The first Spanish kings of the Bourbon dynasty used to seal their alliances in a very original way. The monarchs gave pairs of Merino sheep from Cuenca, famous for their fine, soft wool, to foreign sovereigns; it was both a token of friendship and proof of their wealth and power. When Philip V gave a pair to his French grandfather, Louis XIV, it marked the beginning of the globalization of this precious breed. Now, more than 300 years later, the rich and powerful of the world still buy and gift Merino wool — only now they do it in the form of Loro Piana sweaters.
The rich love to get their hands on everything that is scarce, and Loro Piana, which is about to turn 100, is a world leader in processing the rarest natural fibers on the planet: Andean vicuña, Merino from New Zealand and Australia, Chinese and Mongolian goat wool. This is why the Italian house has become “the Uniqlo of billionaires,” the official provider of super-soft essentials for the lucky 1% who love discreet luxury and, more importantly, can afford it: super fine baby cashmere sweaters for $2,000, vicuña coats for $19,000, chino pants in cotton and silk for $1,600, leather shoes for $950.
Recently, the brand’s Summer Walk loafers — a casual slip-on shoe of an almost insulting purity — have become a favorite of the Wall Street wolves and the Silicon Valley tycoons. Handcrafted in Italy from suede (they also make them in leather and cashmere) and with a distinctive white rubber sole, they are incredibly comfortable and light. And expensive. Jean Arnault, the son of the luxury goods giant Bernard Arnault, wears them in earth tones, while gallery owner Larry Gagosian prefers his in alligator skin (which cost more than $4,000).
Video game mogul Bobby Kotick pairs them with zip-up sweaters from the Italian fashion house, while Greek heir Stavros Niarchos wears them with blue jeans while vacationing in Portofino and Mykonos. David Beckham is another enthusiast. Those who own a sailboat engrave their names on the heels, a popular tradition among sailing aficionados. In the world of fashion, the Summer Walk phenomenon is like an aspirin that has come to cure the hangover caused by the exotic luxury sneakers that have taken over the market in recent years.
There are different theories regarding the origin of the popularity of these loafers. Some fashion experts attribute their success to the series Succession: actor Jeremy Strong, who plays Kendall Roy, wears them in the third season. Others state that the proliferation of the Summer Walk is another symptom of the glamorization of the pandemic trend of wearing extra-comfortable footwear. It can also be attributed to the constant need of the rich for things that are beautiful, expensive and luxurious, but also discreet. A style that says: “I don’t care what I wear, although I actually care a lot.”
As we emerge from a global health crisis in which more than six million people died and move on to the next financial catastrophe, the 1% who continues to buy and give Merino knows that this is not a good time to attract attention. Loro Piana promotes its loafers as “perfect for summers spent sailing or at the beach;” they are also perfect for running to get all your money from the nearest Credit Suisse branch.
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