I remember the first time I ever visited a shoe factory; it was Santoni’s factory in the Marche region of Italy, and being there (due to me being a shoe freak) was exactly like a little kid discovering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The showroom was amazing, the factory floor was immaculate (especially for a factory) and shoes were everywhere. It was literally like shoe heaven. And the building I was in was just one of their three huge factories on site. It was such an experience!
But since then, I have visited several other factories, of all shapes and sizes, and one thing I came to realize in my judgment of how much I like a factory, is whether or not the factory feels intimate. As beautiful and amazing that Santoni’s factory was, I truly felt that it lacked a sense of intimacy, where people came day in and day out to just do ‘their job.’ You might be thinking ‘duh,’ that’s what work is, a job. But I mean it in the sense that one person come’s to the factory every day and sits at the same machine all day long just putting heels on, and in reality, he/she doesn’t give a shit about shoes, just getting a paycheck. This is not the case at Gaziano & Girling’s factory.
Compared to Santoni’s factory, where they employed hundreds, G&G only employs around 7 or 8 full-time workers, imagine that! And due to that small amount, you have workers there who do the amount of work usually managed by three or four people. And on top of that, several of the workers are also shoemakers, able to produce a pair of shoes entirely by hand, real artisans. So when you have a factory like this, small and with highly skilled artisans, you get that sense of intimacy, like the people who work there truly care about the shoes and how the end product comes out. And being someone who has also made shoes by hand, I can tell you that your ability of spotting flaws and discrepancies and being much more critical of a final product increases by 1000%. That being, you know if a G&G shoe is put into a box to send to a store, it is going to be damn near perfect!
In no way am I saying that G&G’s factory is great and Santoni’s is bad. They are just different. Both are amazing for what they are. I just happen to appreciate something that feels more intimate. But then again Santoni supplies to 100 times more stores than G&G, and I think that intimacy seems to directly correlate to this fact. Could be that if G&G grew to the size of Santoni, the intimacy of the factory and company would decline, who knows? Regardless, it is always a pleasure heading to historical Kettering to visit the G&G factory.
You might be wondering what the purpose of my visit was, so let me tell you. While this is not my first time up there, it has been the first time that I was able to document it for all of you, thanks to my lovely new camera. As many of you know, I am a young man on a quest to start my own shoe line, to fill a gap in the industry that I fel exists. On my journey thus far, I have met many wonderfully helpful individuals and Tony Gaziano & Dean Girling are two of those people. That being, they frequently allow me to come up to the factory to do my own projects. And with the assisitance of my good friend Daniel, I am able to work all weekend long until the wee hours of night, chipping away at heels, in which I did this trip in order to finish my 7th pair of shoes made for myself (which I will show in another post).
Well, I hope that you enjoy the pictures! Thanks to Tony and Dean for allowing me to document my trip. Until next time,
-Justin, “The Shoe Snob”
A Flawless Bespoke Shoe:
Shoes, Shoes and More Shoes:
My Friend Daniel, Chipping Away At Heels: