Dean Girling and Tony Gaziano first earned their stripes at Edward Green and George Cleverley, with Tony specializing in the art of last making. Since then, Gaziano & Girling (founded in 2006) has taken quite a few giant steps forward.
We visited the G & G factory in Kettering, England recently, and had the chance to spend an entire day with Tony.
To recap our visit to the Gaziano & Girling Kettering factory, we highlight seven unique features of the company:
1. G & G is one of the few shoe companies in the world directed by authentic bootmakers who are trained artisans with a strong working knowledge of the art of bootmaking.
Perhaps one of the key reasons Gaziano & Girling is making such distinctive bench-made shoes that tend to have bespoke aesthetics, is the fact real bootmakers with bespoke experience are in charge of operations.
Only a few other shoe companies can claim to be run on a daily basis by actual bootmakers, including Corthay in France, Vass in Hungary, Mario Bemer in Italy (whose brand is Mario Bemer and not Stefano Bemer), Paolo Scafora in Napoli and a handful of others.
This fact alone could have been a factor as to why French businessman Olivier Rosenfeld decided to invest heavily in the Gaziano & Girling franchise two years ago, which helped G & G expand and build a new factory located in Kettering, a small town in the heart of the Northamptonshire, the cradle of high-end shoes for men in the UK.
With this considerable financial input, the manufacture has been built strictly according to Tony and Dean’s vision of ideal factory design and implementation, which is in line with the gospel of traditional shoe making and bootmaking.
2. Gaziano & Girling shoes are made with finely sculpted waists
A finely sculpted waist may be one of the most distinctive features of G & G shoes, differentiating this shoemaker from others.
Although we are discussing bench-made G & G shoes, a pinched waist is actually a feature mostly recognized in bespoke shoes, and requires specific equipment and know-how in order to achieve.
Before you buy a shoe, turn it upside down and look at the waist. If you are enticed by a finely sculpted, narrow (usually bevelled) waist, then you may have found your shoe with Gaziano & Girling, as they have turned the practice of waist sculpting into an art form.
3. While other companies mostly purchase pre-made lasts, Gaziano and Girling make their lasts on site at their Kettering Factory
Normally, bench-made shoes would begin with preordered lasts from another company. But, as a unique “bespoke meets bench-made” gesture, Gaziano & Girling are making their own lasts.
If you don’t know what a last is, then take a glance at PG’s “Bespoke, Bench-Made and Mass produced shoes” for a quick review.
G & G puts their bootmaking expertise to use and takes bench-made shoes to a new level by handcrafting their own lasts, which is strikingly unusual and adds the aesthetic touch of a more finely sculpted outer shoe design.
4. G & G Shoes have the look of a Ferrari on the outside, but the feel of a Town Car on the inside
Thanks to Tony & Dean’s ergonomic knowledge of what makes a comfortable shoe, which can’t be mastered without some deep bootmaking experience, G & G shoes look like a sports car on the outside but can feel like ‘driving a couch’ on the inside. If you’ve ever broken in a pair of beautiful but difficult-fitting shoes, then you can appreciate this point.
The same analogy can be drawn from fine tailoring.
Mariano Rubinacci once said that a good tailored Neapolitan jacket is small and sharp on the outside and big and comfortable on the inside. The same principle goes for a Cifonelli suit, which has a small chest with high armholes and a snug look, but is super comfy inside and provides a great range for arm motion.
As an example, while fully expecting discomfort with my first pair of Gaziano & Girling (which happened to be from the Deco Line), I personally had almost no break-in time before my shoes felt comfortable, which was surprising considering the refined look of the Deco Line model I selected.
This ability to provide comfort while presenting a chiseled-looking shoe is one of the most impressive characteristics of Gaziano & Girling shoes.
Gaziano & Girling thus represents, in my humble opinion, a great transition from bootmaker to shoemaker, from bespoke to bench-made, and from manual to mechanical operations–making the company one of the ideal shoemakers of the 21st century.
5. The Kettering Shoe Factory is compact but highly organized and efficient
The Kettering shoe factory is an extension of Tony’s and Dean’s minds. Together, they have created a factory to match their standards in terms of merging quality and efficiency. The materialization of the factory integrates know-how with precision machinery, quality base materials, and creative assembly methods.
After a few hours at the Kettering location, the faces of the workers quickly became familiar. The atmosphere is filled with a confident staff and a general good mood.
The place is clean, organized and rather compact. The leather selection is beautiful and solid systems are in place for making precise leather cuts, followed by sewing and assembly tasks, with the baton efficiently passed from one artisan to the next.
The manual machines look like relics from the past, highly precise and efficient—with dedicated experts working on one shoe at a time.
6. The variety of shoe choices exceeds expectations
Variety is a Gaziano & Girling distinctive advantage. Where other companies may be limited in selection, G & G is able to offer basically every model you can dream of from the most casual slipper to the most formal oxford, and from the most stylish double monk to the most comfortable ankle boot. Since last year, G & G also offers a MTO patina service at their Savile Row location.
The number of their models may be one of the most extensive offers on the market. While some companies pretend to meet all your requests in terms of personalization, G&G can actually deliver.
7. Gaziano & Girling is the first shoe company to occupy Savile Row
As we explain in our article “What Remains of Savile Row“, the installation of a shoemaker flagship store on Savile Row is a first.
As reported by the Evening Standard in November 2013, the opening of G&G store was a sort of breach to the « rules » of the street, as the principal landlord (the Pollen Estate) made it a religion to rent only to tailoring houses, in order to protect the exclusivity of the street, as well as to preserve the precious know-how of British tailoring.
However, considering the recent changes on Savile Row, the opening of Gaziano & Girling on 39 Savile Row has been well received and for good reasons : Tony and Dean are two authentic British craftsmen and the Savile Row name fits them like a bespoke pair of Oxfords. They bring a definitive breath of fresh air to a Golden Mile that recently turned into a « Gold Mine » for realtors and wind sellers…
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On top of all this, Tony Gaziano (whom we, as of yet, know better than Dean) is a kind man with a generous spirit, evident by his longstanding mentoring of Justin Fitzpatrick (our Shoe Snob) and his willingness to spend the entire day with us, foregoing phone calls and interruptions.
A great example of a working class hero who became rooted as an apprentice in Great Britain, and rose to be the only shoe maker on Savile Row, and with his colleague Dean Girling, has founded one of the most promising high end men’s shoe brands in the world.
A feat that deserves respect.
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Gaziano and Girling Ltd,
39, Savile Row, London W1S 3QF