When Antonio Aransaenz and his wife, Valentina Sorzana Antinori were looking for a place to expand their artisan-crafted shoe brand, there was really only one city that came to mind: Houston.
"My wife and I just fell in love with Houston," Aransaenz tells CultureMap. "Besides the fact that we love Texas and we love Houston and the people are friendly, people here also still like to dress up. They value nice things."
The couple is betting Houstonians are going to value the exquisite craftsmanship and elegant fashion behind Clorinda Antinori, the shoe boutique they opened in the River Oaks Shopping Center at 2039 West Gray St.
Located next to Sunglass Hut and adjacent to Hemline, the 1,362-square-foot shop offers nearly 150 styles of shoes for men and women, including flats, wedges, sandals, boots, sneakers, Oxfords and slip-ons. Every pair is designed by Aransaenz and Sorzana Antinori, and manufactured in small, family-run factories in Sorzana Antinori's native Italy.
"There is an incredible legacy of craftsmanship in Italy," says Aransaenz. "Especially with fine leather goods. I think Houstonians are going to love these quality shoes, made with best leathers and natural materials, as well as our innovative designs."
Aransaenz said that the brand has always led with quality, and the hand craftsmanship is distinctive. Clorinda Antinori shoes are designed, however, to be worn everyday, so the couple also placed an emphasis on both comfort and creating designs that at once contemporary and timeless. Only the softest and most durable leathers are used. The result is an extremely comfortable and collection of shoes that are suitable for all occasions.
"We didn't want to make a shoe that was just going to look good in a magazine and you'd only wear once," he says.
He points to the Vivien, a platform strappy sandal with an ankle strap, which he said is lightweight and can be worn for everything from a summer cocktail party to grabbing coffee with girlfriends. It also has killer detailing in raffia grass accents on the wedge.
The Amorosa flat, meanwhile, is what he calls "a pointed-toe flat that doesn't fee like a pointed-toe flat." It's casual enough for jeans or shorts, while also being classy enough for the office.
The company is a family-run business, with Sorzana Antinori's mother and sister working alongside the couple on everything from operations to manufacturing. Clorinda Antinori opened its first shop in Naples, Florida 10 years ago. The expansion in to the Bayou City is its first since the company began. The brand also wholesales to specialty stores in New York City and Chicago.
Aransaenz and Sorzana Antinori have also relocated to Houston, making it their new home. They've been impressed with how friendly and cosmopolitan the Bayou City is, and they're drawn to the effortless style so many Houstonians have.
"People here like to be casually elegant," Aransaenz notes. "They like to look nice without looking over-dressed. And our shoes are perfect for that."
Clorinda Antinori is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm and Sunday from 12 to 5 pm.