Ballet flats be gone! The world has spoken and there’s a new pantofola in town. Le Friulane are the coveted genderfluid, velvet flats worn everywhere these days by athleisure die-hards, supermodels, Hollywood stars, rap artists and gondoliers alike…not to mention, your trendsetting nonni probably have a pair. Cute-as-a-button and simmering with style, Friulane are not a one-season wonder. The timeless slipper shoes, sometimes known as furlane, have been around the lagoon for some time.
Friulane officially made their debut in the 18th century, but Friuli Venezia Giulia region will tell you that the rubber-soled scarpets had long been walking the walk in the Friuli mountains where contadine, farmer and peasant women, were piecing together leftover strips of fabric and string to create shoes. Salvage, reuse and function were, and still are, the way of life in the country- add style to the description and you have friulane.
Traditionally made using jute sacks for padding, scraps of blècs (old fabric and rags who weight varied for the season) for the upper slipper, and, eventually, bicycle tires for the sole, the slippers became celebrations of identity. Each pair was precious to its owner, and were worn on Sundays to church and by brides on their wedding day.
By the 19th century, the friulane meandered its way through the Dolomites and to the Veneto. With each step, the slipper became more and more refined in style. Neighborhoods boasted original interpretations through embroidery, decoration and even the shape of the toe. And eventually, the pretty papusse arrived in the calli and campi of Venice where Friulian women would sell their handmade wares. And the rest is, well, history. The sultry slip-on became a sought-after favourite of la Serenissima’s citizens. The gondoliers loved the slipper because the sole left no scuff marks on the hand-painted gondola while protecting feet from getting soaked. And by virtue of the secretive Venetian nature, the elite adored the slippers for its facility to stylish stealth, making it evening easier to silently sneak away from meetings and to lovers.
Though centuries have passed, the luxuriously comfortable Friulane remain the very same in shape and production. True friulane are hand-sewn and entirely made in Italy. And most importantly, Friulane are ambidextrous. In other words, right and left are entirely indistinguishable until worn and broken in. Designers and shoe brands love the casual luxe of friulane and over the years, have reinterpreted the look with variations on decorations, materials, and even tinkering with the sole. We spied a friulane with a raised heel. Ma non si fa!
Chic, light and comfy, friulane are the ideal travel shoe and sophisticated enough to wear under soft trousers, jeans or an evening dress. The more classic style, worn by notable celebs including Kate Moss, Megan Markle, George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin, is the quintessential velvet in rich, bright colours. And you can never have enough colours. We suggest cosying up at home, pairing them with your softest leggings or pyjamas, or in combination with your favourite cover-up at the beach. With plenty of styles to choose from, all that remains is to start a collection of your own.