Each time is like a miracle that renews itself. And every time it is the same joy, the same satisfaction, when that remnant of fabric, chosen among a thousand available, is transformed into an elegant, unique and perfect pair of scarpez, the typical Friulane slippers.
The Dina&Chiara workshop welcomes me on a warm autumn morning.
Reaching it is by no means a foregone conclusion, perched as it is on the Trelli hilltop, a pretty hamlet of Paularo, tenaciously clinging to the slopes of Mount Tersadia and immersed in the verdant Valle d’Incarojo, also known as “Conca d’Oro” or “Conca verde” as it was defined since the 1950s by tourists who chose it for its pure, uncontaminated air. There are many towns like Trelli in the Friulian mountains: silent, welcoming and yet wounded by a slow but inexorable depopulation that has brought energy and young lives elsewhere in the valley in the last fifty years. So the bar of Salino, a small village known for its enchanting waterfall, where we stop to ask for directions, appears to me as a “heroic” place of aggregation and civil resistance, thanks to which even small mountain communities manage to keep themselves together and somehow close.
Dina and Chiara, mother and daughter, welcome me with the simplicity and frankness of the mountain people: I am intrigued by their story, linked to a shoe, the scarpets, which has always accompanied my life since childhood and which today, ironically, is experiencing a new lucky spring. Giorgio Armani has admitted to using them habitually for their comfort, the influencers wear them in their free time showing off different colours and shapes.
top model Kate Moss said she found the Friulian women in a small shop in London and immediately fell in love with them
A temporary trend or a turning point in the stylistic expression of elegance and seduction in the world of footwear?
THE ORIGINS OF FRIULANE SLIPPERS: HUMBLE AND “GREEN”
Originally the shoes, Friulane slippers or even papusse in Venice, were the alternative to work clogs, they were the Sunday shoes, but also those of the bride on her wedding day and for centuries the women of the families made them during the winter period, using the little they had available: the sole was made from old bicycle tyres, the uppers were scraps of fabric (called Blecs) and scraps of fabric. Dina also tells me that her love for shoes starts in that big kitchen where she used to spend the day watching her mother working on her sewing machine.
Next to the spolert, the domestic stove, there was always a woman sewing shoes and at her feet was Dina who, sitting on her father’s gift stool, was watching her thinking that those hands were really magic. She composed simple rags and then quilted them with a needle and string and made soles out of them to keep her feet warm and to walk comfortably. Then she would take a piece of brown paper, flatten it with an iron and draw the outline with a piece of charcoalized wood: she would take the measurements with her hands, using the spaces between the palm and the fingers and the shape she would give it with charcoal; at the end she would find out the shape of the shoes she had to make and the game was over.
At that point Dina was more and more convinced that her mother knew how to do magic and she fell asleep dreaming of a mixture of needles, thread, charcoal and coloured fabrics…
One day when he woke up she found on the table the most beautiful pair of scarpets she had ever seen. They were for her and even had the embroidery with flowers and hearts. She put them on and it felt like flying.
Like Dina many Carnic women learned the art of making scarpets just like this, observing the work that for centuries, years and long winters kept entire families busy. From Friuli these shoes quickly spread throughout northern Italy.
They even appeared at the feet of the gondoliers of the Serenissima who used them so as not to ruin the wood of the precious gondolas and it is said that even the Venetian nobles wore them to sneak silently (thanks to their soft soles) into the night from their secret lovers.
Then they were also flaunted by dandies and artists who went to find the Tabarro Black ones in Venetian slippers.
WHAT FUTURE FOR FRIULANE SLIPPERS? AVANT-GARDE OF STYLE AND PERSONALITY
Needless to say, almost as if it were a passion of hereditary origin, even the young Chiara, Dina’s only female daughter, is soon captured by the suggestions of the sewing machine. A designer by training, despite her “very young” thirty years of age, she has already been contributing to innovating the shape and materials of this ancient tradition, while still keeping its founding values alive: a green approach and craftsmanship. His collections continue to be rigorously hand-stitched, not having a right and a left, adapting perfectly to the foot that wears them and available with or without heel.
But what radically changed, conquering me, was the choice of fabrics, which today, in addition to the classic velvet, has an infinite range of possibilities: embroidered, decorated or even recycled fabrics and even used jeans and dresses.
The models created with some remnants of the Carnica Arte Tessile, heir to the traditions that had their greatest splendour in the 18th century with Jacopo Linussio’s factory during the government of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, are of great value. Natural cotton, linen, hemp, masterfully woven with the jacquard technique and embroidered with fruit, flowers, geometric patterns and arabesques dress Dina&Chiara’s slippers with surprising elegance and refinement.
Looking at these unique pieces of craftsmanship, I realize why scarpets have become fashionable even in high couture: because after all they have nothing to do with trends, seasons or collections.
It is their ancient, fascinating and timeless history combined with this “green” philosophy of recycling and reuse that makes them the vanguard of style and personality.
Innovation while maintaining tradition. We Italians have always been unequaled in transforming tradition into an exclusive creation. No one like us is capable of keeping the past firmly in place, looking to the future.
So yes, I’m sure of it: if the Friulane slippers will find in the local productive network craftsmanship and innovative impulse, they will be able to share the scene with the lovers of shoes with heels, of which, I admit I’m a long-time witness. Why?
They are decidedly more refined than espadrilles, more aristocratic than ballerina shoes, and, let’s be honest, more comfortable and healthy than any heel.
But above all because the Friulane slippers have a story to tell, the same one that is handed down from Dina to Chiara, from the women of Upper Carnia to the many shops in the North-East and that are conquering the young and not-so-young looking for an idea of value, to wear, comfortably every day
Between stripes, flowers, hearts, tassels and embroideries you will be spoilt for choice. And all you have to do is collect them.
Needless to say, if you are interested in a pair of Friulane slippers, the best thing is to directly contact Dina&Chiara and agree with them every little detail, from the size, to the fabrics, to the countless details of customization. Here you will find their contacts:
Where a work is created, where a dream continues, a tree is planted, a child is given to birth, life works there and a breach has opened in the darkness of time.