How These Slip-Ons by an Insider Luxury Brand Became a Low-Key Status Symbol
Loro Piana is pretty much the worst-kept secret in the world of luxury. The northern Italian lifestyle brand has been a textile and raw materials leader since its founding as a weaver in 1924, and it has supplied cloth and yarns to the top tier of men’s and women’s clothing ever since. In short, its lofty pedigree guarantees means it‘s the kind of clothing brand that inspires life-long loyalty. Provided you know about it, that is—and it seems the power players of the art world have caught on.
But before we get to that, a bit more on Loro Piana. Its pedigree stands on one thing: those raw materials. The company's technicians regularly go further than most—literally. Their journeys take them to the ends of the earth (the Alashan Desert of Inner Mongolia, Machu Picchu in Peru, even remote marshes in Bhutan) to secure the finest natural fibers known to man. Yet the nearly 100-year-old company also has a reputation for painstaking technical research and material innovation at its HQ in the Biella region, where most of Italy’s top-end weavers are based.
In 1994, Loro Piana developed the revolutionary waterproofing treatment for cashmere and wool called Storm System. The cloth is so highly regarded it often gets its own label alongside a broad range of high-end nametags. Storm System was, and is, a gamechanger; it meant an overcoat could finally feel luxurious and effectively repel the rain.
Loro Piana focuses on high-end materials in everything from its clothing to insider-favorite shoes like the Open Walk slip-on.
Loro Piana’s advantage, however, in a world of 24/7, in-your-face global fashion brands, is precisely that it is not as well-known as others. And since it was bought by LVMH in 2012, the brand has deliberately not rushed to stake a claim on a wider market. Yet.
That means every step out into the consciousness of the buying public—like the pop-up shop that opened in New York’s rapidly upscaling Meatpacking District and runs until July 8—is a carefully measured one. What’s telling here is that for the pop-up (a permanent store will follow in suit at the end of the year), Loro Piana decided to focus not on its stellar cashmere and vicuña, but almost exclusively on shoes.
Just two or three designs are sold at the store on Ninth Avenue, with the deceptively low-key Open Walk and Summer Walk laceless slip-ons leading the way. These streamlined and extremely comfortable shoes come with low-profile white soles and in a range of tastefully muted suedes in ready-to-wear, but many more are available in the made-to-measure service that has also launched in the store.
Summer Walk Suede Loafers, Loro Piana, mrporter.com
Why? you may well ask. Well, one reason may be the proximity to the art galleries of Chelsea, for these shoes have lately become something of an insider's badge of office for power-players in the art world all the way up to Larry Gagosian himself, who is described wearing them in Michael Schnayerson's new book Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers and the Rise of Contemporary Art (out on Amazon).
At a meeting in Basel, Switzerland, Schnayerson provides an accounting of the shoes' status. “Gagosian—in a uniform of dark-blue linen and black, rubber soled Loro Piana moccassins, the ne-plus-ultra of slip ons—padded off with a panther-like gait into a waiting Mercedes.” That, right there, is just the sort of niche appeal with which the right brand can take on the world.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.