Sunday 28 June 2020

A message from the founders of Rancourt & Co.

These are unprecedented times and the economic downturn created by the pandemic has negatively impacted our business in many ways. In response, we have come up with a rare opportunity for our customers. Our best sellers are available at wholesale pricing through a crowdfunding model. We will collect orders until we reach the order threshold of approximately 150 pairs per style, then make your shoes in batches of 300. At this volume we can keep all of our valuable shoemakers employed and avoid devastating lay-offs which hurts the shoemaking heritage in our community. We are grateful for your support and hope you’ll use this opportunity to help our small family business continue it’s 52 year tradition while acquiring a pair of handmade shoes worth waiting for. Shoes ordered here will ship in approximately 8-12 weeks if the order goal is met. If this timeline does not work for you, you can order from our regular categories at full price for the earliest delivery.



An Interview with Rancourt & Co.

We sat down with Rancourt & Co. owner Kyle Rancourt to get his thoughts on his first boots, his favorite thing about Maine, and more
 Kyle Rancourt

March 16, 2020
Will Porter

If you know us, you know we are a bit obsessed with Maine, with good reason. We have a bunch of Mainers on staff here at Huckberry who seem to always look back with admiration, whether it is the amazing scenery, an unexpected surf community, or the haunting sites of a Stephen King novel. One of our favorite Maine mainstays is Rancourt & Co., makers of some of the best sneakers and boots you can find, all handcrafted and built for the long haul. A few years back, we got a behind-the-scenes look at their operation in Maine and we are back with an interview with the founder, Kyle Rancourt, in honor of our new exclusive, the Acadia Chukka.

What was your first pair of boots?

My first pair of boots I can remember were these beautiful Chelsea Boots made by an Italian shoemaker. They were hand-finished and burnished much like we do with our mimosa calf dress shoes. At the time, my dad was in charge of product development and design at Allen-Edmonds and he designed these boots for them. My first pair of boots at Rancourt & Co. was a boat-boot. At the time (circa 2010) American heritage style was all the rage and boat boots became a thing. I think they were navy suede with a white deck sole. A bit regrettable style-wise but hindsight is 20/20.

What shoes are you wearing right now?

The Bennett Trainer in Gray.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when designing new products?

So many places. A big part of it is utilitarian—comfort, versatility, classic styling. I also design footwear based on materials that inspire me. I'll find an outsole or an upper leather that I love then design footwear that works with those materials. Lastly, I do look around a bit at what some other industry leaders/brands I admire are doing and also take into consideration what our customers want or are asking for.

Rancourt's designs have really started to evolve and grow over the last few years. Can you tell us about how you maintain and balance classic style but continue to innovate with new, more modern styles like the Carson sneaker and Bennett trainer?

Yeah, I think that's true. It's definitely been an intentional shift as I don't believe we can grow and thrive in the long term but sticking just to the classics. However, I come at product development always from the classic or traditional perspective. The Carson and Bennett sneakers certainly aren't unique to us but our twist on them is what elevates them and makes them different. I've always loved the Vans Authentic so I said "How can we make this better and a "Rancourt" shoe?" We use Horween leather, Vibram soles and put a molded foam footbed in it so it's even more comfortable. The Bennett is another example - we took a really traditional runner silhouette and used high-quality leather for the uppers then put Lactae Hevea soles on the bottom. There are very few shoemakers using LH soles so that alone sets us apart while retaining the Rancourt DNA. I also really try not to over-design things. I like minimal design and a small color palette because our signature shoes are so traditional and simple I think everything else we do has to fit that mold as well.

Tell us about the unique style of the Acadia chukka - where does it take inspiration from?

The Acadia Chukka comes from an old pattern we had in our archives that I️ changed up a little bit. Since you can’t get crepe soles made in America anymore I️ sourced the “caliber” sole from one of our American sole manufacturers. It’s mean to replicate the classic crepe wedge-style sole. I️ think it’s really versatile - it can be worn year round and while it’s tough and durable it doesn’t need much breaking in. It’ll be super comfortable right out of the box.

White sneakers - dirty or clean?

Clean. One of the benefits of owning a shoe company is when my white sneakers get dirty I can just take a new pair.

We know our Rancourt's are going to last for the long run. But any boot care tips to help?

Two things that are super easy - get a good horsehair brush and brush them regularly, like every time you wear them or if they've been sitting around for a few weeks. It cleans them up gives them a shine if they are made from a "blooming" leather, like chromexcel, while also keeping particles from working their way into the break of the leather and degrading it. The second thing is to use cedar shoe trees in your boots when you're not wearing them. They will help keep the odor down and help retain the shape of the leather over time.

Best thing in Maine that you can't get anywhere else?

The landscape. Maine has the best of everything - big mountains, green forests, and beautiful beaches. In two hours or less, you can be in the backcountry on a mountain with no cell service and two hours in the other direction you can be in Boston or five hours to NYC. Portland, Maine is also a wonderful small city. I wouldn't give it up for anything.

Friday 26 June 2020

The trampling of Venice shows why tourism must change after Covid-19 / Venice, an Odyssey: Hope and Anger in the Iconic City by Neal E Robbins

The trampling of Venice shows why tourism must change after Covid-19
Neal E Robbins

Coronavirus has given hotspots like the besieged Italian port breathing space – and a vision of a new, greener kind of tourism

‘Venice’s residents want a ban on outsized cruise ships, and improved treatment of the lagoon that is vital to the city’s life.’

Published onFri 19 Jun 2020 15.05 BST

Before Covid-19, the tourist industry was the largest employer by sector on the planet, giving work to one in every 11 people. And when the emergency ends, it will surely resurge – but should it return in the way it was before? Maybe now, finally, is a good time to rethink what tourism should be.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the number of global tourists was predicted to balloon to 1.8 billion international arrivals a year by 2030. In 1950 that number was at 25 million. That huge increase cuts two ways. Tourism supports jobs, often bringing vital economic sustenance to historic or remote places. But over-tourism has a clear downside for the frailest destinations, like Machu Picchu in Peru, for many historic city centres, like New Orleans or Dubrovnik, and for the location I know best, Venice. There, 30 million annual visitors exert enormous demands on the residents, the heritage and the environment, changing tourism into a corrosive force.

In the years just before the coronavirus outbreak I spent months in the city of canals and culture interviewing Venetians about their lives. Invariably, the first thing they wanted to tell me about was the effects of mass tourism; how, since the 1990s, it has pushed out residents; how streets and squares can become dangerously overcrowded; how it has pushed up housing costs and destroyed local shops that now all cater to sandwich-eating, souvenir-buying tourists and little else; how it allows overweening sightseers to invade weddings, baptisms and funerals at its religious places. The social ties Venice once enjoyed, its rhythm of life, even the vibrant artisanal trades, are now almost a thing of the past.

On top of all that, the millions of tourists coming to Venice put pressure on the environment by generating mountains of refuse, through the heavy use of the vaporetti water ferries and taxis, by over-stressing ancient buildings, and with the moisture in their collective breath on artworks. The hundreds of visits from floating resorts – massive cruise ships each with up to 4,000 passengers – add to air pollution and cause erosion of the area’s sensitive lagoon environment.

The population of Venice, more than 170,000 after the second world war, has dropped steadily to some 52,000 today. Remaining residents still feel fortunate to live in a city of such beauty, many believing their culture survives despite the onslaught, but they also grieve at the losses, lose heart, and move away at a rate of 1,000 a year to homes on the mainland. A Venice without Venetians – without significant numbers of permanent residents – is predicted for as early as 2030.

It is no exaggeration to say that mass tourism – adding to Venice’s existing issues with mismanagement of the environment, corruption, political stasis and now the climate emergency – is bringing the community, the lagoon and a fabulous heritage to within a hair’s breadth of collapse.

Tourism was a fairly benign source of livelihood for Venice until the world itself took a step-change some 30 years ago, when a new economics helped bring on cheap air travel, faster communications and an accelerated globalisation. When management of the city was handed over to the market with few controls, Venice was turned into an asset for stripping. Regional changes to Italian laws in the 1990s unleashed rampant property trading that deepened the effects of mass tourism.

Yet Venetians believe that they can still save Venice, and many are fighting for it and demanding that politicians do more. They want them to manage tourist numbers and pass new laws to govern property sales and rentals and put an end to the Airbnb-led free-for-all that is pushing residents out. They call for a focus on long-term accommodation at sustainable costs and more jobs through economic diversification. They want more environmental measures, especially a ban on outsized cruise ships, and improved treatment of the lagoon that is vital to Venice’s life.

This has come into sharp focus in the months-long Covid-19 breathing space, when the sudden emptying of the city restored a lost tranquility, along with fish, swans and cormorants to canals no longer churned by excessive traffic. Most of all, it ignited the hope that this difficult moment for the world could eventually offer a turning point.

The need in Venice, and in so many other destinations, is for a new tourism, one that also benefits residents – not one organised around speculators, landlords, and traveller’s demands. We visitors must see tourism less as an unquestionable entitlement and more as a part of our responsibility to sustain life on Earth. This must ultimately include limiting tourist numbers.

Tourism after coronavirus requires a new mindset. Maybe we can’t visit places so casually; maybe we will need to sacrifice the freedom to drop in at any time and go anywhere as fast as we can or by whatever means suits us. We need to accept life – and visiting – at a slower pace.

Beyond that we need to end our passivity as tourists and see destinations as people’s homes, not just attractions. We should acquaint ourselves with local conditions and be ready to refrain from travelling if authorities listen only to monied interests and fail to foster local livelihoods and protect the local environment. Greener attitudes will help fragile destinations to live on – and allow masterpieces such as Venice to survive for generations to come.

• Neal E Robbins is the author of Venice, an Odyssey: Hope and Anger in the Iconic City, out in July

An evocative and fascinating portrait of Venice, Italy-the ultimate city where there are stories on every street and in every doorway, nook and cranny.

What is it about Venice? The city empowers creativity, and is a place of art, artisans, and artistry, with a rich cultural and intellectual history. It's also been facing major challenges-including a fragile ecosystem, significant depopulation and political volatility-leading to fears that the city will become an inauthentic museum for tourists.

Neal Robbins examines this Italian city, reflecting on the changes he has seen since he first encountered it in the late 1970s-living with a Venetian family while he was a high school student-to quite recently, when, after nearly 50 years and a career as international journalist, he returned to see how the city has endured and changed.

Drawing on his journalism background, Robbins brings deep research, curiosity, and keen insights to his personal experiences of the city, delivering a multi-dimensional profile of this enchanting place. Taking the reader down the city's streets, into its churches and cafes, and onboard boats traveling through its canals and out into its vital lagoon, Robbins shares the city's history, symbols, politics, and struggles, as well as its sounds, smells, animals, and many of its remarkable denizens. He draws upon exclusive interviews with Venetians from all walks of life-artisans, historians, a bank employee, authors, parents, a psychologist, an oceanographer, a funeral director, a nobleman and a former pop star-to share multiple personal interpretations of Venice as it was, as it is and what it can be.

Readers will come away with a rich understanding and appreciation of Venice's history and culture, the challenges it faces, and what it shows us all about the future.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Luxury Retailer Paul Stuart Reopens Boutiques in Three Cities / History of Paul Stuart / VIDEO:Ralph Auriemma presents Phineas Cole Sahara Collection

Luxury Retailer Paul Stuart Reopens Boutiques in Three Cities

NEW YORK, June 22, 2020 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- Known for its outstanding tailored clothing and sportswear collections for men and women, Paul Stuart is thrilled to announce the reopening of their retail stores in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Closed since March due to COVID - 19, the stores and everything inside of them have been completely sanitized in preparation for the store's reopening. Paul Stuart, committed to the highest standards of cleanliness and disinfection, will have protective materials available to all customers who visit our pristine stores. While the doors are open, sales personnel will continue to assist shoppers who are not able to visit in person with phone orders, storefront pickup, free shipping, and hand delivery to a customer's address.

Paulette Garafalo, CEO of Paul Stuart says, "We couldn't be happier to make this long-awaited announcement. After closing our stores in March, we are thrilled to finally be welcoming our many customers back with new summer styles for men and women that we are confident will inspire. Paul Stuart has emerged from this crisis with a renewed mission to provide the ultimate in luxury clothing and service to consumers both in person and on our eCommerce website."

For summer, Paul Stuart has everything a well-dressed gentleman needs for his travels from the boardroom to the beach. The customLAB offers extraordinary Made to Measure tailored clothing, shirts & ties in a new presentation boutique on the main floor of the New York store. For women, Paul Stuart is excited to announce the launch of the Paul Stuart Advance collection exclusively in the New York store. New styles include Italian silk skirts and blouses, lightweight wool sweaters, and a new Moto style leather jacket. Men's footwear this season completes the look with elegant suede espadrilles, classic bucks, and traditional loafers.

Paul Stuart is one of the last remaining clothing retailers of its kind and has an important position in the history of American fashion. Over the last 80 years of its existence, the company has survived many difficulties in our nation's history including wars and financial disruptions. As the company looks ahead to the future, they are more confident than ever that with their talented team of designers and their loyal customers, the brand will endure and thrive. Garafalo says, "We look forward once again, to welcoming everyone back to Paul Stuart."

About Paul Stuart:
Headquartered in New York City, Paul Stuart, Inc. was founded by Ralph Ostrove and named for his son Paul Stuart Ostrove. The store has remained in its original location since opening in 1938. The company designs exclusive collections of men's and women's tailored clothing, sportswear, footwear, and accessories.

Additional Paul Stuart locations can be found in Chicago on East Oak Street and in Washington, D.C.'s CityCenter. The company operates additional stores in more than 50 locations throughout Japan. Paul Stuart is privately held by Mitsui & Co., LTD company of Japan.

SOURCE Paul Stuart

Paul Stuart is a men's and women's clothing brand founded in 1938 in New York City by haberdasher Ralph Ostrove, who named the company after his son, Paul Stuart Ostrove. The company has four standalone boutiques in the US, and two in Japan. Since 2012 it has been owned by Mitsui. The Paul Stuart logo is Dink Stover sitting on the Yale fence. Paul Stuart has been described as a blend of “Savile Row, Connecticut living and the concrete canyons of New York.” Its creative director is Ralph Auriemma.

The company was helmed by the legendary merchant and CEO Clifford Grodd from 1958 until his death in 2010. The retailer remained a privately-held family business until December 2012, when it was sold to its long-time Japanese partners, Mitsui.

In fall 2007, Paul Stuart launched its Phineas Cole range, which is clothing with a slimmer silhouette. Paulette Garafalo, formerly of Brooks Brothers and Hickey Freeman, became CEO of Paul Stuart on June 14, 2016, marking the first time someone unrelated to the Ostrove family led the company. In 2019 the company began offering a lower-priced made-to-measure service branded as customLAB, and a luxury MTM jeans service branded as denimBAR. In 2019 the company celebrated the redesign of its omnichannel e-commerce website with home delivery via vintage Packard automobile.

September 3, 1981 NEW YORK TIMES

Ralph Ostrove, founder and chairman of the board of Paul Stuart Inc., the men's clothing store at Madison Avenue and 45th Street, died Tuesday at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, L.I., after a brief illness. He was 83 years old and lived in Flushing, Queens.

As the son of a leading retailer of men's clothing in New York, he made the Paul Stuart store one of the city's most popular outlets for men's clothing in what is regarded as the subdued classic or understated traditional style.

Mr. Ostrove was the son of Harry Ostrove, who founded the Broadstreet's chain of stores, which were discontinued several years ago. Ralph Ostrove, who eventually became president of Broadstreet's, left the company in 1937. In 1938 he founded Paul Stuart Inc., named for his son, Paul Stuart Ostrove, who is now vice president of the company.

In addition to his son, who lives in Roslyn, L.I., Mr. Ostrove is survived by his wife, Jean; a daughter, Barbara Grodd of Rye, N.Y.; a sister, Ruth Meltsner of Flushing, and five grandchildren.

Cliff Grodd, Paul Stuart Legend, Dies of Cancer

Clifford Grodd, the driving force and ceo of Paul Stuart, died after a long battle with cancer.

By Jean E. Palmieri and David Lipke and Brenner Thomas on May 26, 2010

Clifford Grodd, the driving force and chief executive officer of Paul Stuart who ran the upscale specialty store for nearly 60 years, died Tuesday at his New York City home after a long battle with cancer. He was 86.

Due to his illness, Grodd, a men’s wear icon and top-notch merchant, had been unable to come to the store for the past 18 months, but nevertheless called in several times a day to check on the business.

This story first appeared in the May 26, 2010 issue of WWD.

In his honor, the store will be closed Thursday, the day memorial services are scheduled to be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home at Madison Avenue and 81st Street in Manhattan.

“We will close for the day in respect for his memory and great contribution to the industry,” said Sandy Neiman, Paul Stuart’s director of marketing.

Born in New Haven, Conn., and educated at the University of Connecticut, Grodd served as an Air Force gunner during World War II and was shot down over Hungary, captured and put into solitary confinement by the Germans. At the end of the war, he was awarded a Purple Heart.

Paul Stuart, a 60,000-square-foot fixture on Madison Avenue and 45th Street, was founded by Ralph Ostrove and his cousin Norman in 1938. Ralph Ostrove named the store after his son, Paul Stuart Ostrove. Grodd, who had completed an executive training program at the G. Fox department store in Hartford, Conn., joined Paul Stuart circa 1951 after marrying Ostrove’s daughter, Barbara.

Ostrove was in declining health and wanted to retire, so he asked Grodd to buy out his share of the company, which he did. The Paul Stuart logo features a fictional character sitting on a fence at Yale, according to Grodd’s account.

Grodd once described his aesthetic to DNR, WWD’s former sibling publication, this way: “We’ve constantly striven to be as upscale as possible within the milieu of our particular type of clothing, which is quite cosmopolitan in image. It’s still soft and not exaggerated, easy to wear, hopefully subtle, understated and flattering.”

Paul Stuart became known for its adherence to a soft shoulder look in tailoring. The company claimed to be the first American retailer to bring side vents to the States, as well as the three-button suit.

All of the merchandise at Paul Stuart bears the retailer’s brand. The company designs its own product and also alters other product it buys in the market to tailor it to the Paul Stuart aesthetic. Earlier in its life, the store carried outside brands, such as Gant, Corbin and Southwick, but Grodd believed Paul Stuart could distinguish itself from competitors by offering its own branded merchandise.

“I wasn’t interested in competing with designers or brands who put their names in other places. I felt that if we didn’t know our customer better than someone sitting 1,000 miles away, then we didn’t belong in the same business,” he said.

A Chicago store, which opened in 1995, now occupies a town house on East Oak Street. The company also operates licensed units in Japan and South Korea.

“I’ve known Cliff my entire career. He was instrumental to building one of the most respected brands. He was a great leader in our industry, an incredible person and a true friend,” said Ralph Lauren.

Over the years, Grodd helped dress celebrities including Cary Grant (“I had to personally take care of him at the Plaza,” said Grodd), Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman (“when he lived in Fresh Meadows”), Mel Brooks, David McCullough, David Halberstam and Philip Roth. “They look good because they’re comfortable and distinguished. And it’s natural, not staid,” noted Grodd.

He was known to exercise regularly early in the morning at the Yale Club and be among the first to arrive at work at the store, striding into his second-floor office. His exacting standards led employees to joke at times that “Grodd is in the details.”

In 2007, Grodd introduced a younger label to his stores, called Phineas Cole. Meant to appeal to a more trend-conscious consumer in his 30s, it was the company’s first subbrand and was based on the fictitious “errant nephew” of Paul Stuart, according to Grodd.

“We’re all saddened by his death,” Neiman said. “The man was a master retailer. He was a great inspiration and a leader in men’s wear and the business.”

Neiman stressed that since Grodd’s illness, Michael Ostrove, senior vice president, had been running the business on a daily basis. He will now be elevated to president and will continue to run the store.

The industry mourned Grodd’s passing, recalling him as a tough, determined retailer — one who understood his customer but stuck to his convictions. Famously, Grodd retained the store’s private label focus and refused to let designer names eclipse the prestige of Paul Stuart even after men’s wear became a brand-oriented business.

“His legacy is that you can operate a business and stick to your principles,” Wilkes Bashford said. “He stuck to his guns no matter what was happening in the business.”

“He was very independent,” said Jack Mitchell. “He constantly wanted to improve his own label.”

Others view Grodd’s legacy in his aesthetic. “If he saw a fabric or silhouette he liked, he went with it strong. There was never any halfway,” said designer Joseph Abboud, who met Grodd when he was a young man working for Louis Boston. “He always told me, ‘Joey, you’ll be a good designer because you worked retail.’ He knew that, for a designer, the retail floor is where the battle is won and lost.”

Bill Roberti, former ceo of Brooks Brothers and now with Alvarez & Marsal, said, “Cliff was a consummate gentleman. He had wonderful vision and great style. He was a true icon in the men’s business and will surely be sorely missed by his employees and customers.”

Landing Paul Stuart continued to be a prestigious account for the vendor community. “For that Wall Street elegant guy, that store was among the best,” said Arnold Silverstone, president of Samuelsohn, which makes private label tailored clothing for the retailer. “Selling to them was and is a big deal for a vendor.”

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Experts call for regulation after latest botched art restoration in Spain

Original painting and two travesties
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s original work (left) and two attempts at restoring it.

Botched restoration of an Elias Garcia Martinez fresco on the walls of the Santuario de Misericordia de Borja church in Zaragoza, Spain. Photograph: Centro de Estudios Borjanos/EPA

Experts call for regulation after latest botched art restoration in Spain

Immaculate Conception painting by Murillo reportedly cleaned by furniture restorer

Sam Jones in Madrid
Published onMon 22 Jun 2020 19.30 BST

Conservation experts in Spain have called for a tightening of the laws covering restoration work after a copy of a famous painting by the baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo became the latest in a long line of artworks to suffer a damaging and disfiguring repair.

A private art collector in Valencia was reportedly charged €1,200 by a furniture restorer to have the picture of the Immaculate Conception cleaned. However, the job did not go as planned and the face of the Virgin Mary was left unrecognisable despite two attempts to restore it to its original state.

The case has inevitably resulted in comparisons with the infamous “Monkey Christ” incident eight years ago, when a devout parishioner’s attempt to restore a painting of the scourged Christ on the wall of a church on the outskirts of the north-eastern Spanish town of Borja made headlines around the world.

Parallels have also been drawn with the botched restoration of a 16th-century polychrome statue of Saint George and the dragon in northern Spain that left the warrior saint resembling Tintin or a Playmobil figure.

Fernando Carrera, a professor at the Galician School for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, said such cases highlighted the need for work to be carried out only by properly trained restorers.

“I don’t think this guy – or these people – should be referred to as restorers,” Carrera told the Guardian. “Let’s be honest: they’re bodgers who botch things up. They destroy things.”

Carrera, a former president of Spain’s Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators (Acre), said the law currently allowed people to engage in restoration projects even if they lacked the necessary skills. “Can you imagine just anyone being allowed to operate on other people? Or someone being allowed to sell medicine without a pharmacist’s licence? Or someone who’s not an architect being allowed to put up a building?”

While restorers were “far less important than doctors”, he added, the sector sill needed to be strictly regulated for the sake of Spain’s cultural history. “We see this kind of thing time and time again and yet it keeps on happening.

“Paradoxically, it shows just how important professional restorers are. We need to invest in our heritage, but even before we talk about money, we need to make sure that the people who undertake this kind of work have been trained in it.”

María Borja, one of Acre’s vice-presidents, also said incidents such as the Murillo mishap were “unfortunately far more common than you might think”. Speaking to Europa Press, which broke news of the Murillo repair, she added: “We only find out about them when people report them to the press or on social media, but there are numerous situation when works are undertaken by people who aren’t trained.”

Non-professional interventions, Borja added, “mean that artworks suffer and the damage can be irreversible”.

Carrera said Spain had a huge amount of cultural and historical heritage because of all the different groups that have passed through the country over the centuries, leaving behind their marks and monuments.

Another part of the problem, he added, was that “some politicians just don’t give a toss about heritage”, meaning that Spain did not have the financial resources to safeguard all the treasures of its past. “We need to focus society’s attention on this so that it chooses representatives who put heritage on the agenda,” he said.

“It doesn’t have to be at the very top because it’s obviously not like healthcare or employment – there are many more important things. But this is our history.”

Sunday 21 June 2020

ALDEN SHOES / Alden Shoe Co. lawsuits allege former CFO funneled millions in embezzled money to Bianca de la Garza

Alden Shoe Co. lawsuits allege former CFO funneled millions in embezzled money to Bianca de la Garza

By Janelle Nanos Globe Staff,Updated June 15, 2020, 1:36 p.m.

The local television star and fashion influencer Bianca de la Garza’s Lucky Gal Productions may have seen its luck run out.

Alden Shoe Co., a family-owned footwear maker in Middleborough, has filed a civil lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court alleging that its former vice president and chief financial officer, Richard Hajjar, embezzled $27 million from the company and funneled $15 million of it into the TV and fashion businesses of de la Garza, a former news anchor who runs a beauty business under the name BDG Enterprises. Bianca, Lucky Gal, and BDG were all named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The company also sued Hajjar in Plymouth Superior Court to recover the $27 million, allegedly stolen from 2011 to 2019.

According to the court filings, Hajjar bought a $1.1 million New York City co-op apartment for de la Garza using money stolen from the company and purchased other extravagant gifts, including a Mercedes-Benz, diamond jewelry, and designer handbags and clothing. The court has approved the company’s seizure of Hajjar’s assets held in seven banks and financial services companies, excluding his pension.

No criminal charges have been filed.

De la Garza, Hajjar, and attorneys for Alden Shoe had not as of Monday evening responded to e-mails and phone messages from the Globe seeking comment.

De la Garza, a Milton native and Emerson College graduate, was a longtime host and news anchor at WCVB-TV (Channel 5) before starting her own media company in 2014.

The court documents indicate that Alden, a New England footwear stalwart founded in 1884, hired Hajjar in 1987. According to the filings, Hajjar’s father had been the CPA for the father of the company’s current president, Arthur S. Tarlow Jr., and Hajjar’s two brothers worked for the company. Trust ran deep between the two families.

Hajjar, a “trusted advisor” to the Tarlow family, eventually rose to vice president and corporate secretary, a member of the board of directors, and chief financial officer. Until he was dismissed in 2019, Hajjar was handling “most day-to-day financial matters at Alden," a filing states.

According to the documents, Hajjar’s relationship with de la Garza began around 2012, while she was an anchor at WCVB. The two became friends and vacationed together, and Hajjar lavished gifts on her worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to the documents.

Only in October 2019 did the company learn that Hajjar’s opulent offerings had been paid for with money embezzled from the company’s bank accounts, a filing states. After a forensic accounting investigation, the company concluded that Hajjar had stolen $27 million since 2011.

The alleged theft came to light after Tarlow, the company’s president, approached Hajjar about moving funds from a company bank account into family trusts. At the time, the company account should have had more than $10 million in it, the filings state, but Hajjar dodged the request and “after repeated delays and follow-up requests” assured Tarlow the funds would be wired between the accounts.

Then Hajjar stopped showing up for work. He told Tarlow, by text message, that he wasn’t feeling well.

When the wire transfer didn’t go through, Hajjar allegedly stopped responding to Tarlow’s texts.

Tarlow immediately went to his Santander bank branch, where he learned $10 million in retained earnings was missing from the account, the filing alleges.

Soon after, Tarlow realized that Hajjar had, without his knowledge or authorization, “opened and completely drawn down a line of credit” worth $8 million at Bank of America, the documents say.

In all, the forensic review found that Hajjar took $27 million from Alden’s bank accounts, including $3.7 million that he took by writing out checks to himself, the filings allege.

In several instances, Hajjar allegedly transferred tens of millions of dollars from the company’s active bank accounts into another trust account that the company owned, but which was dormant. Hajjar had himself named a trustee of that account, then used it to transfer at least $24 million, using those funds to secretly “write more checks to himself and pay exorbitant personal credit card bills,” according to the court documents.

The filing also alleges that $15 million was funneled through that dormant account to de la Garza and her company Lucky Gal Productions, including over $1.6 million transferred directly to de la Garza’s personal bank accounts from 2015 to 2019. And in 2016, Hajjar used stolen funds to pay for both the deposit and closing costs on de la Garza’s New York City co-op, court documents allege.

Hajjar’s company-funded gifts to de la Garza, the filings state, included “a Mercedes-Benz, a $60,000 diamond bracelet, a $158,000 diamond ring, diamond earrings, designer handbags, designer clothing, and other luxury goods.”

He also gave his personal American Express card to a personal shopper at Neiman Marcus, where de la Garza “freely purchased” hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise each month, the filing alleges, and Hajjar paid off those credit card bills using money from Alden.

But Hajjar didn’t stop at lavishing gifts on de la Garza; he also allegedly transferred at least $11.5 million directly into the bank accounts for Lucky Gal Productions.

The couple signed paperwork establishing a “Production Financing Agreement” in 2014, the year de la Garza left her job as an anchor at WCVB’s “EyeOpener." According to the agreement, Hajjar committed to paying at least $3.3 million for the production of a new series but “when or even whether” he could recover the money was up to the “sole control and discretion of Lucky Gal,” the filing states.

In a 2018 interview in Forbes, de la Garza discussed her decision to leave the anchor desk and start Lucky Gal Productions. “So, I went ahead, and I started my company . . . and I launched a show," she said. "I raised all the money, got all the distribution.”

De la Garza’s late-night show, “Bianca Unanchored,” launched in January 2015, eventually got national distribution, airing on seven CBS-owned stations in major markets such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Baltimore. The show went off the air in January of the following year.

The filing alleges that Lucky Gal had “few or no assets” at the time the production agreement was signed and “did not generate a profit" during the airing of de la Garza’s series.

“Mr. Hajjar has never recouped or recovered any of the money that he transferred to Lucky Gal,” the court documents state, and alleges that “[s]ince its foundation, Lucky Gal has never been profitable.”

But Hajjar committed additional millions of dollars to help keep Lucky Gal productions afloat and, in all, transferred at least $12.3 million to Lucky Gal and its beneficiaries from 2015 to 2019, the documents state.

Attorneys for the footwear company filed a letter in November demanding that de la Garza immediately return all of the allegedly misappropriated funds. They estimated she had received more than $2.7 million in 2019 alone, including a $230,000 wire transfer in October, the month Hajjar stopped responding to Tarlow’s texts.

According to the court filings, de la Garza’s attorney responded to the letter, saying that she would place all remaining funds from Hajjar into a client trust account. But she has yet to return any funds.

In the suit against Hajjar, Alden’s attorneys said he had expressed a willingness to cooperate and had “never denied” that he had stolen millions. But Hajjar has returned less than $3 million in assets to the company, transferring back $214,000 in cash, approximately $20,000 in jewelry, $195,000 through the sale of gold coins, and $175,000 from the sale of vehicles, according to the filings. And Hajjar is willing to pay back an additional “$100,000 from the further sale of gold coins."

Mark Shanahan and John Ellement of the Globe staff contributed reporting.

Richard Hajjar and Bianca de la Garza

Bianca de la Garza is firing back — at the media

Facing a $15 million lawsuit, the former WCVB anchor has hired a lawyer known for representing President Donald Trump and threatening to sue news outlets.

By Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Staff
updated on June 19, 2020

Facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit, Bianca de la Garza is getting some help from a high-powered lawyer known for representing President Donald Trump and suing the website Gawker out of existence.

Charles Harder, the well-known media lawyer representing de la Garza and her companies, sent letters Wednesday threatening to sue at least two media outlets for purportedly misstating aspects of the lawsuit against the former WCVB anchor.

Alden Shoe Company is suing de la Garza for $15 million that lawyers say was stolen from the longtime Massachusetts-based company by its former chief financial officer, who was friends with and developed a romantic interest in the TV host. The civil lawsuit — which says much of the money was used to lavish de la Garza with gifts and fund her short-lived late-night show — was filed earlier this month in Suffolk County Superior Court and first reported on publicly this week.

Harder’s letters do not address the central premise of the lawsuit.

However, they do take issue with several “false and defamatory statements” in at least two articles about the suit and demand a correction and apology from the San Francisco Chronicle and Esquire, “among other publications,” according to an email from Harder late Wednesday night. Boston Globe Media Partners, which includes, received a similar letter regarding an article that ran in The Boston Globe.

In the letters, Harder takes issues with statements — both in an Associated Press article published by the Chronicle and a short Esquire blog post — that suggest de la Garza engaged in criminal embezzlement.

While the lawsuit says that de la Garza ““knew or should have known” that the funds she received from former Alden CFO Richard Hajjar were stolen, no criminal charges have been filed. Alden is also separately suing Hajjar to recover $27 million in allegedly stolen funds in Plymouth County Superior Court.

Harder’s letter to the Esquire also disputes the notion that de la Garza was “in a relationship” with Hajjar, as was written in the post.

“They are not and have never been in a romantic relationship of any kind,” Harder wrote.

And the letter disputes the notion that Hajjar “funneled” any of the $15 million into de la Garza’s beauty product business, BDG Beauty.

“BDG received no such funds,” Harder wrote.

According to the lawsuit, most of the money went to de la Garza’s production company, Lucky Gal. However, the lawsuit also says that she “commingled” the assets of Lucky Gal with her personal assets and other business pursuits, including BDG Beauty. As of Thursday afternoon, Harder had yet to respond to an email asking whether his team disputes the latter claim.

He also did not immediately say how many “other publications” were sent letters Wednesday, which threaten potential legal action if the “complete fabrications” are not corrected by Thursday night. It also demanded an apology for each of the highlighted statements within the same 24-hour timespan.

“Failure to do so will leave our clients with no alternative but to consider instituting immediate legal proceedings against you,” the letters say. “Should that occur, my clients would pursue all available causes of action and seek all available legal remedies to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

Representatives for Hearst, which owns both the Chronicle and Esquire, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Harder, whose office is based in Los Angeles, has made a name for himself threatening to sue media outlets — and, at times, doing so successfully. In 2016, he won a high-profile invasion of privacy case that led to the bankruptcy of Gawker Media and the demise of its flagship website. Harder has since represented Trump and his campaign in a variety of lawsuits, both real and threatened, against major news organizations — as well as against the porn actress known as Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with the president.

According to public records, the Trump campaign has paid Harder’s firm nearly $2.9 million this election cycle


The Alden Shoe Company was founded in 1884 by Charles H. Alden in Middleborough, Massachusetts.

It is difficult to imagine just how active and important the shoe industry was in Massachusetts so long ago. Early New England shoemaking was a trade based upon one craftsman making a pair a day in one room cottages (called "ten footers"). Beginning in 1850 a series of inventions led to mechanized stitching and lasting operations and the birth of New England shoe industry followed rapidly. The productivity gains over the traditional shoemaker were on the order of 500 - 700%, yet the new methods also led to an extraordinary improvement in both quality and consistency. The explosive growth of the shoe industry in eastern Massachusetts at the turn of the century was impressive. Numerous companies were being started, and demand soared as product made its way west and south on newly expanded rail routes. Charles Alden's factory prospered, adding children's shoes to their offering of men's shoes and custom boots.

By 1933, at Charles Alden's retirement, operations moved to Brockton, Massachusetts and joined with the Old Colony factory. The Great Depression took a toll on countless shoe companies in New England. Although production demand increased during World War II, by the late 40's renewed consumer demand had fueled the search for manufacturing regions offering lower labor costs. Over the remainder of the century attrition would take hold as manufacturers looked farther and farther away in search of low cost labor and materials to meet the insatiable demand in the U.S.A. for low cost, mass-market consumer footwear.   

Most of the companies who remained in New England could not compete in the demanding post-war economy. Yet Alden prospered by relying not on lower quality mass-markets but on high quality dress shoes, and excelling in specialties such as orthopedic and medical footwear. It was a period of growth and intensive development at Alden, especially in the design of comfortable, orthopedically correct lasts. In 1970 a new factory was constructed in Middleborough, Massachusetts where production continues today.

 Alden is now the only original New England shoe and bootmaker remaining of the hundreds who began so long ago. Still a family owned business, still carrying forward a tradition of quality genuine-welted shoemaking that is exceptional in every way.

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Kristen Stewart to play Princess Diana in new film Spencer

Kristen Stewart to play Princess Diana in new film Spencer

Jackie film-maker Pablo Larraín to direct drama that takes place over weekend when Diana decided marriage was not working

Benjamin Lee
Published onWed 17 Jun 2020 17.28 BST

Kristen Stewart is set to star as Diana, Princess of Wales, in a new drama from Pablo Larraín, the acclaimed Chilean director of Jackie.

The film, called Spencer, will follow Diana over one weekend when she decided her marriage to Prince Charles wasn’t working. The film is scripted by Steven Knight, whose credits range from Peaky Blinders to Eastern Promises. Spencer will be shopped to buyers at this year’s virtual Cannes market with production set to begin in early 2021.

“We all grew up, at least I did in my generation, reading and understanding what a fairy tale is,” Larraín said to Deadline. “Usually, the prince comes and finds the princess, invites her to become his wife and eventually she becomes queen. That is the fairy tale. When someone decides not to be the queen, and says, I’d rather go and be myself, it’s a big big decision, a fairy tale upside down … that is the heart of the movie.”

Larraín, whose films also include Neruda and The Club, has said that Stewart is a perfect choice because of her mixture of mystery and fragility. “I think she’s going to do something stunning and intriguing at the same time,” he added. “She is this force of nature.”

Jackie, Larraín’s unconventional biopic of Jackie Onassis, met with positive reviews in 2016 and an Oscar nomination for its star, Natalie Portman.

Since graduating from the Twilight franchise, Stewart has garnered acclaim for smaller films such as Personal Shopper and Clouds of Sils Maria while experiencing box office disappointments with bigger projects such as Charlie’s Angels and Underwater. She will be seen next in the queer Christmas comedy Happiest Season.

The story of Diana was previously brought to the screen by the Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel in 2013 with Naomi Watts in the lead role. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw called it “car crash cinema” while the Mirror’s David Edwards wrote that “Wesley Snipes in a blonde wig would be more convincing”.

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Ancient Roman Architecture / VIDEO: What Did Ancient Rome Look Like? (Cinematic Animation)


Ancient Roman architecture adopted the external language of classical Greek architecture for the purposes of the ancient Romans, but was different from Greek buildings, becoming a new architectural style. The two styles are often considered one body of classical architecture. Roman architecture flourished in the Roman Republic and even more so under the Empire, when the great majority of surviving buildings were constructed. It used new materials, particularly Roman concrete, and newer technologies such as the arch and the dome to make buildings that were typically strong and well-engineered. Large numbers remain in some form across the empire, sometimes complete and still in use to this day.

Roman architecture covers the period from the establishment of the Roman Republic in 509 BC to about the 4th century AD, after which it becomes reclassified as Late Antique or Byzantine architecture. Almost no substantial examples survive from before about 100 BC, and most of the major survivals are from the later empire, after about 100 AD. Roman architectural style continued to influence building in the former empire for many centuries, and the style used in Western Europe beginning about 1000 is called Romanesque architecture to reflect this dependence on basic Roman forms.

The Romans only began to achieve significant originality in architecture around the beginning of the Imperial period, after they had combined aspects of their original Etruscan architecture with others taken from Greece, including most elements of the style we now call classical architecture. They moved from trabeated construction mostly based on columns and lintels to one based on massive walls, punctuated by arches, and later domes, both of which greatly developed under the Romans. The classical orders now became largely decorative rather than structural, except in colonnades. Stylistic developments included the Tuscan and Composite orders; the first being a shortened, simplified variant on the Doric order and the Composite being a tall order with the floral decoration of the Corinthian and the scrolls of the Ionic. The period from roughly 40 BC to about 230 AD saw most of the greatest achievements, before the Crisis of the Third Century and later troubles reduced the wealth and organizing power of the central government.

The Romans produced massive public buildings and works of civil engineering, and were responsible for significant developments in housing and public hygiene, for example their public and private baths and latrines, under-floor heating in the form of the hypocaust, mica glazing (examples in Ostia Antica), and piped hot and cold water (examples in Pompeii and Ostia)

Despite the technical developments of the Romans, which took their buildings far away from the basic Greek conception where columns were needed to support heavy beams and roofs, they were very reluctant to abandon the classical orders in formal public buildings, even though these had become essentially decorative[citation needed]. However, they did not feel entirely restricted by Greek aesthetic concerns and treated the orders with considerable freedom.

Innovation started in the 3rd or 2nd century BC with the development of Roman concrete as a readily available adjunct to, or substitute for, stone and brick. More daring buildings soon followed, with great pillars supporting broad arches and domes. The freedom of concrete also inspired the colonnade screen, a row of purely decorative columns in front of a load-bearing wall. In smaller-scale architecture, concrete's strength freed the floor plan from rectangular cells to a more free-flowing environment.

Factors such as wealth and high population densities in cities forced the ancient Romans to discover new architectural solutions of their own. The use of vaults and arches, together with a sound knowledge of building materials, enabled them to achieve unprecedented successes in the construction of imposing infrastructure for public use. Examples include the aqueducts of Rome, the Baths of Diocletian and the Baths of Caracalla, the basilicas and Colosseum. These were reproduced at a smaller scale in most important towns and cities in the Empire. Some surviving structures are almost complete, such as the town walls of Lugo in Hispania Tarraconensis, now northern Spain. The administrative structure and wealth of the empire made possible very large projects even in locations remote from the main centers, as did the use of slave labor, both skilled and unskilled.

Especially under the empire, architecture often served a political function, demonstrating the power of the Roman state in general, and of specific individuals responsible for building. Roman architecture perhaps reached its peak in the reign of Hadrian, whose many achievements include rebuilding the Pantheon in its current form and leaving his mark on the landscape of northern Britain with Hadrian's Wall.

While borrowing much from the preceding Etruscan architecture, such as the use of hydraulics and the construction of arches, Roman prestige architecture remained firmly under the spell of Ancient Greek architecture and the classical orders.This came initially from Magna Graecia, the Greek colonies in southern Italy, and indirectly from Greek influence on the Etruscans, but after the Roman conquest of Greece directly from the best classical and Hellenistic examples in the Greek world. The influence is evident in many ways; for example, in the introduction and use of the triclinium in Roman villas as a place and manner of dining. Roman builders employed Greeks in many capacities, especially in the great boom in construction in the early Empire.

Roman Architectural Revolution
The Roman Architectural Revolution, also known as the Concrete Revolution, was the widespread use in Roman architecture of the previously little-used architectural forms of the arch, vault, and dome. For the first time in history, their potential was fully exploited in the construction of a wide range of civil engineering structures, public buildings, and military facilities. These included amphitheatres, aqueducts, baths, bridges, circuses, dams, domes, harbours, temples, and theatres.

A crucial factor in this development, which saw a trend toward monumental architecture, was the invention of Roman concrete (opus caementicium), which led to the liberation of shapes from the dictates of the traditional materials of stone and brick.

These enabled the building of the many aqueducts throughout the empire, such as the Aqueduct of Segovia, the Pont du Gard, and the eleven aqueducts of Rome. The same concepts produced numerous bridges, some of which are still in daily use, for example the Puente Romano at Mérida in Spain, and the Pont Julien and the bridge at Vaison-la-Romaine, both in Provence, France.

The dome permitted construction of vaulted ceilings without crossbeams and made possible large covered public space such as public baths and basilicas, such as Hadrian's Pantheon, the Baths of Diocletian and the Baths of Caracalla, all in Rome.

The Romans first adopted the arch from the Etruscans and implemented it in their own building. The use of arches that spring directly from the tops of columns was a Roman development, seen from the 1st century AD, that was very widely adopted in medieval Western, Byzantine and Islamic architecture.

The Romans were the first builders in the history of architecture to realize the potential of domes for the creation of large and well-defined interior spaces.[8] Domes were introduced in a number of Roman building types such as temples, thermae, palaces, mausolea and later also churches. Half-domes also became a favoured architectural element and were adopted as apses in Christian sacred architecture.

Monumental domes began to appear in the 1st century BC in Rome and the provinces around the Mediterranean Sea. Along with vaults, they gradually replaced the traditional post and lintel construction which makes use of the column and architrave. The construction of domes was greatly facilitated by the invention of concrete, a process which has been termed the Roman Architectural Revolution.[9] Their enormous dimensions remained unsurpassed until the introduction of structural steel frames in the late 19th century (see List of the world's largest domes).

Influence on later architecture
Roman architecture supplied the basic vocabulary of Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque architecture, and spread across Christian Europe well beyond the old frontiers of the empire, to Ireland and Scandinavia for example. In the East, Byzantine architecture developed new styles of churches, but most other buildings remained very close to Late Roman forms. The same can be said in turn of Islamic architecture, where Roman forms long continued, especially in private buildings such as houses and the Turkish bath, and civil engineering such as fortifications and bridges.

In Europe the Italian Renaissance saw a conscious revival of correct classical styles, initially purely based on Roman examples. Vitruvius was respectfully reinterpreted by a series of architectural writers, and the Tuscan and Composite orders formalized for the first time, to give five rather than three orders. After the flamboyance of Baroque architecture, the Neoclassical architecture of the 18th century revived purer versions of classical style, and for the first time added direct influence from the Greek world.

Numerous local classical styles developed, such as Palladian architecture, Georgian architecture and Regency architecture in the English-speaking world, Federal architecture in the United States, and later Stripped Classicism and PWA Moderne.

Roman influences may be found around us today, in banks, government buildings, great houses, and even small houses, perhaps in the form of a porch with Doric columns and a pediment or in a fireplace or a mosaic shower floor derived from a Roman original, often from Pompeii or Herculaneum. The mighty pillars, domes and arches of Rome echo in the New World too, where in Washington, D.C. stand the Capitol building, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and other government buildings. All across the US the seats of regional government were normally built in the grand traditions of Rome, with vast flights of stone steps sweeping up to towering pillared porticoes, with huge domes gilded or decorated inside with the same or similar themes that were popular in Rome.

In Britain, a similar enthusiasm has seen the construction of thousands of neoclassical buildings over the last five centuries, both civic and domestic, and many of the grandest country houses and mansions are purely Classical in style, an obvious example being Buckingham Palace.

Marble is not found especially close to Rome, and was only rarely used there before Augustus, who famously boasted that he had found Rome made of brick and left it made of marble, though this was mainly as a facing for brick or concrete. The Temple of Hercules Victor of the late 2nd century BC is the earliest surviving exception in Rome. From Augustus' reign the quarries at Carrara were extensively developed for the capital, and other sources around the empire exploited, especially the prestigious Greek marbles like Parian. Travertine limestone was found much closer, around Tivoli, and was used from the end of the Republic; the Colosseum is mainly built of this stone, which has good load-bearing capacity, with a brick core. Other more or less local stones were used around the empire.

The Romans were extremely fond of luxury imported coloured marbles with fancy veining, and the interiors of the most important buildings were very often faced with slabs of these, which have usually now been removed even where the building survives. Imports from Greece for this purpose began in the 2nd century BC.

Roman brick
The Romans made fired clay bricks from about the beginning of the Empire, replacing earlier sun-dried mud-brick. Roman brick was almost invariably of a lesser height than modern brick, but was made in a variety of different shapes and sizes.[16] Shapes included square, rectangular, triangular and round, and the largest bricks found have measured over three feet in length.[17] Ancient Roman bricks had a general size of 1½ Roman feet by 1 Roman foot, but common variations up to 15 inches existed. Other brick sizes in ancient Rome included 24" x 12" x 4", and 15" x 8" x 10". Ancient Roman bricks found in France measured 8" x 8" x 3". The Constantine Basilica in Trier is constructed from Roman bricks 15" square by 1½" thick.There is often little obvious difference (particularly when only fragments survive) between Roman bricks used for walls on the one hand, and tiles used for roofing or flooring on the other, so archaeologists sometimes prefer to employ the generic term ceramic building material (or CBM).

The Romans perfected brick-making during the first century of their empire and used it ubiquitously, in public and private construction alike. The Romans took their brickmaking skills everywhere they went, introducing the craft to the local populations. The Roman legions, which operated their own kilns, introduced bricks to many parts of the empire; bricks are often stamped with the mark of the legion that supervised their production. The use of bricks in southern and western Germany, for example, can be traced back to traditions already described by the Roman architect Vitruvius. In the British Isles, the introduction of Roman brick by the ancient Romans was followed by a 600–700 year gap in major brick production.

Roman concrete
Concrete quickly supplanted brick as the primary building material,[citation needed] and more daring buildings soon followed, with great pillars supporting broad arches and domes rather than dense lines of columns suspending flat architraves. The freedom of concrete also inspired the colonnade screen, a row of purely decorative columns in front of a load-bearing wall. In smaller-scale architecture, concrete's strength freed the floor plan from [Rectangle|rectangular]] cells to a more free-flowing environment. Most of these developments are described by Vitruvius, writing in the first century BC in his work De architectura.

Although concrete had been used on a minor scale in Mesopotamia, Roman architects perfected Roman concrete and used it in buildings where it could stand on its own and support a great deal of weight. The first use of concrete by the Romans was in the town of Cosa sometime after 273 BC. Ancient Roman concrete was a mixture of lime mortar, aggregate, pozzolana, water, and stones, and was stronger than previously-used concretes. The ancient builders placed these ingredients in wooden frames where they hardened and bonded to a facing of stones or (more frequently) bricks. The aggregates used were often much larger than in modern concrete, amounting to rubble.

When the framework was removed, the new wall was very strong, with a rough surface of bricks or stones. This surface could be smoothed and faced with an attractive stucco or thin panels of marble or other coloured stones called a "revetment". Concrete construction proved to be more flexible and less costly than building solid stone buildings. The materials were readily available and not difficult to transport. The wooden frames could be used more than once, allowing builders to work quickly and efficiently. Concrete is arguably the Roman contribution most relevant to modern architecture.

City design
The ancient Romans employed regular orthogonal structures on which they molded their colonies They probably were inspired by Greek and Hellenic examples, as well as by regularly planned cities that were built by the Etruscans in Italy. (see Marzabotto)

The Romans used a consolidated scheme for city planning, developed for military defense and civil convenience. The basic plan consisted of a central forum with city services, surrounded by a compact, rectilinear grid of streets, and wrapped in a wall for defense. To reduce travel times, two diagonal streets crossed the square grid, passing through the central square. A river usually flowed through the city, providing water, transport, and sewage disposal. Hundreds of towns and cities were built by the Romans throughout their empire. Many European towns, such as Turin, preserve the remains of these schemes, which show the very logical way the Romans designed their cities. They would lay out the streets at right angles, in the form of a square grid. All roads were equal in width and length, except for two, which were slightly wider than the others. One of these ran east–west, the other, north–south, and they intersected in the middle to form the center of the grid. All roads were made of carefully fitted flag stones and filled in with smaller, hard-packed rocks and pebbles. Bridges were constructed where needed. Each square marked off by four roads was called an insula, the Roman equivalent of a modern city block.

Each insula was 80 yards (73 m) square, with the land within it divided. As the city developed, each insula would eventually be filled with buildings of various shapes and sizes and crisscrossed with back roads and alleys. Most insulae were given to the first settlers of a Roman city, but each person had to pay to construct his own house.

The city was surrounded by a wall to protect it from invaders and to mark the city limits. Areas outside city limits were left open as farmland. At the end of each main road was a large gateway with watchtowers. A portcullis covered the opening when the city was under siege, and additional watchtowers were constructed along the city walls. An aqueduct was built outside the city walls.

The development of Greek and Roman urbanization is relatively well-known, as there are relatively many written sources, and there has been much attention to the subject, since the Romans and Greeks are generally regarded as the main ancestors of modern Western culture. It should not be forgotten, though, that the Etruscans had many considerable towns and there were also other cultures with more or less urban settlements in Europe, primarily of Celtic origin.[