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The star who turned shoemaker

The star who turned shoemaker

Daniel Day-Lewis is quite simply one of the most talented actors alive. What few know is that the reclusive actor took a year off from work in the late 1990s—working as an ‘intern’ to a Florentine master craftsman and learning how to make bespoke shoes.

Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis
Imagine one of the most sought-after film stars, a millionaire several times over, sitting on a wooden bench in Florence, carefully gluing together pieces of leather and then nailing them in place to create a masterpiece in footwear.

After doing a couple of films in 1996 and 1997, Daniel Day-Lewis, the Oscar-winning actor, disappeared from public view for almost five years.

It was during this self-imposed exile that he reportedly took up a new passion: to learn the art of shoemaking.

The story goes that the then 42-year-old took a summer vacation from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to become an ‘ordinary mortal’ and get down and dirty in an Italian cobbler’s shop in Florence.

Who is Daniel Day-Lewis? Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis was born in the UK on April 29, 1957, into an illustrious family. His father, Cecil Day-Lewis, was a writer and a poet who was Britain’s Poet Laureate between 1968 and his death in 1972. 
The London-born actor, his wife Rebecca, and their son stayed in Florence that summer and Day-Lewis spent most of it in the shoe factory.

Apparently, he was already acquainted with master craftsman Stefano Bemer, whose hand-made shoes are legendary; his bespoke creations sell from $500 (Rs 20,000) upwards.

“They met the preceding winter when Daniel's shoemaker in London sent him over for a personal fitting,” a friend of Day-Lewis, who revealed the secret, told The Enquirer. The art of shoemaking fascinated Day-Lewis, so he asked Bemer to teach him the skills of cutting, shaping, gluing, nailing and fitting shoes.

The star spent hours there sitting on a bench making shoes. So, if you do happen to bump into Day-Lewis while on a visit to Wicklow mountains in Ireland one day, you can try your luck and come back with a shoe made by the superstar himself!

Besides making shoes, Day-Lewis also acts in films. Here are a few of his masterpieces.

  •  A Room With A View (1986)
  • The Unbearable Lightness Of Being (1988)
  • My Left Foot (1989)
  • The Last of The Mohicans (1992)
  • In The Name of The Father (1993)
  • Gangs of New York (2003)

    Shoemaker to the stars

    If Day-Lewis is a glittering example of a star who became a shoemaker, then Pasquale Di Fabrizio is the man presidents and film stars go to when they have to cover their feet.

    Shoemaker to star
    Who is he: He is Pasquale Di Fabrizio, who calls himself “The Stars’ Shoemaker.” And that title certainly fits.

    Claim to fame: He has made dance shoes for Michael Jackson and former US President Ronald Reagan and made all the shoes for Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” movies.

    Celebrity clients: Believe it or not, Di Fabrizio has created hand-made shoes for the biggest names in showbiz, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, Sharon Stone, Whoopi Goldberg, Danny DeVito, Richard Gere, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Hefner.

    He doesn’t come cheap: Prices for shoes made by this Italian master start at $500 (Rs 20,000) and go up to over $4,000 (Rs 1,60,000). He once told a journalist that sometimes the stars don’t remember to pay. According to Di Fabrizio, Stallone and a few others still owe him.

    Special effects: His shoes added almost 4 inches to Stallone’s height. He also helped with Elizabeth Taylor and designed a special pair of shoes that helped Danny DeVito limp as ‘The Penguin’ in Batman Returns.

    Where to find him: Di Fabrizio Shoes, 903 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA, US