Parlanti Isn’t Just Ahead of the Curve, It’s Inventing It
You might say that all of fashion is a story of deliberate evolution: trends, like shoulder pads, come and go, and everything old is new again. But sometimes, the course of fashion is simply a matter of the right timing. In the case of Parlanti boots, it’s the ability to read that timing correctly that’s made all the difference.
“Parlanti started more than 30 years ago as a family company making fashion shoes in Rome."
“Parlanti started more than 30 years ago as a family company making fashion shoes in Rome,” says the Company President of Parlanti International, Francesco Iannelli. According to Francesco, Parlanti’s equestrian roots began when a customer friend brought the then-shoemaker a pair of castoff tall boots and asked them to make a replacement. What Owner Daniele Parlanti created as a result would become the template for one of equestrian sport’s leading footwear brands.
“It started like that, as kind of an experiment, and then we found out that many people liked those boots,” Francesco says.
Parlanti International's Francesco Iannelli
In 1992, Daniele improved upon his original design, adding the first zipper to the back of an equestrian tall boot. At that time, all boots were made like dressage boots are today, with one size throughout the leg. At first, it seemed that riders weren’t interested in this new modification, though they soon discovered its benefits: a zipper allowed them to achieve a more custom and flattering fit, and therefore, a more functional boot.
When Francesco Iannelli joined Parlanti 15 years ago, he soon saw the value in what his good friend Daniele had created—and the major global potential it presented. “We were going around Italy to all the shows and we started to go to France and Germany, and, step by step, in the last 10 to 15 years, it became a bit more international,” Francesco says.
In 2008, Parlanti made its first inroads into the North American market, and quickly observed that American riders seemed less inclined to wait for a pair of custom tall boots than their European counterparts. Two years later, Parlanti responded, launching its first, ready to wear field boot—the aptly named “Wellington—at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida. Though the move was essentially a gamble, within a month, Parlanti and Iannelli would learn just how right their intuition was: the line sold out completely in just a few weeks’ time.
“In 2010, [the Wellington launch] was almost like a test to see how people would react. For the first time, we learned that the U.S. [market] wanted to have something ready right away,” Francesco explains. Parlanti built on this success, adding to its inventory so it could begin marketing to stores, not only direct to consumers, as it had always done in the past. Today, the brand’s wildly popular Passion ready to wear line has made the Parlanti company a household name, with more than 40 employees around the world and stores in Wellington, Florida; Rome, Italy; and soon, New York, New York.
Francesco says that while Parlanti originally assumed it would be bringing a high-end European boot to an American audience, it ended up bringing the ready to wear concept back home to Italy, France and beyond—a move that not only made Parlanti’s U.S. sales equal to those of Europe, but completely revolutionized the brand. “This change made a small family business turn into a worldwide production company,” Francesco says, noting that Parlanti’s online sales quickly followed suit.
“Before, the only way to sell boots was at the shows. But the society is changing. Before, people were at the shows from Thursday to Sunday, but now, it’s mostly Saturday, Sunday, and they arrive at the show with no time. They have just [enough] to ride in their class, and they want to have everything ready, so they’ll buy the boots online before [they get there].”
Even on short notice, achieving that ‘proper fit’ has always been the defining characteristic of Parlanti boots. Though today, they no longer produce the “fashion shoes” the brand began with, Parlanti continues to straddle the line between equestrian and high fashion footwear, producing one of the world’s most flattering tall boots. It’s no surprise that tastemakers everywhere have caught on.
“We have a lot of famous people wearing our boots. Even in the fashion business, they ask us to make them—lines like Gucci and Brooks Brothers. We’ve had Angelina Jolie in our boots, and people like Madonna,” Iannelli says.
Parlanti’s list of rider devotes is equally impressive, including Kent Farrington, Edwina Tops-Alexander, current World #1 Harrie Smolders, and Steve Guerdat, to name a few. While the brand’s longstanding reputation and proven ability to sense opportunity in the wind—and run with it—has made it the subject of some imitation, Francesco says that’s all part of being a visionary. In any case, he’s not wasting time thinking about the competition.
The Parlanti Miami Classic Field Boot.
“Every time a competing brand unsuccessfully tries to copy our products, whether it be in style or the production detail, it forces Parlanti to come up with new designs,” Francesco says.
“Every time we see another copied boot hit the market, it tells us that we did a good job.”
-All images courtesy of Parlanti.