Finding Inspiration in Italy with Lewit’s Shoe Designer post image

Interviews Style Travel

Finding Inspiration in Italy with Lewit’s Shoe Designer

We’re (super!) excited to introduce you to Lewit, a beautiful collection of Italian-made shoes exclusive to Nordstrom. Crafted in a storied factory in Italy’s Le Marche region—an area famous for manufacturing the highest-quality luxury shoes in the world—Lewit shoes exhibit a balanced blend of old-world technique and modern design.

Recently we chatted with Kim House, design director for Lewit, about her work, the new collection and her visit to Italy to steward the making of the pretty pairs of shoes. Get her travel tips and peek inside the process of creating exceptional footwear—with the backdrop of the Adriatic Sea.

Lewit shoe and leather swatches.

A Lewit prototype

Tell us about Lewit shoes. 

The Lewit footwear collection was born of the idea of creating a line of covetable modern essentials made in Italy. The line has a modern aesthetic incorporating the must-have silhouettes of the season punctuated by emotional statement pieces.

View of the Adriatic Sea from the train to Ancona, Italy.

The Adriatic Sea from Ancona, Italy

Where are the shoes made?

 The shoes are made in the region of Le Marche, which is a mountainous area in central Italy bordered by the Adriatic. There is a long tradition of shoemaking there.

Craftsmen in the shoe factory in Le Marche.

Inside the factory in Le Marche

What impressed you about the factory?

So many parts of the process in the small factories in this region are still done by hand. There is a real human connection with the shoes being made here. Touring the factories, you get such a sense of pride in the work being done. I loved the smaller scale of it, and I think these days, the human-touch factor is pretty moving.

Inside the factory where Lewit shoes are made with Kim House

Kim and colleague Roberta on the factory floor 

What are some of your favorite details on the shoes?

Each style has sculpted lines, whether it’s a slightly scooped curve at the topline or an unexpected flare of the heel. Collaborating with artisan last-makers in Italy has helped bring that vision to fruition. That said, one of my very favorite shoes in the launch is the Lucina ruffle sandal. That style has it all: elegant lines punctuated by a feminine flounce.

View from the shoe factory in Le Marche.

The view from the factory in Le Marche

Where were some of the places you visited in Italy outside of the factory?

One of the highlights of my first factory visit was just being and working in a region that has such a longstanding shoemaking history.

The beautiful presentation at Signore te ne ringrazi restaurant.

The soup at Signore te ne ringrazi restaurant in Montecosaro

One night, after a long day at the factory office, we had dinner in an ancient hill town called Montecosaro, about a 20-minute drive from the office. There is a beautiful restaurant there that, to me, really typifies the artisan spirit of the area, and our visit there added to the dream-like quality of the whole experience. The food is all local and fresh, with artful presentation and delightful surprises in every course, all while maintaining a very humble, honest vibe. It’s a special place.

Kim House in Florence.

Kim House crossing the Ponte Vecchio in Florence

A highlight from another development trip was meeting with the team at their offices in a 16th century palace on the Arno River in Florence to review prototypes and develop materials for the spring 2018 collection. It is unusual to meet there, but I was on a Europe research trip, and the team made the trip to Florence to work with me on the collection.

Lewit shoe displayed in the Florence showroom.

The Lewit Bianca in the 16th century palace offices of the Florence showroom

The office itself is such an incredible space. Detailing the collection with the large doors thrown open to the river and the olive trees in the private garden gently blowing in the breeze was pretty overwhelming. I felt so lucky to be there in the moment with such a great team, doing what I love. Something I won’t likely forget. It was one of those moments that gives you deep gratitude.

How is Italy in the DNA of Lewit shoes?

Italy is in the DNA of the shoes in the subtle artisan details, the hand-formed constructions and elevated materials. Working with artisan shoemakers in a region with such long-standing heritage naturally comes through in the product—it’s almost something you just feel. The finished product is beautiful and refined, and that really comes down to the people touching and shaping the shoes on the factory line. The quality is impeccable.

Gathered stones in a variety of earthy hues.

Stone inspiration for Lewit’s spring 2018 palette

Being in Italy is also inspirational in itself. On my first visit to Le Marche, I was inspired by the smooth shapes and sun-washed palette of the flat, pebbled stones along the coast near the factory. This, in turn, influenced the color palette and mineral aspect in the ornamentation we developed for the spring 2018 collection. 

What was your favorite part of this design experience?

My favorite part of designing Lewit has been making shoes in Italy and the people I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with along the way. I’ve worked with European mills designing apparel in the past, but this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to design a footwear collection made in Europe. It’s like the ultimate dream for a footwear designer, I think.

 SHOP: Lewit shoes