What we wear is determined by marketing and psychology. Per Miranda Priestly’s monologue in The Devil Wears Prada, there’s more to a sweater than simply being cerulean, and the same goes for industry buzzwords like “Made in Italy.” This statement, one of the most widely-used in the game, is a byword – so we like to believe – for premium luxury. Many of your favourite designer brands have items finished with this very tagline, even if they weren’t completely constructed start-to-end in Italy. PUMA wants to change this.
It begins with the PUMA factory and accompanying facilities in Puglia, Italy. This isn’t city-centre Milan, the millionaires playground of Lake Como, or the sun-drenched Amalfi Coast. This is a local hub of olive tree farmers and factory workers, which was even more laid back than usual when visiting PUMA’s factory in mid-October.
But much like the olive oil, the bread, the masserias, or the countless acres of fields, PUMA was about to show Culted how it too is proudly “Made in Italy.”
@culted We went inside the @PUMA “Made in Italy” factory in Puglia 👟 That’s right, even the humble sneaker is hand made. #puma #tiktokfashion #sneakers ♬ original sound – CULTED
Deep in the countryside resides a facility that’s packed with the latest-and-greatest from PUMA’s most elevated division – SELECT. Per the brand, “PUMA SELECT exists in the intersection of sport, style, and creativity. Through bold collaboration, it embraces the constantly evolving worlds of streetwear and fashion, elevating the brand and pushing the culture forward.”
Leading this cultural exchange is Adam Pieters, Head of SELECT for Product at PUMA, and Jacob Alexander, Footwear Designer for SELECT, PUMA. Together, they are creating new styles informed by PUMA’s rich sporting heritage under the “Made in Italy” process, elevating both these shoes and the PUMA name to new heights.
And all this is done in its Puglia facility. Here, artisans of their craft take Ainsley’s designs and turn them into a luxurious reality. Leathers are of the utmost quality. Details are meticulous. Sole units are engineered for ultimate comfort. And it’s all produced by hand – from the stitching to the last moulding, lacing to stamping. These aren’t your average pairs of PUMA sneakers.
In fact, there’s nothing “average” about PUMA’s “Made in Italy” programme. Workers conduct their tasks in near-silence. It’s immaculate everywhere you look. Every rivet, leather sample, lace tip, and heel tab is labelled, organised, and filed in its designated space. If anything, this is closer to the methods of haute couture.
To understand why PUMA is so dedicated to masterful craftsmanship and championing its “Made in Italy” legacy, read on to be told the story in Pieters’ and Ainsley’s own words.
What makes PUMA’s Made in Italy shoes stand out?
Adam Pieters: We’re here in Puglia, Italy, because we’re bringing the PUMA GV back. It’s an old style from 1983, and we really wanted to go in a new direction with this shoe. It’s for the consumer who values classics. It’s a premium, classicist consumer shoe. We’ve always done stuff in Italy – although we let it go for a couple of years – and we thought this was the best shoe to bring it all back. It’s made in factories where they only produce for luxury brands, and per PUMA’s history, we’ve always been a sport-lifestyle brand with a fashion twist. For us, this was the reason why we came back to Italy, to produce this at a higher price point.
This is the first project again and there’s much more to come from the Made in Italy factory, such as GV, Clyde, Easy Rider, Indoor, and Palermo.
It’s the craftsmanship. It’s the materials. For certain people, this speaks to something – whether it’s Italy or Japan – it speaks to quality. The fashion industry talks about Italy, and that’s because it brings a certain spirit.
And is PUMA Made in Italy also rooted in the ideals of a sneakerhead?
Jacob Alexander: It appeals to the consumer who values classics. When we designed the GV range, we tried to treat it with a level of premiumness and elevation, and now we’re in Italy, it adds that extra element of detail, quality, and craftsmanship. It’s definitely one for collectors and people who respect sneaker craftsmanship – it’s for the OG guys, or the consumer who values classics.
There’s something in the Made in Italy factories that is unique to this area, they really elevate the shoe. We’re starting to use these factories in Italy, or in Japan, as our elevated offering in comparison to the rest of the range – it’s special.
AP: That’s not to say that the other factories that we use aren’t made for craftsmanship – they are – it’s just these are about volume, while still being made with love. It’s just done in a different way.
JA: So it’s about the consumer, how they connect with the shoe. We’re giving them something really premium and really special.
Why are PUMA and Italy so intrinsically connected?
AP: For me, it is more that we always had a strong connection with Italy, based on its fashion history. We have had the Italy [football] team for some time, Ferrari sponsorships, which all could be seen as the more fashion-led companies in those sport-specific categories.
It always brings a certain flair to it. Especially knowing that PUMA was the first to enter the sport fashion industry with Jil Sander and always had this overlap between sport and fashion with the numerous collaborations that we did.
JA: Terrace style is something that’s very important [to talk about]. Terrace culture has deep roots in Italy and sees its fans travel abroad for European Cup matches, wearing the different styles, stealing the high fashion brands and wearing them with PUMA on their feet. I think it’s something that connects with the heritage of sports and terrace culture. It draws that connection between PUMA and Italy. It’s just another reason to be here.
Why is now the right time to go back to Italy?
AP: It’s a strategy that we have at SELECT – it’s not that we didn’t do Italy before, we did it but we left it while we did Made in Japan. But we have a new structure in SELECT where we want to stand for premium.
Is the consumer ready to have sneakers that feel special again?
JA: The consumer is very ready to have a premium shoe again. That’s something we want to stand for with the consumer. When they think of premium sneakers, we want them to think of PUMA. When you lean into factories like Made in Italy, especially, it really delivers that message of quality and craftsmanship.
The sneakerhead is ready for that now, and we’re ready for it. We’re elevating ourselves and coming across as a premium sneaker brand, and we want to reach the consumer in an authentic way. It’s desirable, we want to give them premium hand-crafted goods.
AP: The industry has been bombarded with collaborations. There’s a shift within that, people want to support “the brand” and be authentic with “the brand.” The GV is super authentic for us. People want to see authentic styles without a logo slapped on it. It’s about understanding quality, and I think that’s one of the main reasons.
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