Christine O'Leary

Having moved to Florence on a whim after living in New York City working in media and event production, I stumbled into the world of shoemaking looking for a job in the Italian city. I was contemplating throwing in the towel when my friend got me an interview at Stefano Bemer. They needed someone who was eager and could learn quickly. I was paired with their shoe finishing extraordinaire who kindly and patiently taught me the meditative art of shoe polishing and tassel making, coached me through the daunting task of taking a $5,000 bespoke shoe to the belt sander, how to use a knife and not slice my fingers off, how to use “gerbafil” without fainting, and how to confidently burn initials onto perfected leather violin soles. It was so much fun. Learning and mastering these new skills elicited a certain kind of confidence and like Mikhail, I was hooked. A passion for shoe culture awakened inside me. I eventually went on to work with customers on their one-of-a-kind designs. Getting to know clients’ unique styles, helping them to design their dream shoes and then holding the final result was a thrill for us both. Not only did I love the shoemaking process itself, but also the collaboration and satisfaction of the client really filled me with joy. That’s when I rediscovered that my grandfather had been a shoemaker in Ireland when my dad was a kid. I was surprised to hear my dad using all the shoemaking jargon when I told him about my new passion.  When my time at Stefano Bemer was coming to an end, I knew I wanted to continue to be a part of this world and that’s where Mikhail and ARNO come in! I truly hope you love your ARNO shoes and I will be at the other end of the line with any questions or suggestions you might have for our future products.