It can sometimes feel like Cecilia Bringheli and her brother Lorenzo have colonized the entire charming neighborhood of Brera with their youthful take on classic Milanese style. Along one cobblestone street a brick-lined shop is dedicated to the siblings’ five-year-old shoe label CB Made in Italy. The space, hidden behind a leafy courtyard, benefits from a rare backyard garden and is an exemplar of Milanese restraint. Functioning also as a showroom and office for Cecilia’s design team, CB headquarters effortlessly nods to the Italian way of doing business, which puts a premium on beauty, pleasure and work experiences that are as painless as possible.
Around the corner in Via Palermo is Lorenzo’s home, where he hosts a pop-up fantasy restaurant (read about it here) for their co-workers and friends. From the kitchen window, you can see the terracotta roof of the grammar school the duo attended as children and hear the squeals of delight of young Milanese children as they scamper about in their fine Italian footwear. Between the shop and Lorenzo’s home is another personally relevant outpost: the old-school Milanese restaurant La Libera, run by family friend Italo Manca, where their parents hosted their wedding party back in the early 1980s.
“I love Brera simply because it signifies home for me,” says the 30 year old Cecilia, who walks each day in her signature flats from her apartment in Milan’s Chinatown to her Brera office, eight minutes away. “Milan represents family, tradition and the true quality of life.”
Though they grew up in bustling Milan, the family spent several months of every summer living in Positano where their grandfather had built the town’s 27th home. Their shoe label borrows from both the laid-back, off-duty glamour of Positano as well as the understatement of polished Milanese women—in particular, their own mother Chantal, who straddled the two worlds effortlessly.
“She was always wearing oxfords, loafers, slippers or sandals,” Cecilia recalls. “No matter what, she always put on an elegant flat shoe.”
Today’s dearth of such chic simplicity is what motivated Cecilia to start the CB Made in Italy label in 2010. “I called up Lorenzo [who was working in New York as a photographer at the time, and still moonlights as a portrait photographer for Uomo Vogue and other fashion magazines] and said, ‘Remember those shoes mom was always wearing in Positano? I want to make those.’ It’s very easy to find beautiful high heels but it’s much harder to find beautiful flat shoes.”
The CB label makes the job much easier. The siblings creatively develop the line together. Starting with a simple women’s slip-on reminiscent of a tuxedo slipper, the label now offers 28 models and over 100 different fabrications from raffia to colored wovens to bright silks and buttery suedes, as well as a men’s collection. Many of the shapes, such as the Todi and the Chelsea boots, have a vintage or classic flair and offer an instant boost to any boring pair of jeans. Every pair is crafted by Italian artisans in the North of Italy, who are pleased to return to styles they use to make decades ago. “They all tell me how great it is to work on shoes they actually like,” says Cecilia, proudly.
At this point, Cecilia has completely ex-communicated high heels from her closet. She wears CB exclusively and has managed to make flats work with everything from an elegant dress to white jeans, a Scottish wool sweater and blazer for work. In Positano she pairs the denim Positano slippers with a pareo or shorts at the beach. “I am trying to do shoes for women who head to the office in the morning and go straight to an aperitivo and dinner,” she explains. But would CB Made in Italy ever make heels for these same girls-on-the-go? Bringheli smiles with a slight sigh, “I would say no, but then never say never.”
– J.J. Martin