Long before labels like Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo emerged as household names, Sarto had been plying his trade in footwear, from hand-lasting shoes with a hammer and nail at a shoe factory during childhood to later launching his own namesake line in 1990.
The Italian-born designer recently paid a visit to the downtown Toronto flagship location of Hudson's Bay for an in-store appearance. After more than 40 years of professional work, Sarto's mantra of marrying comfort and fashion is evident in the slate of looks for fall. Slick, buckled biker boots, slender, ladylike heels, over-the-knee boots and boyfriend-inspired styles — like smoking slippers, oxfords and loafers —are among the myriad styles on offer from Sarto for the new season.
"I think that what my work reflects is my personality. What I wear makes me feel good and I have to feel comfortable and I have to be, at the same time, in fashion with what I wear. I have to translate my feelings into what I do," Sarto said through a translator in an interview.
"I'm always going to admire the work of other designers, but at the end of the day, it's the consumer, that woman who comes to purchase a shoe from a store is the one who decides what she wants to buy."
Sarto continues to hand-sketch many of his own designs, even putting pencil to paper to whip up drawings of shoes during public appearances as a window into his creative process.
"I think for me, it's important to have a connection between me and my consumers and the women who buy my shoes," he said. "It's an indescribable feeling to be able to sketch and show them how everything starts from thinking and having an idea, to putting that idea into what she's wearing."
Prior to starting his own line, Sarto worked in factories and freelanced for numerous brands. He gave a nod to his past factory work in particular as being instrumental in helping shape his approach to how crafting and designing shoes today.
"I was involved more in the technical part of the footwear-making, and in learning through the trials what a woman feels and them expressing how comfortable or not comfortable they were to wear. So one of my goals when I'm doing my work it's always going to be the fit," said Sarto.
"(I'm) not forgetting about fashion — because my shoes have to be wearable — and of course, they have to be up to date. And I have to always offer something for her to come back and wear my shoes."
While many companies may opt for a more targeted approach of customers from a particular age or financial demographic, Sarto maintained that he had no one woman in mind as a design muse, focused instead on connecting with a broader clientele base.
"I still want every woman — from the grandmother, the mother and the granddaughter — to wear my shoes."
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