Made in Modena

Mark Bramley

We learn that python skin is actually less expensive than most quadruped coats - unless you combine it with lizard and perforated ostrich, as did the owner of the Pagani Zonda with chassis number 88. There's no accounting for taste.

Although Schedoni recently bought its first automated cutting machine, most of the leatherwork is still done by hand. What has changed quite dramatically in recent years are the designs and the materials mix. Ten years ago, Schedoni-made seats, luggage, and leather goods had to be tan, beige, or at least some other shade of brown. In 2008, almost anything goes-witness the bright red luggage set that Ferrari designer Donato Coco just ordered for his personal 599GTB Fiorano. Also daringly different, the latest Lamborghini Murciélago luggage consists of polished clamshell carbon-fiber halves lined with soft suede; the new Pagani luggage is a wild mix of hide, aluminum, and carbon fiber; the Alfa Romeo 8C luggage features an innovative leather weave that accurately matches the seat trim; the Ferrari 430 Scuderia luggage is Alcantara, velvet, and Gore-Tex. And there's more to come, even though the keeper of the leather house is mum about future projects, such as the seat trim for the pending Ferrari Enzo replacement, a high-end prototype luggage kit for the Bugatti Veyron, the still unspecified leatherwork for the next-generation Volkswagen Phaeton, and a collection of items for VW's Individual division.

Since Britain's Connolly Leather is history, and other big names like Bridge of Weir and Poltrona Frau have decided to go mainstream and chase volume, Schedoni has quietly and progressively slipped into the role of the premier leather supplier to the automotive industry. "I don't quite see it that way," Simone objects. "For a start, we are a leather factory, not a tannery. And we don't have the workforce to satisfy big clients like Ferrari, which builds about 5000 cars a year. Instead, this is a highly specialized, small-unit operation. We can do two Paganis a month, and perhaps one Ferrari and one Lamborghini each. We can also do one-off projects like handmade cuoio-trimmed saddles for Ducati or a new interior for a luxury yacht manufacturer. But as soon as big numbers are involved, we're not really interested, because big numbers typically mean big up-front investments followed by the request for big discounts. For us, diversification is a much better policy. We have just created a new sports shoe line with Puma, we are expanding our own Schedoni luggage and accessories program, and we shall soon distribute our goods through thirty-five sales points worldwide."

Having said that, more than 80 percent of the $8.25 million that the company turned over in 2007 was automotive-related. This rate is unlikely to change much in the near future, when Simone, who took over from his father, Mauro, will start introducing his children and nephews to the business.

While the competition has begun to move its facilities to low-labor-cost countries such as Turkey and China, signore Schedoni insists on preserving the typical italianità that is so important to his clients from the car industry. In the wake of the leading Italian sports car makers, the VW Group could well become the leatherman's next major customer and may also enlist Schedoni as a consultant in craftsmanship. Rumor has it that Schedoni may do for Audi in terms of cowhide what Bang & Olufsen is achieving acoustically. "The secret lies in the right blend of high-end and low-profile," believes the bearded jack-of-all-leather-trades. "Schedoni is at its best where tradition and technology meet, where natural and man-made materials coexist in harmony. If this harmony has wheels and an engine, so much the better."

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