Diemme is a brand I came across after their great collab with the Australian fashion label P.A.M. For those who haven’t heard of them before they offer premium shoes with meticulous design, impeccable materials and an aesthetic that reek’s of quality which is perhaps no great surprise as they are based in the renowned shoe manufacturing location of Montebelluna in Italy.
Diemme is the product of the famed Calzaturificio Diemme factory which has been producing for brands such as Maison Martin Margiela, Chanel, Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Bedwin & The Heartbreakers for over 20 years.
Diemme’s initial product output started with mountaineering footwear of the highest quality, and from this beginning, their reputation and name has grown considerably to see them now operating as a collaboration that fuses their renowned Italian manufacturing, with leading names in Norweigan and Japanese Design and Sales.
I was lucky enough to be able to chat to the brand’s Product/Brand Manager Erlend Güettler Hanssen about the past, present and future of a brand that I am a huge fan of – hope you like it!
IDYSM: Hey Erlend. I hope you’re well. Set the scene for us; where are you right now, and what are you up to?
Erlend: Right now I’m sitting at the Blender Agency offices in Oslo, Norway, listening to a track that I’ve been stuck on these past few days; Prideless by Natasha Kmeto, and clearing out those last few emails that I’ve been procrastinating with through the busy periods. This time of year is the only real quiet time of the year for me, with SP14 sales deadlines over and done with and having sent all AW14 sample orders to the factory. These few weeks are quite normal, but then it all starts gaining momentum again in early December with new samples coming in and leading up to the start of our AW14 sales market which begins in early January – when things really explode and the pace is high until end April. I usually have around 40 days out travelling in Jan-Feb.
IDYSM: Can give us some history into how the Signor brothers who founded the company (Dennis and Macio used the D from Dennis and M from Maico to make the name DIEMME – pronounced; D.M.) saw the potential from within the Calzaturificio Diemme factory to start their own brand?
Erlend: Well, I guess they always had the brand, in a way, but not in the traditional sense that we would think of a fashion brand. They had Diemme as they had Calzaturificio Diemme – their company name – and they had products that carried various Diemme logos, but they did not have the typical two or four season way of approaching how they built the Diemme collections. And in a way there was not even a collection. What they had was rather an archive of everything they had done up through the years, showcasing what they could do, and then they had local distributors who built their own Diemme collections in a sense. You’d might have a German partner who sold country boots, an Italian partner that sold chukka boots, another partner that sold hiking boots – the Diemme collections were very fragmented and adapted to each individual distributor, without any clear direction.
IDYSM: In 2010, Diemme teamed up with some leading names from Norway and Japan in the fields of Design and Sales to develop the product range to also include trend setting leisure footwear/sneaker product. How did this come about?
Erlend: The partnership with GMT Tokyo actually started a few years before that. They started working with Diemme as a distributor for Japan, where GMT had control of the creative direction for the collection. It was GMT who introduced Diemme to the Vibram Cristy for example, a sole that has been important for the aesthetic of our boots and modernizing the look of the products. And GMT were the first partner that started selling Diemme to fashion stores.
When Blender Agency started working with Diemme in early 2010 we started introducing Diemme to some key fashion stores such as Odin New York, Tres Bien Shop and Oi Polloi. At that time the independent contemporary fashion market was very eager for brands that focused on pure and honest manufacturing and the whole heritage aesthetic. Diemme fit right into that trend and with Blender Agency having experience working with sales on brands like Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Common Projects, Arc’teryx Veilance and Carhartt WIP we saw the need to change some things if Diemme were to build a long term position in the fashion market. As we went from being sales partners to a partner we pushed the need to evolve from being a “hiking boot brand” to becoming a footwear brand. So we started rather massively expanding the collections and building seasonal collections – which Diemme never really had done before.
IDYSM: What is done to retain the Montebelluna roots of the company?
Erlend: The Montebelluna roots are in every detail of our products. The Italian shoe production industry is fascinating to me. They have such a long history of producing footwear and that is so obvious when you are working with Italian factories and suppliers. The industry was not just built over a couple of decades, it has evolved from generation to generation over more than a century. To me this shines through in every product as you are talking about artisanal work, not “production” in the sense that we might think about that word in the modern world. The Diemme factory has a max production capacity of appx. 80000 pairs a year. The bigger Chinese factories make several times that amount only in their sample rooms.
IDYSM: Did this move happen quickly and easily or did it take time and planning so that Diemme’s product in this new field was taken seriously?
Erlend: It has been a process to change the perception of Diemme from a short term hiking boot brand to a long term premium footwear brand. Our products are not inexpensive, but considering the materials we use they are still very much value for money. There are brands that churn out inferior or similar products at a much higher price, which is also why we chose to be very transparent and list all of our suppliers on our website – practically daring everyone else to try and do what we do.
When we first started selling Diemme in February 2010 we had 3 samples. Today we are working on our AW14 collections which will have about 100 styles for men and 50 for women, replacing the visual identity, changing the distribution strategy, going from hiking boots to python skin sneakers. And all of this has been done in less than 4 years. I guess that has been the key to our success as well; being young, small, flexible and sticking to what we believe is the best direction.
IDYSM: How much of your business is now split between Diemme’s outdoor/mountaineering based product, and the fashion forward casual/sneaker footwear we’re seeing more of?
Erlend: The fashion collection is the primary focus at this point in time, but when given the space and time we would all love to sink our teeth into the Hunting and Sports collections as well. We have some ideas and some potential partners that could really help lift those categories. The products are fantastic. They always have been and I think we could bring some things we have done in fashion over to the other categories to create more of a fresh approach to materials and components.
IDYSM: Diemme has worked with a number of companies in putting together some great collabs (including Vans Vault, Carhartt Heritage, Stone Island and P.A.M. to name just a few). Who do you choose to collaborate with, and what differences are their between straight Diemme shoes, and collab product?
Erlend: Yes, we have been lucky in that sense as we have been able to work together with some famous and respected brands, the latest being Burton Snowboards this fall and with A.P.C. and Basso & Brooke for next spring. With us being a smaller brand we have wanted to work with brands that could help us gain more visibility. And I really like how we have found partners that are not necessarily in our segment but all seen as leaders in their segments; such as Vans Vault, Carhartt WIP and Burton.
The collaborations have been very important for us. Not just in terms of visibility, PR and sales volume, but it has also been very helpful in terms of design for us to get other people coming in and looking at our styles from another perspective. It has definitely helped us in evolving our main collection as well.
IDYSM: What does the future hold for Diemme?
Erlend: Lately we are being picked up by more fashion stores where we sit next to brands like Saint Laurent and Lanvin and some of our best selling styles are python sneakers. Our focus on sneakers has also allowed us to break new ground in warmer climates like the Middle East, South America, and southern parts of the US and Europe. For SP14 we have also launched our women’s collection internationally and we see that we are able to enter the women’s market at a very high level. I’m not sure if it is the collections that have caused our distribution to change, or our distribution that has caused our collections to change, but I would say that our aesthetic has moved a bit more fashion.
I hope that we are able to build a long term position in the premium footwear market. But these past four years have brought on so many unexpected twists and opportunities so I have no idea where we are after the next four years.
IDYSM: I’m sure it’s something incredibly chic and stylish so please tell me; what’s on your feet right now?
Erlend: Haha. It is a pair of Diemme sneakers that were actually in our Women’s AW13 collection, but I had it made in a size 43.