The initial spark of an idea usually starts with a problem to be solved. Matthew Chevallard ’02 and his friends wanted bespoke velvet smoking slippers embroidered with the school logo to make a sartorial splash for their senior year at Lawrenceville School. When the cost of the market-leading Stubbs and Wootton slipper was too steep for three teenage boys, the idea for Del Toro Shoes began to take shape.
Matthew was born in Torino, Italy. He grew up traveling between homes in Italy and Palm Beach, where he absorbed the stylistic influences of high-quality Italian tailoring and a more relaxed Palm Beach pastel chic. While Matthew loved the idea of bringing options to the men’s luxury shoe market, his vision extended beyond replicating another brand’s product for less: he wanted to reimagine it. Del Toro shoes was named after the fans of Torino Calcio, the soccer team Matthew grew up cheering for in Italy. As a teenager with roots in two district cultures, he wanted to infuse a combination of Italian panache, Palm Beach cool, and a more youthful vibe into their fledgling slipper brand. The company’s first product was a velvet slipper, followed quickly by an updated driving shoe with marbleized dots. “It wasn’t that I wanted anything new; I just wanted to be less cookie cutter, less cliche,” says Matthew. “So I decided to infuse some Americana, some sneaker culture, some different elements into the brand, and that’s where we were able to form some identity.” Del Toro launched in 2005, with Matthew eventually taking over sole control. It quickly gained traction in stores and celebrity culture, with stars like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sporting the brand.
While Matthew’s sense of style may have predated his arrival at Fay in eighth grade, he spent two years as a boarding student honing it further. Matthew describes his younger self as an avid consumer enjoying a variety of brands and retail experiences. He paid attention to the fashion sense of his new friends from Korea. “They showed me what style was,” says Matthew. “They were very sartorial and elegant gentlemen.” The Fay Dress Code didn’t offer a lot of latitude for experimentation. Still, Matthew started to tap into his dapper Italian roots on weekend trips to Newbury Street, where he would spend his saved-up pocket money on a tie. By the end of ninth grade, he had earned “best dressed” honors in the yearbook. Matthew credits his experience at Fay and Lawrenceville with giving him the confidence to launch a brand at such a young age. “Boarding school taught me independence and self-sufficiency,” says Matthew, “and I left with the knowledge that I could do anything I put my mind to.”
Being a young entrepreneur gave Matthew a blank canvas with Del Toro’s designs. At a time when men wore a basic uniform of black or brown shoes, Del Toro unleashed a Crayola box of color and style options that the undersaturated luxury men’s footwear market was hungry for. With no preconceived notions of how things are done or the rules of the industry, Matthew’s designs flourished. However, Matthew acknowledges that he also didn’t have the experience to set up an infrastructure that could keep up with the pace of the brand’s growth, and in 2018 he sold his stake. “I’ve learned to leverage each opportunity into the next,” says Matthew. With almost twenty years of experience in the luxury footwear market under his belt, he has launched three new brands.
Matthew’s footwear brand Blu Scarpa could be seen as a reaction to his own earlier work. The market became oversaturated in the past fifteen years with options, collaborations, styles, and seasonal variations, and Matthew’s design sensibility has matured to appreciate curated simplicity. Blu Scarpa has only two shoes, a loafer, and a sneaker. Matthew describes the sensibility as, “I’m in my 30s, now, I’m not trying to look cool, I’m not trying to get attention, I just want a shoe that is well made, that serves a specific function and that allows me never to check a bag again.” His second brand, Concetto Limone, offers raffia loafers and mules that marry Italian styling with a distinctive beach vibe. His third brand Lenys was launched in partnership with a former editor at GQ magazine, and it marks Matthew’s first foray into the accessible footwear market. Lenys offers nongendered velvet slippers in a rich claret, sapphire blue, gold, and green that sell direct to consumers.
With three brands to manage and manufacturing and consulting work for other shoe brands, Matthew still finds inspiration in sneaker culture, art, food, and wine. However, he channels it into a more honed design sensibility. “I’m grateful never to feel stuck or stagnant,” he says, but now that I’m older, I’ve learned through experience to be more curated, efficient, and defined with my ideas.”