The Art of Craftsmanship with Drogheria Crivellini
In honor of Attersee’s collaboration with the Italian shoe company, Elizabeth Crocker spoke with Roberto Crivellini about the rich history of furlane shoes and the importance of preserving artisanship through his family business.
In recent years, traditional Italian slippers known as "friulane" or "furlane" have become synonymous with Milanese chic, coveted not just in Italy but across Europe and in the U.S. Their sudden popularity among the fashion set was a surprise for Roberto Crivellini, who has worn these simple flats since he was a child. His parents sold them alongside other Post-War essentials in the family Drogheria (general store) in Udine, a city in northeastern Italy's Friuli region.
"I don't belong to the world of fashion," says Crivellini, with a genial forthrightness. Having worked in the textile industry for thirty years, he relaunched the family business in 2014 with the aim of "paying tribute to a humble product of my region and of my family.” In a globalized world that prefers fast fashion to the truly artisanal, Crivellini wanted to preserve an Italian product that hadn't yet been poached and mass-produced: furlane shoes. "Besides Spanish espadrilles, there was nothing similar worldwide," he says. "But I was never interested in selling huge volume. I wanted to work with artisans who kept the know-how."
That "know-how" has been passed
down through generations of craftspeople, beginning in the 19th century in Friuli, where local women sewed friulana shoes using discarded clothing, old bed linens and recycled bicycle tires for rubber soles. They were an instant hit among Venetian gondoliers, who could move nimbly without leaving scuff marks. Dressier versions made from velvet or silk were suitable for festive occasions and attending church.
Today, Crivellini's furlanes are handmade in a complex series of "laboratories," as he calls them, each one separated by specialty. But adhering to tradition can be challenging. "There are so many different steps in the supply chain, and sometimes you can't find the right materials for the shoes you want to make," he says. "It's a lot of trial and error."
But Crivellini wouldn't have it any other way. "I've been following jazz music my whole life," he says. "Miles Davis said something like, 'Don't play what's there; play what's not there.' That's been a kind of compass for me. Otherwise what's the point of working? Making mistakes and taking risks is the fun part."
Signora Domenica (left) and Roberto Crivellini (right).
“She is the only artisan who makes models in the old, traditional way,” says Crivellini, “by actually cutting the bicycle tires and preparing the uppers with recycled jute sacks positioned between the outer fabric and the interior lining.”