Interview with Mr. Tony Gaziano, Co-Founder of Gaziano & Girling

Dean Girling (left) and Tony Gaziano (right) of Gaziano & Girling

Dear Tony, thank you for taking the time. How is Gaziano Girling coping with the current difficulties caused by Covid and Brexit?

I think that Brexit is a double edged sword really. On our website we have seen an increase in European sales but it seems to be incredible complicated to ship to Europe. Companies need to get used to new systems and additional paperwork.

What strikes me is that, considering the amount of time we had up to this point, there is a real lack of information around. Nobody really seems to know what they’re doing.

We can’t tell whether the increase in online sales from the EU is caused by customers not having to pay VAT or customers saving money during the covid pandemic that they are then willing to spend online. But for our management it presents a big challenge dealing with all the changing regulations. Luckily when it comes to sourcing leather from the EU we have our Agents in the UK that are dealing with the Import regulations.

Have you noticed an increase in the prices of leather?

Not yet, but I’m sure it will come. Even if there is not so much of an increase in price itself the process becomes more time consuming which drives costs.

We source our leathers from Italy, France and Germany and so far governments have been distracted by Covid but we hope that the import and export guidelines will soon be more explained.

It is definitely a challenging time for businesses at the moment. What has presented the biggest challenge in the past year?

I think the biggest challenge for us was to maintain incoming orders because or shop had to be closed due to the lockdown in the UK. Our London shop is responsible for around 40% of our income and with that it is like writing a whole year off.

Even though we were open a couple months in the summer, people weren’t coming because of the fear of covid or restricted traveling. Our customers are probably 80% traveling business men from Asia, the US and all over the world. With the borders being closed these people obviously weren’t coming to London and that was a big pill to swallow for us.

I remained positive during the lockdown because we were able to use the time for developing new things and also we were able to direct our customers more towards our online shop. So far that has worked really well. In addition, Asia has recovered from Covid a lot more than we have here and that helped us since Asian shops have placed orders with us.

With this wholesale business we managed to now almost establish a normal level of business. In general January and February are quite months anyway even during normal conditions and I think that we just have to be a bit patient and things will be back to normal.

Also the British government is doing a really good job with their vaccination program so hopefully we can go back to normal because we really need to be able to travel for trunk shows and have our customers travel to the UK. So the key for us is that international borders have to open again but I fear that the working-from-home-culture will reduce the amount of people that are traveling and coming to us.

Even during a pandemic Gaziano Girling didn’t fail to present new and innovative designs like for example the Como Loafer. As the Designer behind Gaziano Girling what can we expect in the future?

When I plan the creative process there are two paths. I have my mind on creating new styles for the different ranges, like our bench-made range, the Deco range or the Classic range. But then alongside that I also like to create new ranges to add to the spectrum.

So at the moment we are creating a made to order handmade range. With this customers will have the same choice as in our regular made to order range but the shoe is entirely handmade by our bespoke department.

You can choose your last, your leather and the style from our normal made to order range. It will be another few months until that is available but these shoes will be quite reasonably priced for being an entirely handmade shoe on the same level as our bespoke shoes.

Also we are going to come out with a new range called „Brooklands“ which will be another add-on to our made to order system with some new nubuck leathers and a new type of sole we have developed.

The sole is a wedge sole that provides an amazing level of comfort. It caters for two different types of people, the ones that want a nice pair of shoes but more on the casual side and also for the kind of people that work in the city and need to dress formal but want a comfortable pair of shoes.

Some of our customers that work in the city wear their trainers to work and then change into dress shoes. We want to bridge that gap and provide them with shoes that are formal yet comfortable to be able to walk to work.

That sounds really nice! And you are also developing a new line of accessories at the moment?

Yes indeed, we have created a line of wallets and watch straps that come with the same patinas as our shoes. They are Bifold wallets and are available in the same choice of leathers, also alligator and lizard and all with hand painted patina.

Speaking of Patina, Gaziano Girling uses the Saphir Teinture Francaise for its well known and vibrant patinas, are you planning on introducing new patina styles?

Yes we actually use several Saphir Products to finish our Shoes. All our shoes are hand polished with the Saphir Pate de Luxe and Mirror Gloss. And for our patinas we use Saphir dyes and creams. At the moment we are not planning on expanding the range of patinas, I think that there is a really nice colour palette for customers to choose from.

Patina done at Gaziano Girling using the Medaille d’Or 1925 Cream

What is the biggest challenge for high quality shoe manufacturers at the moment?

I would say that it is actually sourcing high quality upper leather. The abattoirs are not particularly careful when skinning the animal since they are mostly interested in the meat.

The skins will be thrown around with little care and it is not until the tannery when they are properly handled, which causes issues like flaws in the leather.

The other thing is that the luxury industry is growing. Looking at the amount of shoemakers around the world, the demand for high quality leather steadily increases but the supply stays the same more or less.

Also tanneries are trying to hide things. The other week I cut a pair of bespoke shoes myself and then suddenly a flaw in the leather appeared that had been covered with finish.

This makes it difficult for us because our customers expect a certain quality of us and sometimes can’t understand that leather is a natural product with its own characteristic, but they expect a perfectly engineered product rather than a handcrafted piece of art. The beauty of handmade shoes is that you can see the characteristic finger print of the maker and features of a natural material like leather.

Now we have a fun question for you: Which is your favourite GG Style you like to wear yourself?

The mentioned pair of bespoke shoes that are a combination of contemporary shape and classic style.

I’m very much a Deco-man shape wise. Style wise it changes. A big part of the creative work is dealing with this enormous range of styles you can choose from and I’m always trying to find new things. So my favourites tend to change but one thing I always like is a classic style with a very contemporary last.

You could say my favourite combination is a „Cambridge“, a cap toe Oxford with a perforated cap, in combination with our square deco last. That looks really bespoke to me and I love blue so I would choose our Sapphire patina for that. We actually recently made a bespoke pair like that for one of our US-customers.

True a semi brogue Oxford definitely stand the test of time style wise. What is a shoe care essential that you can’t do without?

I’d say there has to be two. One is a good wax polish and the other one is a lasted shoe tree. The shape and the protection basically. The shoe tree is essential to maintain the shape and fit and the polish provides protection to the leather. So these two would be my choice out of all the shoe care products.

Thank you very much for the interview! It was a very interesting insight into what is going on at Gaziano Girling but also the footwear industry in general at the moment.