Since launching just over 10 years ago, Gaziano & Girling has become one of the most in demand shoemakers in the world. Its store on Savile Row is testament to the emphasis its two founders, Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling, place on super luxury; surrounded by the world’s most exclusive tailors and brands on the street, Gaziano & Girling has incorporated itself into the world of sartorial finery with aplomb – despite Tony and Dean starting their fledging project only a decade ago, in their home workshops.
Dean and Tony were accomplished shoemakers when they joined forces. Dean was working as a freelance shoemaker, mainly picking up commissions from John Lobb – while Tony was designing for luxury shoe company, Edward Green. “I was an independent shoemaker; Tony asked me to make a bespoke shoe for Edward Green, so we got a bit closer then. We had the same sort of ethos of what we wanted to do in the bespoke industry.” The idea was to take the considered approach and attention to detail found in bespoke, and apply it to manufactured shoes. “We wanted to bring a ready to wear shoe to the market that had a very bespoke aesthetic.”
Alongside 100 per cent bespoke commissions, the brand’s manufactured shoes with a bespoke look are another key part of the Gaziano & Girling business, and it is a formula that has allowed the brand to carve a niche in an otherwise competitive market. “When we started, there was a big divide between London bespoke aesthetic and quality, and Northamptonshire manufacturing – mainly because not many people crossed over between the two worlds,” explains Tony. “We wanted to bring to the market a super luxury manufactured shoe that had all the aesthetics of a bespoke, but without the customer having to go through the process of eight months of fittings to get there.” Tony and Dean began to introduce bespoke materials, such as English oak bark soles, into the manufacturing process – as well as craft skills that were not normally used in Northamptonshire.
The bench made side of the business has been a significant factor in the company’s growth; but far from neglecting true bespoke, Gaziano & Girling has improved its bespoke offering to make it relative to the manufactured side. “You could probably get some of our manufactured shoes that aesthetically look better and are finished better than a lot of bespoke shoes,” says Tony matter of factly. “At the same time as we became successful doing that, we had to upgrade our bespoke offering, because the gap between the manufacturing and bespoke closed.” With the brand’s ready to wear models fetching around £1,000, and bespoke options reaching upwards of £4,000, it was necessary for the brand to justify the three grand difference.
Dean and Tony went about streamlining their business – bringing everything in house to ensure consistent quality across the brand’s whole output. “We got rid of the traditional old London ways of using outworkers, where you’ve got a variety of different standards of quality and aesthetic. We now have a very small, concentrated bespoke team that are producing shoes that are on the verge of art, rather than just shoes.”
Tony and Dean clearly have confidence in their product; not only has their combined experience given the brand a strong platform on which to build, the scale on which it operates means it can make the very best – whether that’s true bespoke, or bench made models. “Because of how small we are in production on bespoke, we can actually position ourselves to be the best in both fields,” says Tony. “We produce the best manufactured shoes, and at the same time, the best bespoke shoes.”
Gaziano & Girling has been able to embrace both bespoke and bench made in a way that other brands can’t. “Other brands don’t have the facility to do that,” says Tony. “We’re the first factory to open in over 100 years. We have the luxury of having our own in-house bespoke team, as well as our own manufacturing plant, which we have complete control over.” Dean agrees. “We’ve got free reign.”
Maintaining the vision the two set out at the very start is vital to taking the business in the right direction according to Dean and Tony; and the fact that the company’s driving forces are themselves at the very top of their craft means that quality is never sacrificed, and corners are never cut. Dean explains that knowledge of the craft makes all the difference. “There are very few shoe companies where the person at the helm – the MD, or whatever – is an actual craftsman, and can actually design and make a pair of shoes. Gaziano & Girling has still got that.”
Of course, retaining the control and vision for the brand is a factor that Tony and Dean are thinking about as their business grows. “The negative aspects of our growth are the demands of running the business trying to pull Dean and I away from the craft,” says Tony. “That’s not what we want; we want to be floor-based. That’s what we specialise in.” He says that for such experienced shoemakers, it would be a travesty to work solely from the boardroom. “Dean was the top in his field making bespoke shoes. He wants to be able to get involved more in the production to be able to execute things the way that he wants to. But obviously, that can be compromised by the demands of just simply running a business.”
With their experience, Dean and Tony believe that the company is unequalled in its offering – and that working on a relatively small scale has allowed them to reach that pinnacle. “In the beginning, our aim was to compete with Edward Green. Now, though our name is still young, there is no competition. We are a margin above those brands now; and we can be, because we probably produce three quarter’s production less than them,” says Tony.
With a dedication to high luxury, there is no better place for Gaziano & Girling to be than Savile Row. The pair say that residing on the street gives the brand cachet – while attracting customers already shopping on the Row for their suits. “Savile Row is known around the world as the mecca of tailoring,” says Dean. “There are no finer tailors than Savile Row tailors. If somebody comes to the Row for a nice suit, you’d like to think that they would like a nice pair of shoes to complement it.” Tony thinks that while areas like Jermyn Street embody British heritage, Savile Row offers a unique mix of traditional and contemporary options. “We felt that Jermyn Street was getting a little bit tired in the way that it was; and Savile Row was a mix of a little bit more contemporary, with Ozwald Boating and a few others. You have a different kind of client up here; you get billionaires walking around, which I can’t imagine you do on Jermyn Street…”
Gaziano & Girling’s star is in the ascendance; and 10 years into the business, Tony and Dean are more sure of which direction to take the brand than ever before. “We built our business mostly on the wholesale side, because we never had retail,” explains Tony. “Now we’re realising that we don’t need to grow the factory and the numbers they’re producing; we need to exchange those wholesale units for retail. That way we can increase our turnover and profits – and the quality isn’t compromised.” The aim is to open further retail stores globally. “We feel that Asia – particularly Hong Kong and Tokyo – would be good locations for future stores. We have a very big following in the Asian market,” says Dean. He notes that the brand also sees a lot of interest Stateside – and that it would be “a dream to have a standalone store in New York.” For now, Gaziano & Girling’s presence in the Big Apple comprises a showroom on 57th.
It seems that while there is a desire to expand, Tony and Dean are seeking longevity – and are committed to improving the business one well-heeled step at a time. As Tony says, “We just want to take our time and produce a super luxury product.”
39 Savile Row