The group from Civitanova Marche (Macerata), this year celebrating its 25th anniversary, is a market leader in safety footwear dedicated to the world of professionals, being able to guarantee total safety for all types of working conditions. Focus on the women’s line
Asuccess story that began in 1998, and which in a quarter of a century – a milestone that will be celebrated this year – has achieved impressive goals both in terms of production and turnover (exceeded the 30 million mark from 2021), but above all in terms of reliability and quality. We are talking about Exena of Civitanova Marche (Macerata), a market leader in work footwear dedicated to the world of professionals, in which it is able to guarantee performance, comfort and total safety for all types of working conditions.
Exena is the story of four entrepreneurs, experts in the safety footwear sector, who changed the way of thinking about professional footwear and introduced an aesthetic approach to a service product. The brand is the real image of a company specialising in the manufacture of technical footwear, characterised by a balanced mix of high product quality, innovation and flexibility. The originality of the project is based on three fundamental principles: to insert research and design into a type of product meant to be standard; to guarantee high quality and reliability through continuous innovation and control of every phase of production, from design to manufacture; to add customer service, flexibility and an excellent quality/price ratio.
For several years at the helm of the Marche group, is Alfio Cicchinè, whom we met in recent months to understand what the plans and prospects are for 2023 and the future of the Safeway line. It was he, during the meeting, who revealed to us, in great detail, what represents an absolutely innovative strategy in this sector, specifically the technique that does not involve the use of glue.
“We are aware of our market leadership,” Cicchinè begins, “which is recognised not only by customers and partners, but also by our competitors. We entered this sector because we consider safety in the work world to be fundamental, starting precisely with footwear, which we manufacture guaranteeing the greatest possible comfort, given that they are used for up to 10-12 hours a day. In reality, the winning aspect was another: since we were not the first to produce safety footwear, we decided that the only way to distinguish ourselves from everyone else was to produce a series of innovative products. One example is the ESSENCE line that we launched at the Paris trade fair in November, dedicated to women and made without glue: 100% our own invention, patented, we are the first ever. This technique has been certified by Cimac (Notified Body No. 0465 for the certification of personal protective equipment for over 30 years, ed.) which has recognised that our shoes are completely without glue, solvents and toxic substances. This is an absolute innovation in the Safety world, which is particularly interesting in these times when attention to the environment is a fundamental topic.”
What is the greatest potential of such a range?
“The fact that we are present on the Italian and international market with an innovative technique, developed and realised with the use of special machinery, that nobody can copy: specifically, it is an applied sole that, unlike other work footwear, is sewn invisibly. It is precisely this aspect that provides a major advantage for those who, like in our production departments, use them for intensive use typical of occupational footwear. Workers, with our products, have the security that their feet are not in contact with hazardous substances. A further special feature is that such a shoe can also be washed easily in the washing machine, as it is made of special materials: between washing and drying it takes less than an hour. On the contrary, a glued shoe cannot be put in the washing machine, with the rapid movement it would risk coming off and in any case being ruined or at best causing visible marks around the edge.”
What are the advantages you can claim from an environmental point of view?
“Exena shoes represent an absolutely sustainable product that in the future will be able to be made with a high percentage of recycled polyurethane. This was not an easy goal to achieve, which also required investment and a long time in the area of research and development, carried out in our laboratories. At the end of 2022, we began the production line, although still in an experimental phase. We are confident that we will achieve large numbers, however, in order to reach full capacity, all components must be in the right place. In the world of fashion there are indeed stitched shoes, but without the ‘invisible’ effect that our styles can provide.”
What are the most successful lines?
“Very popular is the Active Exena line, which has received great recognition in recent years. Our models will be increasingly high-performance, elegant and comfortable. As a Group, we have invested more than three million euros in machinery and new technologies between 2021 and 2022. The Government’s Industria 4.0 funding has enabled us to make important investments that will improve computerisation and company organisation.”
What operations have you implemented in this area?
“Over the two-year period 2021-2022, we have brought 30% of production to Italy. We believe it is fundamental, also from the image standpoint, to go back to our origins, even if we realise that we are going against the tide compared to everyone else. Once we have reached a level of quality like ours, it is useless to invest in various countries around the world, also because Italian shoe factories are appreciated and copied all over the world, starting from those of the historical Marche tradition. In the past, we too made choices linked to foreign countries, but then we came to the conclusion that if a product is made well and excels in quality, it can enter the ‘top’ bracket also in terms of price.”
So which choice have you made?
“With the numbers we are able to achieve, it is useless to compete with the giants in the sector; it is better to focus on ever-higher quality Made in Italy. Supporting us in this choice are small artisans working in workshops in the Macerata and Fermano areas. Recently the entrepreneur Diego Della Valle declared that the results of his success are mainly due to the merits of the artisans in the Fermo district, some of whom work for him and for us. We are left with the satisfaction of a product that is recognised and appreciated, and it is right in this sector to leave a trace of ourselves and be remembered for what we have done.”
What other models will you be focusing on in 2023 and in future years?
“The Safe Way is a collection dedicated to the world of safety footwear for the food, health, industrial washing and hotel sectors, which is also why we also focus a lot on aesthetics and style. Then there is the new product called Levity-X, an innovative and modern footwear that will conquer the markets. Another challenge of ours concerns the production of boots, a fast-growing market which, as part of our entrepreneurial strategies, we have decided to directly manufacture: we have purchased two large plants for the production of polyurethane boots and PVC boots in 2022.”
Exena’s headquarters in Civitanova Marche