Inside the Rene Caovilla Atelier, Where The Cleo Was Born

Courtesy Rene Caovilla

This shoe brand loved by celebrities is worth a stop on your next trip to Venice—and they're offering a special opportunity just for you.

For three generations, the Venetian shoe brand René Caovilla has made its mark in the luxury world. Caovilla’s statement, crystal-embellished sandals are a staple on the red carpet for celebrities, including Rihanna, Gal Gadot, and Bella Hadid. One of the most renowned designs, “The Cleo,” has been a recognized favorite, dating back to 1969 when it first was created by Caovilla. The Cleo became a symbol of the company with its unique snake-like design, inspired by coiled Roman bracelets from the first century B.C. The precise craftsmanship of this iconic style takes approximately 20 people to create, with a staggering 42 elements, and now we're offering you the chance to customize your own pair in Caovilla’s first boutique in Venice, Italy.


Courtesy Rene Caovilla

The infamous shoe line was founded by Edoardo Caovilla in 1934 in Venice, Italy. At that time, the line was branded “Caovilla” before his son, René Caovilla, made a name change in the 1960s. Edoardo Caovilla favored high-end fashions marrying craftsmanship with couture. His wife embroidered shoes by hand in a small room with four other people. In the 1960s, René Caovilla took over the family business from his father. While René focused his concentration on the high end of the market with opulent evening shoes, his wife Paola became responsible for public relations and the Caovilla handbag line. This was around the same time the iconic Cleo was created. René was also responsible for exclusively creating shoes for Valentino, Chanel, and Christine Dior’s couture shows. In November 2009, Rene’s son took over the family brand.   

As the 3rd generation manning the helm of the family business, Eduardo notes “Caovilla is a brand of cultured luxury that prioritizes the care of details, the quality, and keeps growing with its own style satisfying the preferences of our global customers.” 


Courtesy Rene Caovilla

He also notes the significance that Venice has played in the lineage of their brand stating, ”growing up in a country like Italy, and especially in Venice, it gives you this sense of touch. Sometimes it goes in a way that is a little bit too extreme, but you always have the sense of right proportion. This is what I think are the most important things we get from our country, beauty and proportion.” 

Rene Caovilla is one of the very few luxury brands that still has ownership within the company and has been consistent with the quality of their craftsmanship. Eduardo continues in his father and grandfather’s footsteps designing shoes for the namesake brand inspired by Venetian artistry, although his creativity also stems from rather uncommon means. “The most inspirational situation for me is when I practice my favorite sport, free diving. I go 20 to 30 meters under the sea and when I’m there, I really relax. I normally go down only with a light and I see such amazing colors and shapes in corals.  When I come out of the sea, I start designing shoes, and it’s something that I really love,” notes Eduardo. 


Courtesy Rene Caovilla

Just outside of Venice in Fiesso d’Artico, an industry town in Veneto, lies the original Caovilla headquarters and factory where every single hand-made shoe is still produced today. The Caovilla factory is run by approximately 150 employees which consist of old and new generations with some holding positions for over 60 years. In addition, the 2nd floor houses a pristine archive of almost every Caovilla design ever made, featuring the original iteration of The Cleo. 


Courtesy Rene Caovilla

As a special offer, from November 1st through the 30th, we are providing our readers with a chance to customize their very own crystal Cleo sandal at Rene Caovilla’s Boutique in Venice, Italy. Simply visit the store off of Piazza San Marco located at San Marco 1296, Venice, Italy.  There you will be able to choose from a selection of colors and customized features to create your dream shoe for the holidays.