Words by Elliot Jay Stocks | Photos by courtesy of Benincasa Milano | Published 12.14.18

If you’ve been reading our stories so far, you will have noticed that the majority of our interviews are with the founders behind the brands currently residing in the debut Neighborhood Goods store in Plano, TX. However, with so many amazing businesses coming in to do super-limited pop-up events, we thought it was time to delve into some of their stories, too. For our first, we speak to Maija Benincasa, the founder of Benincasa Milano, who’s in the store this weekend, showing off the company’s new collection of shoes, selling gift cards ahead of the holidays, and letting submit a Fit Kit for custom-made insoles.

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Before we read on, let’s make one thing clear: this is more than just another shoe brand. Founders and sisters Maija Benincasa and Anne Stockstill are trying to solve the age-old problem of high heels being uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. They’re doing this by putting insoles that are bespoke to each and every customer into their Italian-made high heels. The result is what they call a “hybrid custom” approach: you’re getting a shoe that has an insole that’ll fit you — quite literally — perfectly.

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“One of the biggest issues women face,” Maija describes, “is ball-of-foot pain. But our insoles get integrated into the heels, and they’re particular to that customer’s foot, to that shoe size, and that shoe style.” They can’t be removed by the customer, but they can be removed by the Benincasa team, and this is what allows the company to offer refunds and exchanges if the customer isn’t completely satisfied. This is also what allows the shoes to be created so quickly (usually two weeks) after they receive the customer’s foot impression from the Fit Kit: the shoes arrive from Italy almost finished, but without the insoles, which are then added by the Benincasa team in Dallas.

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Impressively, once Benincasa has a customer’s foot impression on file, that customer can then order any subsequent style without repeating the process. Maija says that they already have multiple repeat customers: “Some are ordering their 3rd, 4th, or even 5th pair,” she says.

The shoes themselves are made in Milan, based on designs by Maija. She hasn’t always a designer, however; in fact, she was working as a brand manager for Campbell’s Soup Company before deciding to ditch it all, and move to Italy to learn shoe design from the best. “Most of the famous luxury shoe designers are male and are very talented,” she explains, “but perhaps don’t have the same eye towards wearability, trying on the samples and so forth.” Maija studied at Ars Sutoria School in Milan, and one of her former tutors there has since helped play a vital role in helping her choose the factory, source the leather, and plug into the local supply chain. Back in Dallas, she developed the custom insole technology and, just prior to the launch of the brand’s website a year ago, was joined by her sister Anne to help run the tech and operations side of the company.

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For full details about Benincasa’s event, be sure to check out our events page. We hope to see you in the store today, tomorrow, or Sunday for a complimentary prosecco and a chat with the sisters.