Your guide to living a fabulous life like a fashionable Italian god

Your guide to living a fabulous life like a fashionable Italian god

La bella vita

Text: Jolene Khor

Wearing great clothes is but a small (albeit crucial) part of the equation. It’s got to do with knowing luxury without being confined to it — a trait possessed and observed by the owner of Tod’s, Diego Della Valle

He grew up around here, if here was the headquarters of Tod's at Casette d'Ete, situated in the idyllic Le Marche region, a hilly four-hour drive away from Milano. Many of us think of faraway cities with subway soundtracks, acid-faded graffiti and deli-to-go when we picture the pinnacle of our ambition, but such is not the vision of Diego Della Valle, the man holding the pink slips on Tod's, Fay and Hogan — born under his creative and corporate direction since he took over the family business in the '80s — as well as Roger Vivier and Schiaparelli.

His dream is quieter, cleaner, postal codes familiar.

Several decades ago, Della Valle and his family rode a bicycle along the same roads on which he is driven now to work. Bicycle, singular, because one was all they had to share among three passengers. We imagine he spent a great deal outdoors, where honking was unheard of (pun intended) if there was any traffic at all, and hearty meals were often followed by dessert and digestif, not bills served haste, takeaway boxes atop counters.

Diego Della Valle, CEO of Tod's group, tours the Tod's warehouse at Le Marche.

"We all wanted to stay close to our roots," he said, explaining why he and the Della Valle Venn diagram never left the estate. It also made sense then, that the hundreds of artisans armed with the finest porosus saltwater crocodile skins and more significantly, the blueprints to the Gommino shoe, lead a similar life today. There's a playground, right outside of one of the office buildings for child's play. And those who are able to make a short trip home for lunch during their two-hour break, are encouraged to.

Made in Italy, just like the concept of la dolce vita, the double helixes responsible for the genetic makeup Tod's, is a "360-degree lifestyle" — a big claim for the world's majority of CEOs, only the very fibre of life for Diego Della Valle, from which we deduce and share his fabulous Italian customs below, and Tod's spring/summer offerings after the jump.

"For me, luxury is not doing anything. Just being at home, on a sofa, a couple of newspapers I haven't finished reading, my dogs, something to eat not far off, and when it's all ready, falling asleep."

Traditional shoe trees line the walls inside the headquarters of Tod's.

"I usually have everything made to measure, but no problem, let's talk about Italian excellence and important brands. If I had to buy something in cashmere, I'd go to Loro Piana, if I had to choose a travel bag (apart from our own of course), I'd opt for Prada. For a suit I'd go to Brioni, for a shirt Gherardi, for a tie Marinella, and for silk scarves Pinuccia Preo, a small artisan outfit in Treviso. Made in Italy is a lifestyle. It starts with a plate of pasta al pomodoro, the real thing, and ends with a handmade crocodile bag or a marvellous car by the top designers."

An artisan applies finishing touches to the Gommino shoe.

"My aunt lives there, my brother is on the opposite hillside. We all wanted to stay close to our roots. It's a level playing field here, it's not a question of money, you've got to be capable, on the ball and respectable. When I'm here, I wander around wherever I want. There are hundreds of tiny mediaeval villages, all amazingly beautiful, not many people, some old folks, a trattoria with good food, peace and quiet."

Renovations are currently underway at the Colosseum in Rome thanks to Tod's donation of €25 million.

"Everyone who's been lucky and capable and has a bit more than other people have a duty to contribute, without waiting for the government, or finance bills or public funds. Charity is welcome if it does someone some good, but it's not going anywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if, in the short term, and thanks to the Internet, we saw companies being rated also in terms of what they do for the territory. If people start thinking that the ethical conduct of a company has a certain value and if I, a small investor, ask my bank to put my money only in companies with the "green mark", that reinvest in new jobs and solidarity, then maybe the country can start up again through the efforts of everyone."

Endless rows of exotic crocodile, cow, snake and kangaroo skins are stored in what Della Valle calls "the bank vault" of Tod's.

"Intelligence and loyalty are the qualities I seek the most. If there's a person who always tells me exactly what he thinks and who's never flattered me, ever since we secretly used his father's car without a license, it's Alberto. The last man in the world that power could hope to corrupt. He's never changed, never been away from here..."