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“We dissected her closed-toe Louboutins and made them into open-toe,” he says. “She wore them to the Grammys or the Oscars. I can’t remember which.”
“We replicated his rhinestone belts from the ’70s. They were old and falling apart, so we made him new ones.” He also customized Jagger’s custom furry, black-pony-skin Adidas basketball shoes, replacing the plain rubber soles with thick, textured funky ones.
“They’re like an exclamation point on a shoe,” Fabrizio says, smiling at the memory.
It was a hush-hush meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel. A pair of bodyguards met him on the fourth floor. They escorted him to a room, where he waited to take the star’s measurements. Finally, Jagger walked in. “Now I can die and go to heaven,” sighed the cobbler.
First and foremost, Fabrizio is a solver of problems. His solutions are elegant. His workmanship immaculate. He’s like a trained assassin; once the deed is done, you’d never know he was even there.
But here’s a problem: If you are the only one that Bulgari trusts to repair its purses ... and Marc Jacobs sends lieutenants carrying cases of original hardware for you to sift through (14-karat-gold buttons, buckles, zippers and bobs and bits) ... and people everywhere, not just in Hollywood, but in the world, make you their go-to shoe guy (“Oh, my god, they know you in Paris!” exclaimed one of Fabrizio’s customers who had traveled there and needed a repair) ... when you have repaired the actual ruby slippers Dorothy wore to see the Wizard of Oz, which were delivered from the Smithsonian in an armored truck, with guards to watch over you as you refurbished the faded soles ... what is left?
As in Cinderella’s.
Fabrizio’s current obsession and ultra-top-secret project involves a pair of shoes he’s creating out of real glass, with titanium stiletto heels, inspired by a glass letter opener he bought the last time he was in Italy.
Some customers like to imagine that Fabrizio is descended from a long line of master Italian cobblers. That he learned his trade at the knee of great-great-grandfather Giuseppe, who learned from his grandfather, who apprenticed with the Keebler elves back in the Old Country. But Fabrizio grew up in Canada. And though he took over the repair side of a custom-shoe business from his uncle many years ago, his skills are his alone.
“The bars are full of losers,” he tells his kids. “Go out and do something. Take one thing and refine the hell out of it.”
Every so often, a philosophical mood strikes. “One thing that always fascinated me — and one day I’ll figure it out — is why the bottom of the shoe is called the sole. Our feet hold up our entire body on 26 small bones. It’s the only part of us that touches the world.”
Many times, Fabrizio wanted to pack it in. At the beginning, when he was newly arrived in California, customers were few and far between. “What the hell am I doing here?” was his primary thought. He saw a garbage-truck driver, happily whistling while he worked. “Maybe that’s what I should do,” Fabrizio thought, “go pick up garbage. But it wasn’t the garbage. He enjoyed what he did.”
Today, he stirs a cup of espresso at his newly opened café, adjacent to the repair shop. They had a coffeepot in the back at his old location, on Miracle Mile. For years, he and Lina said they’d open a café, where people could sip cappuccino or smoke a cigar with him while waiting for their shoes.
He could not have predicted his life would be enmeshed with shoes. “Maybe I was a transvestite in a previous life,” he speculates, “although we get some of those too. A guy came in with size-14 pink pumps.”
“They’re my girlfriend’s,” the guy said.
“She’s a big girl, huh?” said Fabrizio, teasing.
The shoes never lie.
Pasquale Shoe Repair and Café, 5616 San Vicente Blvd., (323) 936-6883.