When it comes to the idea of “Made in Italy” Tod’s is truly this. A young Italian named Filippo Della Valle began making shoes by hand in his basement in the 1920s and his grandson Diego Delle Valle saw the opportunity to transform this enterprise into a business. And thus Tod’s was born.
Diego expanded the basement workshop into a factory that by the 1970s was manufacturing handmade Italian- crafted shoes for American department stores. Diego has always been innovative in his strategies, keeping the handmade process true to the brand, but diversifying in many ways and ensuring that he is always business-savvy.
In 1996 Diego Della Valle was nominated for the Cavaliere del Lavoro (the highest honour in the Italian Republic for professional achievement); in 2000 he received an Honoris Causa Degree in Business and Economics from the University of Ancona followed by an Honoris Causa Degree in Economics and Management from the University of Sannio, in Benevento.
Today, Diego Della Valle oversees the Tod’s Group as a Chairman, alongside his brother Andrea. A true family business to this day that has been successful beyond anything the family thought possible all those years ago. The business has expanded over the years and shoe brands Roger Vivier and Hogan as well as the casual chic fashion brand Fay, live under the Group’s umbrella. The family’s financial company acquired the Haute Couture brand Elsa Schiaparelli in 2006.
Diego Della Valle was and still is on the board of several companies including Banca Commerciale Italiana, Assicurazioni Generali, Ferrari, BNL, RCS and LVMH. Della Valle was among the principal shareholders of Sak’s Fifth Avenue and remains a shareholder of Mediobanca, Piaggio and other important companies. He is also a member of the fundraising committee of the Umberto Veronesi Cancer Research Foundation and President of the Board of Directors of the Della Valle Foundation, a charity engaged in funding education for children.
As Italy suffers greatly through the coronavirus pandemic Diego and his brother Andrea made the decision to donate, on behalf of themselves and their company a sum of 5 million euros to support the family members of health workers who have lost their lives in the fight against COVID-19. Here we discuss in-depth with Diego Della Valle the journey through this crisis and how Italy inspires him to keep going and grow further stronger into the future.
What does Italy mean to you and how would you describe it through your eyes?
Italy is my country, where I was born and where I grew up. Italy is where my family lives, where my friends and my company are. Italy is a beautiful country and at this moment we need to support it to let it restart in the best way possible, the way it deserves. For my country, for my Group and for my employees, the message I want to convey is very clear: Italy is and will always be my country.
We have seen the generous donation you gave on behalf of your employees to support the family members of health personnel who lost their lives fighting COVID-19. But that is not the first time you gave back to your country and showed your devotion, as we know the massive project about restoring Rome’s Colosseum that started in 2016. Tell us more about the values that de ne the TOD’S culture and the values you live by as a person.
The restoration of the Colosseum has been a milestone and a very emotional moment for my Group and for Italy. Being able to take part to this initiative makes me extremely proud. In this particular moment, it would be impossible for us not to support a group of people who are struggling to support our country. Together with the Protezione Civile (the Civil Protection) we created a fund to support the family members of health personnel who lost their lives in the fight against COVID-19, “Sempre con voi” (Always with you), and everybody can donate to help.
The values of solidarity are rooted in my company’s DNA as well as in my family and in the majority of the Italians. This particular moment will make us more sensible and open to helping others. Nothing will be as it was before. Solidarity, “being a family”, and “being a community” have always been strong values in my Group and today they are signposts from where we need to restart.
Italy has suffered greatly throughout the global pandemic we are currently experiencing – when all of this is over what do you expect to see from the recovery of this crisis?
I believe that at this point we must not lower our guard. We need to trust what the government tells us since they consult with those who are most competent in health matters. We have to rethink our business models, imagining what the world will be like in the first year after the epidemic and in subsequent years. It will be crucial to understand which kind of lifestyle people will adopt, and as a consequence, how they will approach products and services. It is certain that entrepreneurs and companies will have to develop a greater sensitivity towards issues of solidarity and in addition to the competitiveness of their companies – correctly – they will have to dedicate part of their time and pro ts to improve people’s quality of life.
They say in every crisis there is always an opportunity – what is something positive that you think will come out of this situation?
We need to find the positive side of this experience. As said, the values of solidarity, of social solidarity are emerging with strength and determination, this pandemic is helping us to be better people. We are learning how to be patient, we have more time to spend with our families and we have the possibility to help others.
When all of this is over will you change any of the strategy of the brand and has it had an impact on how you will move forward?
What we have in front of us is a year of hard work and sacrifices. We were among the first to react strategically to this emergency so that we are able to re-start at the soonest. We need to think about a company which will work differently from the past. Everything will change: the way people buy goods, the way they will go to a restaurant, or how they will spend their weekends, the social change will be very strong.
Do you think it will impact the buying behaviour of customers?
For sure and it will take time, all the past habits will change.
TOD’S has always been synonymous with quality and outstanding craftsmanship, tell us more about how important is it to maintain and preserve the savoir-faire nowadays?
I think more and more. The high quality of our products, the craftsmanship, the Made in Italy aspect, our DNA that made us unique and recognisable all over the world and our timeless luxury are the values on which our company is rooted and through which we have gained the loyalty among our clients. They will for sure appreciate more and more iconic and timeless products.
Why do you think there is a great fascination and appreciation of the “Made in Italy” products especially with leather goods?
The quality of products that are made in Italy are incomparable and craftsmanship makes products unique and timeless. Above all, I believe that people are looking for dream products, long-lasting to escape from the overdose for multiple collections, from the loud messages with which we have been bombarded with.
A new designer joined TOD’S (Walter Chiapponi) and presented his debut collection for the brand featuring the Fall/ Winter products. Can you share with us the vision you have for TOD’S moving forward?
We started working from the day after the last fashion show in February despite the lockdown to ensure the launch of the Fall Winter collection can happen in the best way possible. We are trying to get the best from this period of apparent quiet by working on a marketing plan which will be going to support our products in the right way. The idea of the “T Factory” will then be more than before: working on strong projects with beautiful stories to tell explore collaborations with designers, news and innovative ideas of communication.
Can we ask about the vision and direction you have on a group level as well?
As explained earlier, the new business model we are working on will be on a Group level. Fewer products, strong and recognisable projects with particular attention to the development of the omnichannel and e-commerce. We want to re-start and solidarity will be even more as before at the heart of our system. The success of the company is important, but the importance of our employees is even more so.
Sustainability, a topic that was trending heavily lately. What do you think the impact post-COVID-19 will be on companies and manufacturers when it comes to their sustainable offerings?
I think it should influence it in a positive way, I don’t think these topics can be neglected in the future.
Can you tell us what a day in the life of Diego Della Valle would be like?
It depends on the lockdown…I am joking of course, but I am a person who loves his job and his company to which I dedicate the majority of my time. As soon as I can, I come back to Le Marche where my family lives and where I love spending my free time when it is possible. I love walking around, simple good food, and childhood friends.
Where in Italy do you like to travel to relax?
Le Marche is the region where I was born and where I grew up, my family is there, my company is located there, and it is the place of my heart. Then Capri for sure, the most beautiful island on earth, where I love to relax with my family and friends, in front of unforgettable sunsets and excellent Italian food.
Can you share with us any Italian traditions that you to this day, continue with your family and friends?
There are a lot, unfortunately with the lockdown we are not able to do many things, but I think being reunited with our families around a beautiful table, with good food and great conversation is one of the most Italian of traditions that I love. In these days this moment of complicity can be of great help.
In your opinion what are the prerequisites to success?
Being coherent, transparent, and direct. For Tod’s, the success has always been being close to the values of Made in Italy, the craftsmanship and respecting the quality.
What is a life lesson that you can share with us?
This pandemic has definitely been an important life lesson. We have been overwhelmed by a tsunami but we are still working, trying to think about everything, discussing how these scenarios that we never experienced before may pan out. We need to learn from what we are seeing and try to learn how to avoid being unprepared, in case something like this ever happens again. This virus will definitely create a strong social change and I think that for a while, people will be physically far from each other, but closer by heart.
What’s your favourite Italian phrase or motto you live by?
Dignity, duty, fun: in this exact order: first of all, the dignity which you can conquer working hard and at the end a bit of well-deserved entertainment especially for the younger generations.
What do you say no to?
To all the things and topics that I don’t agree on.
What would like to achieve that you feel you haven’t done yet?
I would like to have free time to be able to do what I like. It is a challenging goal that I would like to achieve once we are out of this situation.
Italy suffered, and Milan suffered. If you were asked to say a few words from the heart to Italy what would you say?
That we will make it, we will get out of this situation stronger than before, but we need to support one and other otherwise it will be very difficult to rebuild our future.