There is a frail touch to the hand. A walker pauses. Accepting his demise. Revolt. He does not wane in silence. His words resonate in the dark. React. Underneath a new sun. Never forgotten, always imprinted; that initial first touch. 

Sensory journeys in life, often are the ones most worthwhile. A collage of moments where we simply observe our surroundings. Silence. My encounter with Simone Checchetto, was one of sincere interaction. Here is a man, who communicates through his work, reaching out carefully. Each piece is crafted with profound intent, meticulously uniting process and material. 

The final product captures a release. A release towards responsible creation and societal relevance. We spoke calmly, allowing Simone to dissect his self-imposed set of creative tools. Exhale.

Foundation. What was your upbringing like or what paved your path towards becoming an artisan?

I do not believe there is any causal relationship between my upbringing and what I do. The strength lies in the nature of the process of the product, which makes my work able to communicate on its own, without the creation of any mythology around it.

The name of the label originates from the former name of the label, Augusta, as an initial homage to my grandmother. She was a genuine human being who appreciated simplicity, and influenced me profoundly as a person. A1923 started when I discovered my fascination with leather during my studies on the History of Art. Being preoccupied with the human body during my studies, my curiosity towards the animal skin as a medium of expression started this ongoing research.

Sincerity. Your garments and pieces, speak a sincere language, allowing us to explore beyond the surface. How would you describe your creative process?

It begins by living where the tanneries are. This allows for  the creative process to evolve organically through my everyday exchange with the craftsmen that work there. When it comes to conducting research it is important to know the history and traditions of these crafts, while also having the understanding to question how things are done. In my work, I have been fortunate enough to have an interwoven relationship with these people. This means, I am in the position to honour and respect the craft through evolution, whilst continuously being able to conduct new research for current and future projects. 


Architecture: From shoe-last to leather treatments, to construction, how do you observe the technicality of crafting a shoe?

The process of crafting a shoe differs from producer to producer; being involved in all steps of the process, rather than having the result rest in the hands of someone else, is crucial to fully understanding the end result of the product.

Our process starts with sourcing the leather while it still has the fur on, in its natural un-tanned and un-dyed state. By buying the leather in this state we are able to experiment and achieve the individual variations we develop through conducting, monitoring and partaking in the tanning and dyeing processes. Being preoccupied with leather this deliberate process triggered my curiosity.

When it comes to the construction; we now mostly work with a goodyear welt entirely stitched by hand. Traditional goodyear welting by machine is renowned for its durability and can be a quite speedy process. Whereas for us: time becomes an important element due to the nature of human labor when it comes to constructing the shoes and stitching them by hand. Working with organic materials and having an elongated tanning process to achieve a specific result and having the welts stitched by hand seems to me a natural thing to do when working in the way we do.

After the shoe is constructed, I start working with the colour. The process is physical and depends on the human touch. The end quality and proposition of the leather is amassed through the tanning and painting processes. These allow us to show the character of the leather, as well as the previous life of the animal.

Elements. Your work exists as season-less collages, exploring patina, decay, and emotions. How do you gather inspiration for each collection?

If we continue on process, leather is central. It is my source of inspiration, along with animals and the body. Through the process of tanning and painting I have been able to attempt, observe and measure the reaction and consequences that occur during various processes. Different animals have different qualities, and as leather is an organic material; there are individual varieties to be found within a certain species. Through working in the way I do, these characteristics are preserved, displayed and occasionally enhanced. 



Treatment. Could you describe in your own words the connection between leathers, treatments and the unique versatility of this natural material?

As I touched on previously, leather is irreverently organic. This connection between the life of the animal and the outcome is dependent on the path chosen after the death of the animal. Chrome tanning often hides the natural peculiarities and lacks the traces of the individual life. Vegetable tanning on the other hand has the quality that it can convey the unique properties of a given animal. Traditionally, vegetable tanning was a lengthy process, but has been accelerated to keep the costs down. In my new project, I work directly with the owner of a tannery where the leathers are tanned in tanning pools for a lengthy period of time to get the results I want. 

The idea here is to continue this accumulative research on process by employing it on different animal species to enhance the properties of the finished leather. There remains one American tannery still tanning the horse leather this way and there is no other tannery in the world still using this protracted process. The characteristics of a given piece of hide evolve through the animal’s life. By slowing down the tanning process, we are able to preserve the qualities the hide established through the life of the animal. This provides a foundation for variation and brings out certain peculiarities that appear as visible details in the product. 

Engage. The showroom installation in Paris gave so much room for reflection and made me engage even more with the pieces. What was your idea here?

The idea has been burgeoning for some time, but first presented in Paris for the FW15 season. I gave carte blanche to the Italian artist Gianni Politi to make his interpretation of the collection and presenting it simultaneously. This summer season I worked with the Korean artist Jay Park, sustaining this initial collaborative idea. 

The concept was researched as follows: In our society image and communication are elements that are heavily curated, manipulated and controlled. Therefore, I chose to initiate the individual’s interpretation by legitimising the viewpoint these artists have on the collection. These two dialogues are united by presenting their work together with mine, in complete symbiosis. By giving them carte blanche, I loose control over the image and further welcome their individual interpretation of my work. 

Ancestral. How do you explore the balance between traditional footwear + tailoring techniques and an urge for contemporary innovation?

Technical understanding is the infrastructure needed to recognise the heritage of the craft. It enables me to understand the physical realm in which it currently is achievable to innovate. Notably, when it comes to raw materials, process and the final outcome. There is tension in contemporary society between reproducing what you already have made and the production of something new. Proposing something new, it takes time for the observer to process and adopt something this unfamiliar. Conventions endure to cause this tension between production and reproduction.

Hybrid. How do you connect with your atelier and the local artisans working with you on the curated collections?

This connection is physically present due to the nature of my work. When I am not presenting the collection in Paris or traveling to explore opportunities of raw material sourcing and processes, we work closely together. The profound understanding of the technical process of tanning the leather, constructing the shoes by using a hand stitch welt as well as painting the leather by hand we have a dialogue based on a common language. Sincere appreciation for the craft and the precise work that is involved is the foundation of our relationship.


Special thanks to Simone Cecchetto and Christina Lynch.
Installation by Jay Park for A diciannoveventitre's Spring/Summer 2016 showroom during Paris Fashion Week

Interview & text by Marlo Saalmink | S/TUDIO 
Photography by S/TUDIO