In this post I am taking you to Rialto for some shopping (although it will not involve food!).
I want to introduce you to Monica Bravin and her shop Style Shoes in Ruga Rialto, a family business started by her father back in the 1960s. This is the sort of shop I wish there were more of in Venice, with a focus on quality. Here women will find beautiful shoes, bags, hats and other accessories that will last for a lifetime, unique handmade pieces that nobody else will have.
A place for lovers of slow and sustainable fashion.
1) Monica, tell us a little something about yourself.
I was born and raised in Venice. I used to live with my family in the neighborhood of Santa Maria Formosa, and remember I would spend many afternoons after school here in Ruga Rialto in the family shop. My father has always had a huge passion for shoes and shoe-making. At the beginning, he opened the shop next door (now closed), where he sold Italian knitwear, and then eventually, in 1963 if I am not mistaken, he opened this shop, entirely specialized in shoes. Everything, materials and manpower, had to be rigorously made in Italy and I was taught the importance of good fabrics and brought up with the idea that things have to be made to last.
I soon developed the need to work with my hands and wanted to create my own shoes, clothes and other fashion accessories, in fact I wanted to attend art school. Unfortunately though, my parents obliged me to go to what here we call 'magistrali', a teacher's school. Being from a different generation, they had a strong sense of practicality and believed that developing the skills to have a proper job was something their daughter could not avoid... and that artists die poor! Of course, we had lots and lots of arguments and I have never changed my mind. Once finished school, I taught for a couple of years, but in the end I succeeded in pursuing my passion. I would go to Rubelli, where I became friend's with the owner, and get several fabrics that I used to create bags for women. I put them in the shop window, but my father would remove them ... until one day a lady came in and asked to purchase one of my creations. At that point, he had to surrender and allow me more space.
2) What can people find in your shop?
Shoes, bags, hats, gloves, small purses and other small things. The philosophy is the same, everything is handmade in Italy.
The shoes are still produced by the same family in Stra, although now they are based on my drawings. First I draft a design, then a model-maker perfections it and finally the shoes are produced. I choose all the fabrics and leathers. In the past I used to make sandals, it was Giovanna Zanella, one of the most talented shoe-makers I know, who helped me learn and gave me the courage to sell them. The problem was that I had too many requests and, due to the hard work, I developed a problem on my arm, so my physiotherapist told me to stop and now the sandals too are produced by this family in Stra.
With regard to the hats and gloves, they are a more recent passion, which took over during Covid. I have always loved crocheting and am a compulsive collector. Before the pandemic I had bought a large amount of fabrics and yarns, thus during that period I started making both winter and summer hats. Then came the glovettes. All the woolen items are made from scratch, whereas the summer hats and some other particular hats are based on a very high quality paper model to which I add all the final touches (the next coming will be basque hats!).
For the bags, I use different types of fabrics, from velvet to leather and one of my favorite is raffia. I buy a beautiful quality raffia, which is indestructible, made on a loom and intertwined by some craftsmen in Florence. It is quite precious and not always available, in fact it may happen that if someone commissions a bag with this material they may have to wait. I have also used this raffia for shoes and it's wonderful.
3) What about the wool?
I don't know where the love for wool comes from, I suppose it's always been a part of me, as I used to see my mum and grandma surrounded by yarns. When we would go to the mountains, the sound of the needles was something I really loved, although I will immediately say that to knitting I prefer crocheting, in fact all these hats and glovettes are crocheted.
I buy some yearns in Venice from LellaBella in calle della Mandola, and from Marlene in San Rocco. Then I also do a lot of research and seek unconventional yarns from Japan, the UK and sometimes the US. It is so much fun to learn and work with wool no one else has in the lagoon and I love to mix and match.
4) We can say that you grew up here in Rialto. How has the Ruga changed over the years?
... next question? Well.. the reality is that Rialto, and Venice itself, have changed a lot over the years and I am not sure if for the best. I am the sort of Venetian who is nostalgic of the days when there was a greater community, especially until the 1990s this area was simpler in a way. There weren't as many bars and restaurants, where the new wine bars are now under the porticos in campo San Giacometto there were the warehouses of the greengrocers. I have beautiful memories of the bar in front of the shop, which when I was a child used to be managed by a local couple. I loved going there as they had songbirds, which were still exotic at the time. It was also beautiful to see all the goldsmiths in the Sottoportico degli Oresi, it was a direct link to our history, as they street was still inhabited by the trade that gave it its name.
5) Do you still enjoy living in Venice?
Well... yes. Despite everything, it remains something unique and magical. Of course, I have witnessed many changes and can be critical, but when I stay away for a while I do realize how lucky I am and how incredible this city is. I am not much fond of the heat in general, so I won't deny that I wouldn't mind being away from the end of June to the end of September, perhaps somewhere in Northern France or Ireland or, yes, wherever it's nice and there's a mild climate, but then I would definitely return home.
I am very grateful for the time Monica dedicated to me and also for her work. I believe that there are beautiful souls that work with passion and create beautiful things that make my city a nicer place, and Monica is one of them. The next time you come to Rialto, if you are looking for something unique made in Venice, I definitely suggest stopping at her shop Style Shoes.
Style Shoes - map Address: San Polo, Ruga Rialto 409, Venice, Italy