never visited?
To those who have never visited Milan, I would recommend that they do not rely on first impressions, but to go and discover Milan in its most secret and hidden places: it is a very beautiful city.
What is your favourite restaurant in Milan? What are your favourite dishes from Lombardia? Which gallery/museum would you recommend?
I would say the best dish of the Milanese cuisine is ‘osso buco’ with yellow risotto, but my favourite restaurant is 'A Riccione’ where they only serve fish (in my opinion, the best in Milan).
Which music are you currently listening to?
I like swing, country music, and honky tonk.
The movie one should not miss?
All those with Daniel Day-Lewis!
Please tell us about your most Life-changing travels or experiences?
Hard to say which trip or experience has left a special mark on me. Each of them has in some way enriched me.
Grazie mille Vanna!
PS. You will find below Porselli brand story together with workshop and heritage pictures, which we love.
This interview has been kindly translated and edited by Lo Presti Ventura Ltd.
Lo Presti Ventura is a small Event, Hospitality and Marketing consultancy with extensive experience in the event, project and marketing management at an international level with well-known global brands and companies.
Please visit their website www.loprestiventura.com which provides a comprehensive overview of the professional services that Lo Presti Ventura offers to individuals and companies interested in high quality services and support tailored to their specific requirements.
PORSELLI BRAND STORY
Since its creation in 1919, Porselli has been synonymous with Italian dance throughout the world. Amongst all the arts, dance would appear to be the one least requiring an “instrument” other than the actual body of the dancer. Yet, it is precisely the most evolved form of dance -academic dance- that at a certain point in its history had to invent one, the block toe shoes.
By tradition the first ballerina to use so-called block toe shoes was Maria Taglioni. Other sources indicate Amalia Brugnoli. Whichever dancer, it was a spontaneous conquest of the ballet of the time which led to the development of handcrafted block toe shoes. The name of Italian ballet shoes par excellence is the firm set-up by Eugenio Porselli in 1919 in Milan.
Still based on solid family traditions, this Milan-based company has earned worldwide fame for its first rate shoes, which are the result of lengthy experience and total dedication, greatly enhanced by daily contacts with top exponents of the dance world. So much so that the story behind the Porselli ballet shoes is the story of ballet itself in the 20th century.
The superior materials and exquisite manufacturing techniques used plus dynamic relations with the world of dance and its challenges, make Porselli’s famous shoes and other products the ideal instrument for dancers of today and tomorrow, just as throughout the past.
In the 1930s Porselli was already represented in London and Paris, and nowadays his products receive constantly the highest praise from places as far away as the United States and Japan. While his invaluable work has now reached an industrial scale, yet it has not given up the legacy of skill and craftsmanship, and is widely recognized by the world of dance as truly the best.
The features of regular commitment, hard work and the passionate search for improvement have distinguished the house of Porselli throughout the years. The company has never put a foot wrong, it has always stimulated new ideas and research.This forward-thinking of Porselli is the two-sided heritage of ballet – on the one hand awareness of inevitable tradition, on the other hand looking up to the future, in which the name Porselli is destined to rank even higher and play an increasingly vital role.