Interview with Réginald-Jérôme de Mans Part II

We are proud to present to you the second part of our interview with Réginald-Jérôme de Mans, menswear writer, bespoke connoisseur and inveterate seeker. Check out his is tumblr Obey Feline.

Read or re-read part I here.

FTDF: Do you believe that the community emerged because at some point a generation of fathers or grandfathers stopped teaching their sons and grandsons how to dress?

RJ: There’s a necessarily political aspect to a question like this. This is not the Paris of Père Goriot, lacking fathers and father figures. What I mean is that many of the people asserting that a generational break is a reason for why we dress so badly are theorizing that this generational break is why the world is going to hell today, that we turned our back on authority, tradition, morality and all sorts of other values in the 1960s and 1970s and that this is why things are so fucked up now. They play coy when asked what the particular bad things that contributed to this and that should be rolled back are: whether it had to do with women no longer being only sex objects and caregivers, or with dark-skinned people no longer knowing their place, and so on.1The thing is, the same rat races, obsessiveness, one-upmanship and solipsism exist in forums dedicated to all kinds of topics, not just men’s clothing – in fact, any male-dominated internet forum, whether for stereos, martial arts, lovers of certain musical instruments, watches, and so on. Part of male psyche is to have this obsession over needlessly trivial. It does not spring from one generation’s abandonment of elegance – which is not the same thing as the simple ways of how to dress, which is the insinuation. Between 1960 and 1990 we did not forget how to put on clothes or wear them, even if we turned our back on elegance. And forums are not the surrogates to those missing fathers. Perhaps to missing paragons of elegance, but that is disturbing. So we are not the Paris of Père Goriot, but that of Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes (An iGent High and Low), missing our lost fop Lucien de Rubempré.

FTDF: How would you describe your personal style?

RJ: Alas, I think that any of us who have earned reputations on the Internet will be classified as dandies or fops, whether we like that title or not, for the simple fact of caring how we dress and taking pleasure in our clothes. So I would describe my personal style as dandified, because all of us are; colorful; slightly over-the-top.

We all want to see ourselves as the last holdouts for some lost idea of elegance… or perhaps that’s just me and my atavistic fantasies. But I daresay I don’t quite come across that way, not as elegant as I would like to be.

FTDF: How much of an impact did the internet have on your knowledge and on your personal style?

RJ: It’s obviously been influential in terms of the interactions I’ve had with people who were knowledgeable and information received that I could empirically test and verify. The Internet brought me and us into contact with a variety of people we never would have been able to meet otherwise, many with a great deal of knowledge. Still, as always, there’s a need to test and consider the source through personal experience and preference. I occasionally got taken in by the forum vogues, like the one for fresco in 2006 and the cordovan thing in 2008, among others. Japanese knives, too, in 2009. And nowadays, it’s useful to see what new developments there are at various shops and makers I’m interested in, reading between the lines.

FTDF: What is elegance as far as you are concerned?

RJ: That’s a surprisingly difficult question. I’ve been thinking of a definition of style as I’ve been working on my book, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that style is inspiration, no more and no less. I’m also reminded of Bryan Ferry’s rather neat definition of what makes a gentleman, 20 years ago: “good manners and handmade shoes.” I would submit that in that case handmade can include hand-guided through machine, as with Edward Green. But elegance? I’ve thought of one hypothetical definition: the ability to dress with the greatest care and the greatest inspiration, and then to forget what you have on and simply be yourself. But elegance doesn’t always involve care. Outside of clothing, it implies simplicity and clarity, like a good mathematical proof. But in clothing, a complicated ensemble (to avoid using the dreaded word “outfit”) can also be elegant in some circumstances. So it’s rather more complicated or ineffable than I would have thought. Handsome is as handsome does, as the old saying goes.Bryan Ferry III can’t stand them now, but I often think of the line from an old Jane’s Addiction song, “I wish I knew everyone’s nickname, all their slang and all their sayings. Every way to show affection, how to dress to fit the occasion.” That sort of control and flexibility, to me, always seemed something to aspire to – some ideal of courtesy and near-omniscience, in order to be obliging to one’s fellows. Perhaps that in some degree is a kind of elegance.

FTDF: You have met and been a customer to many tailors and shoemakers, what can you tell us about the relationship one is to develop with craftsmen/artisans? 

RJ: What is most important is trust. Find someone you can trust, and then trust him or her and don’t second guess him or her. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to find a maker you can trust.  Trust doesn’t mean unquestioningly accepting whatever someone produces for you. It means trusting that person to get it right or make it right.tis-akira-sorimachi-medium (1)

Some people have suggested that a good craftsman is one who is unfailingly polite and accommodating, while others have suggested the opposite, that real craftsmen are brusque and brutal. I have known genial artisans and gruff ones who each carried out great work, just as I’ve known artisans both good and bad who bad-mouthed their competitors or who were always gracious about them. As a customer, not a trained craftsman, I know that no matter how much I have learned about how something is made, I am a layperson. Thus, I have to rely on the maker and cannot keep second-guessing him. Unfortunately, whether you can trust someone or not is not something you always find out before you receive your order. In the end, you have to rely on the opinion of someone you can trust.tis-akira-sorimachi-medium

When something goes wrong, as it inevitably will, a good craftsman will make it right, if you give him the opportunity to.

But, also inevitably, you will never get exactly what you wanted in a bespoke order, because you can never fully communicate the image you had in your mind to the person who will make it. It is important to recognize that ideals are always different from their execution, imperfect because it is real. That does not mean that something artisanal must be badly made, imprecisely made or irregular in order to be craft-made or artisanal.  That is a lie of long standing perpetuated by the Internet.

FTDF: How do you feel about Savile Row nowadays?


RJ: I like it. Why not? Where else has a neighborhood survived where several dozen different tailors have their shops and can make you each something beautifully handcrafted in the traditional manner?  From Henry Poole to Meyer & Mortimer, through so many others. The real bespoke tailors left in Paris can be counted on one hand and certain of them I would not trust as far as I could throw them with that same hand. It’s very easy to dismiss it, as some of the professionally motivated bloggers have, with rumors impugning the tailors of offshoring or anything else. But there are still a number of very good tailors in and around Savile Row who will make a wonderful bespoke suit, hand cut, hand canvassed and hand sewn in the important places. What almost all of them, or almost all of the larger ones, have had to do to survive is find a secondary revenue stream. In the case of Anderson & Sheppard, it is their new haberdashery selling ready-to-wear. In the case of Gieves & Hawkes, it has been numerous ready-to-wear licenses, foreign licenses in the Far East, diffusion lines of trendy ready-to-wear, and so on. Henry Poole had for a number of years a Japanese ready-to-wear license. Gieves & Hawkes and Kilgour have foreign owners with deep pockets willing to bank on them. Norton & Sons has an MBA owner who launched a trendy, inaccessibly priced ready-to-wear line and raises their profile by appearing on reality shows like The Sewing Bee and so on.  At the core of many of the remaining houses is still the bespoke – certainly at Poole, where I was a customer for several years and where the cut and service were impeccable. The danger for much of Savile Row, frankly, is following the French route where bespoke is simply a miroir aux alouettes, smoke and mirrors because it is so small a part of the business and so deterrently expensive that almost no one actually uses it. Instead, it is something used to sell the ready-to-wear, a branding exercise.  That is the case at several very fashionable French brands with very, very expensive bespoke offers that get a lot of press without there being, or needing to be, a real bespoke clientele. As a marketing tool, all that is needed is the possibility of bespoke.Savile Row

The alternate route that a few of the smaller Savile Row houses have taken is to re-establish themselves as Savile Row-trained and bred, but without a physical store in the Row, instead carrying out fittings at the premises of the cloth merchants who for decades have allowed that as a courtesy.

But if I had my druthers, that is, if I knew I would not be castrated by my wife for ordering more suits, I would go to Camps de Luca for the pleasure of trying them but to Steed for the wonder that is an excellently cut and fitted Savile Row suit.Steed

FTDF: Could you talk to us about your attachment for Edward Green?

RJ: My love for Edward Green is irrational.  Until the 125 last, I actually had a very slightly better fit in Crockett & Jones.  But ever since I got a chance to examine Edward Green shoes in person, they’ve just been my ideal of the English shoe. Back in 2001 I got a chance to look at the Edward Green Westminster and the John Lobb Paris William, each house’s classic double-monk-strap model, side by side. The Green just looked right, and the Lobb looked off. Since then, I’ve noticed that Edward Green’s shoes, both in the proportions of their lasts and of their patterns, just had a perfection to them. The leather quality, the finishing and the construction are on the whole better than any other English maker’s – John Lobb Paris may use some arguably better leathers, but Green’s construction and durability are slightly better than any other English ready-to-wear maker’s I’ve tried. In addition, Green’s vast catalog of models, of last shapes, and the flexibility they had for special orders are amazing. Now they’ve gotten wiser and force many orders into the Top Drawer program at a soberingly high price, but the work is beautiful.Edward Green WestminsterThere’s a lot of foolishness online about handwelted footwear and the importance of that over Goodyear welting (which by definition is carried out by a Goodyear machine), as well as the overstated dangers of gemming. Good hand welting is going to add thousands of dollars to the price of a shoe, for the possibility of perhaps one or two more resolings than a well-maintained Goodyear-welted shoe of quality. Not all Goodyear-welted shoes are of equivalent quality, but Edward Green is among the best of them, and in my experience the finishing and stitching are better than on the other English shoemakers, while the design, subjectively, to me is better than any – John Lobb ready-to-wear is either a bad attempt to copy Berluti or overly finicky versions of the classics Green carries off with panache; Weston is excellent in quality but the styles are less to my taste; Carmina is good quality but nowhere near as well finished; Saint Crispins and Vass rely heavily on their handwork as selling points, but the styles are less accessible to me than Green. Berluti is overpriced and lost whatever specialness it had when its colors and patination used to be a rarity. Green can create with Goodyear welting shoes that are at least as elegant and slim as Berluti in its Blake stitching – and Berluti prices its Goodyear-welted models higher than its Blake-stitched models on the assertion that Goodyear welting is better.Edward GreenGreen can do the perfect unlined loafer as well as the most beautiful lace-up business shoes or magnificent boots, with such a level of finish that even my bespoke shoemakers (such as Cleverley or Delos) have thought the Green ready-to-wear shoes I was wearing were bespoke.EG Isham TDFTDF: What advice would you give to neo iGents?

RJ: Well, as above, that’s a very freighted term, so I would tell them to take a long look in the mirror and think hard about what they are doing with their lives. Then I would give them the advice that the resident rebels had in high school. They had long hair and dressed transgressively and did politically provocative things, and they said to question everything. Regardless of the rest, it’s damn good advice. Learn to think critically and you may become a less happy person, but perhaps a better informed one. Empirical evidence and personal experience are irreplaceable. And I would remind them that the RJ cat (2’5”, 10.1 lb) has a posse.rjcatps

We wish to thank Réginald-Jérôme for his kindness, his knowledge and his sense of humor.

Paris, July 2015. All rights reserved.

Sources: Google Image, Réginald-Jérôme de Mans, Edward Green, Skoaktiebolaget, Akira Sorimachi

Entretien avec Tony Gaziano, cofondateur de Gaziano & Girling

Voici la traduction de l’interview de Tony Gaziano précédemment publiée en anglais.

English version.

Tony Gaziano

FTDF : Pourriez-vous nous présenter votre parcours ?

Tony Gaziano : J’ai découvert le design au cours de mes études d’architecture. Devenir architecte ne faisait pas partie de mes projets et donc dès l’âge de vingt ans, j’ai commencé à dessiner des chaussures pour Cheaney, un fabricant. Mon travail consistait à dessiner pour des marques faisant du private label telles que Paul Smith ou Jeffrey West. J’ai donc dessiné des modèles et créé des lignes pour eux pendant plusieurs années. Je n’avais aucune compétence technique concernant la fabrication d’une chaussure à l’époque.

J’ai ensuite travaillé pour Edward Green pendant un peu plus de deux ans. Je travaillais sur des chaussures plus classiques et intemporelles plutôt que sur des modèles suivant la mode et les tendances comme je le faisais précédemment. C’est au cours de cette période que j’ai commencé à m’intéresser vraiment à la fabrication d’une chaussure et aux opérations manuelles qu’elle suscitait.

C’est en suivant cet intérêt nouveau que je me suis retrouvé à travailler chez Georges Cleverley chez qui j’ai officié pendant sept ans. J’ai commencé en tant qu’apprenti avant de devenir manager de l’atelier sur mesure où étaient réalisées des opérations telles la création de la forme en bois, le patronage, la découpe du cuir et la réalisation de la tige. C’est à cette époque que j’ai rencontré mon associé actuel Dean Girling. Il y a quinze ans bien que nous travaillions déjà ensemble, nous n’imaginions pas que nous allions un jour créer une marque fabriquée dans notre propre usine.Oxfords G&G

Alors que j’étais encore chez Cleverley, Edward Green m’a recontacté afin que je reprenne en main le design. J’ai accepté à condition de pouvoir développer le concept du sur mesure pour Edward Green. J’ai donc passé deux ans à mettre cela en place jusqu’à ce qu’en 2006 Dean me persuade de quitter Green afin de monter notre propre affaire.

En outre, j’ai au cours de ces périodes travaillé assez fréquemment en free-lance pour des Maisons telles que Ralph Lauren.

FTDF : Quel regard portez-vous sur votre passage chez Edward Green ?

TG : Je garde d’excellents souvenirs de mes deux passages chez eux. Edward Green est ma deuxième Maison. Lorsque j’y travaillais, l’idée de les quitter ne me traversait même pas l’esprit. Ils ont sans doute quelques griefs envers moi aujourd’hui, mais j’ai toujours autant d’affection pour cette marque. Je pense qu’avec nous, ils fabriquent toujours les meilleures chaussures d’Angleterre. Ce sont des chaussures très bien faites, très bien équilibrées.

Quitter cette Maison m’a fait mal au cœur, mais en termes de design, il fallait que je m’émancipe et malheureusement l’identité très classique d’Edward Green ne me le permettait pas.Lapo Evening G&G

FTDF : Vous étiez bottier mais vous avez créé une marque de prêt-à-chausser…

TG : Durant mon passage chez Green, j’ai acquis une expérience assez profonde du fonctionnement d’une unité de production industrielle. Du fait de mes différentes expériences dans la mesure et dans le prêt-à-chausser, j’ai été en mesure de joindre plusieurs aspects du métier ce qui est rare en Angleterre car la frontière a tendance à être très hermétique entre le bottier de Londres et le fabricant que Northampton. Personne ne la franchissait ; nous avons été les premiers à faire réaliser industriellement une chaussure ayant la ligne d’une mesure. À ce titre, les gens font d’ailleurs le rapport entre notre nom Italo-Anglais et notre style assez contemporain qui s’appuie sur la qualité d’une fabrication anglaise mais avec un design plus racé. Il ne s’agit pas de faire des choses extravagantes pour se démarquer volontairement mais juste de faire des chaussures aux lignes un peu plus travaillées afin d’inciter les gens à être un peu moins timides dans leurs choix.Hayes G&G

FTDF : En tant que bottier, vous êtes-vous senti contraint de créer une marque de prêt-à-chausser pour vivre convenablement ?

TG : Au départ nous ne devions faire que la mesure, néanmoins la mesure concerne de plus en plus une clientèle de niche et la production industrielle permet désormais de fabriquer d’excellentes chaussures. Dean et moi pouvons sans problème réaliser une paire à nous deux et vraisemblablement en ne faisant que de la mesure nous aurions sans doute pu vivre assez correctement. Nos premiers pas en industriel ne devaient être en principe que des tests, mais une fois lancés dans l’aventure nous nous sommes laissé prendre au jeu.Double Monk G&G

FTDF : Vous êtes un artisan, vous êtes-vous aisément adapté aux aléas de la production industrielle ?

TG : Non, très difficilement, regardez tous les cheveux blancs que j’ai ! Plus sérieusement, il est assez compliqué de créer une unité de production qui tienne la route de nos jours, car la plupart des machines que nous utilisons datent des années 30 ou 40. Et au-delà de la difficulté à trouver ces machines, il faut ensuite trouver des personnes à même de les utiliser correctement. Les machines en question sont des machines de première génération qui avaient pour but de réaliser une opération jadis faite manuellement, il ne s’agit pas de presser de un bouton et d’attendre que ça se passe, il y a des leviers et des subtilités à connaitre pour en faire bon usage.Wingtip G&G

Aujourd’hui, nous avons notre propre unité de production et tous nos employés sont des passionnés mais lorsque nous avons débuté, nous faisions fabriquer nos chaussures par des gens qui n’avaient pas la même passion que nous et qui se contentaient volontiers d’un cahier des charges moins exigeant. Cela rendait les choses compliquées, c’est pourquoi nous avons mis au point notre propre usine.

FTDF : Qu’est-ce qui caractérise la marque Gaziano & Girling ?

TG : Notre volonté principale est de proposer en prêt-à-chausser une chaussure ayant l’allure d’une mesure. C’est la base de notre projet. Certains ont pensé que nous souhaitions produire une chaussure hybride à la fois italienne et anglaise mais ça n’a jamais été notre intention. On souhaitait proposer la mesure de Londres en prêt-à-chausser, pour que les gens y aient accès sans que cela ne soit réalisé spécifiquement pour eux.

FTDF : Votre marque est jeune mais compte déjà une base de clients très fidèles. Qu’est-ce qui pousse les amateurs de chaussures vers Gaziano & Girling?

TG : Je pense que nous avons eu pas mal de chance car nous avons lancé notre marque au moment où les blogs et les forums sur le sujet ont commencé à vraiment prendre de l’ampleur.

Par ailleurs, en regardant le produit les gens voient tout de suite la qualité, les lignes et la passion qui a été mise au service de sa production. Qu’il s’agisse d’amateurs de souliers ou de gens un peu moins avertis, ils sont d’une manière générale saisis par le produit et sa réalisation.Lapo G&G

La majeure partie de nos clients jusqu’ici se compose de gens avertis et connaisseurs en matière de souliers, mais nous réalisons des chaussures suffisamment belles pour attirer de nouveaux clients qui pour certains découvrent pour la première fois le goodyear.

La tendance récente qui fait que les gens semblent reprendre plaisir à s’habiller d’une manière un peu plus formelle nous est aussi favorable.

Notre succès récompense tous les efforts que l’on consent pour réaliser chaque paire. On ne triche pas, on ne fait pas de compromis. Tout est fait dans les règles de l’art. Les gens qui avaient pour habitude de payer très cher des produits d’une qualité moyenne proposés par de grandes Maisons de Mode voient aisément la différence.Tassel G&G

FTDF : Êtes-vous plutôt du genre à rejeter la tendance ou à vous y conformer ?

TG : Je rejette généralement la tendance. J’aime les choses intemporelles. La tendance correspond généralement à des gens plus jeunes que moi.

FTDF : Vous êtes présenté comme la figure emblématique de la marque ; que pouvez-vous nous dire de Dean Girling, votre associé ?

TG : Dean est un peu l’homme de l’ombre, très axé sur le côté technique. Il est obsédé par la qualité. C’est le pire ennemi de notre usine ! Il a une immense maîtrise technique, il connait sur le bout des doigts le processus de fabrication d’une chaussure. S’il y a un problème technique avec un modèle, c’est lui qui va trouver la solution. Nous sommes complémentaires, il me laisse créer et je le laisse veiller à ce que la réalisation optimale.Gaziano & Girling

FTDF : Vous êtes réputé pour votre bout carré, est-ce une sorte d’hommage aux grands bottiers du passé Nikaulos Tuczek et Cleverley ?

TG : On peut dire ça. En effet, mon bottier favori est Anthony Cleverley qui était d’après moi plus talentueux que George Cleverley. C’est lors de mon passage chez Cleverley que je suis tombé sous le charme de ses réalisations dont je me suis beaucoup inspiré notamment pour la Deco Line.Bespoke G&G

FTDF : Quelles sont les différences entre la ligne Bench Made et la ligne Deco ?

TG : Nous effectuons d’avantage d’opérations manuelles pour réaliser une paire de la Deco Line. Néanmoins, nous utilisons les mêmes peaux, habituellement réservées à la mesure, et plus généralement les mêmes matériaux pour les deux lignes. Il y a simplement beaucoup plus d’opérations manuelles pour fabriquer une Deco. En outre, les designs de la Deco Line sont plus travaillés, plus pensés. Ce n’est sans doute pas du goût de tout le monde et certains trouvent sans doute ces lignes trop racées. Mais la Deco Line est plus inspirée par les années 20 au contraire des choses plus traditionnelles qui découlent généralement de ce qui se faisait dans les années 40 et 50.Deco-sole

FTDF : Êtes-vous d’accord pour dire que la Deco Line est en prêt-à-chausser ce qui se rapproche le plus de la mesure ?

TG : Tout à fait, c’est ma conviction.Holden Deco Line

FTDF : Où voyez-vous Gaziano & Girling dans cinq ans ?

TG : Je souhaiterais que nous ayons au moins trois magasins en nom propre : un à Londres, un à Paris et un à New York. Le défi est aussi de maintenir notre exigence de qualité tout en faisant prendre de l’ampleur à la marque. Or, si on souhaite produire plus, il faudra d’avantage d’ouvriers ce qui implique beaucoup de formation, c’est un procédé assez long. On ne souhaite pas devenir un géant mondial mais on souhaite se développer tout en maintenant notre philosophie et sans que cela ne pénalise la qualité de notre production. C’est le défi qui se présente à nous.

Nous souhaitons remercier Tony Gaziano pour sa gentillesse et son savoir. Nous remercions aussi Marc Fass, propriétaire de la boutique Calceom qui a permis la réalisation de cet entretien.

Paris, Novembre 2012. Tous droits réservés.

Interview with Tony Gaziano, master shoemaker and co-founder of Gaziano & Girling

We are proud to present to you an interview with Tony Gaziano, renowned bespoke shoemaker and co-founder of Gaziano & Girling.

Lire l’interview en français.

Tony Gaziano

FTDF: Can you tell us about the different steps of your career and your background?

Tony Gaziano: Originally I was trained up to be an architect. That is how I first got acquainted with design. But I quickly decided that I was not interested in becoming an architect. I went into design of shoes and when I was about twenty I started working for a company called Cheaney. Most of the work I did for them was some subcontracted work for fashion brands such as Jeffrey West and Paul Smith. I worked there for several years mostly on design, I didn’t have any practical shoebuilding, it was all just drawing and range building.

After a while, I left and went to work for Edward Green. I started working on more classical footwear rather than the fashion houses. It gave me a deeper knowledge of the product, it was more about quality than fashion and seasonal runs. I worked there for two or three years and learned a little bit about handmaking but I decided I wanted to go deeper into it so I went to work for Cleverley. I have worked for George Cleverley for about seven years, first as an apprentice and then I managed the bespoke workshops which involved last making, designing, cutting the leather, stitching the uppers together and that’s where I met my partner Dean Girling. He was a subcontracted outworker craftsman and I was the craftsman that worked in house. That was fifteen years ago, we started working together but we didn’t have the intention of opening up our own company.Oxfords G&G

I was then contacted by the present owner of Edward Green who asked me to come back from Cleverley to design for the brand. The condition was that I wanted to set up a bespoke setup for Edward Green. So I spent basically the next two years creating a bespoke service for Edward Green.

Then, in 2006, Dean persuaded me to leave Edward Green in order to start up our own company. When we left, the bespoke service of Edward Green stopped and they introduced their Top Drawer range which I still think they are doing today.

In the mist of all that, I’ve done a lot of subcontracted design for brands such as Ralph Lauren and a few other fashion houses as well.

That’s it… Anything more would bore you!

FTDF: How do you reflect on the time you have spent at Edward Green?

TG: When I worked for Edward Green, I had no intention of leaving. I have worked for them twice so it is almost like my second home; I loved the time that I spent there. They are not particularly happy with me now but I still have a lot of affection for this company. Alongside us I think they make the best shoes in the country. Very well made structured shoe. It broke my heart to leave Edward Green but the boundaries were too strict, too classical for me, I needed to be able to create my own identity which is the reason why I left.Lapo Evening G&G

FTDF: You were a shoemaker but you launched a RTW brand…

TG: Thanks to my time at Edward Green, I had a vast experience on the manufacturing side as well and developing and designing lines of shoes. Unintentionally I was lucky enough to have probably the broadest experience in the country because in England you are either a London bespoke shoemaker or you are a Northampton shoe manufacturer. Nobody crossed over; we were the first people to bring a bespoke looking London shoe to the manufacturing side. There is a lot of symmetries with our business. People connect the Italian/English name to that contemporary style of shoes that we have which is English structure but with a little bit of a twist. It is not out there design but it is enough to get people to come out a little bit of their shell and to get more adventurous with their shoes.Hayes G&G

FTDF: Do you feel that a shoemaker has to go into RTW in order to get by. Did you feel you were bound to launch a RTW brand in order to make a living?

TG: When we started the company we were going to purely do bespoke, however RTW is getting better and the bespoke market is becoming more of a niche. Dean and I can make a shoe between us so we could have just stayed me designing, pattern cutting, closing and Dean making. We would have made a very nice living but we ventured into RTW as an experiment and once you started and the ball is rolling you have to roll with it.Double Monk G&G

FTDF: Being a craftsman how did you manage to cope with the hazards of industrial production?

TG: Very difficultly, look how grey I am! On a more serious note, building a factory today is very difficult because 90% of our machinery comes from the 1930’s/1940’s. Moreover it is not only finding the machinery that works but also finding the operatives who can use it. These days, people see in black and white: shoes are either made by machine or they are made by hand. But there is a middle area where there are machines, first generation of machines that were created to replace handmaking that are almost as skillful in themselves as making by hand. It is not about pressing a button, these machines are all levers, very mechanical.Wingtip G&G

Nowadays we have our own factory where everybody is a shoe geek but when we started, we had to work with other people who did not share our passion because they used to make a lower grade product. That is why setting up our own factory was really crucial.

FTDF: What are the specificities of Gaziano & Girling as a brand?

TG: If I had to sum it up, I would say that our drive was to manufacture a bespoke looking readymade shoe. That was the key. People thought that our intention was to make a shoe that was half continental, half English but that was not the intention. We wanted to bring the London bespoke world into readymade shoemaking and to be able to create a service where people could be able to buy that aesthetic without having to have it made for them.

FTDF: Your brand is young but has a very loyal following. What do you think attracts people to it?

TG: I think we were fortunate to hit the time when many forums and blogs exploded, that was lucky. Also when people look at the shoes, even if they can’t explain it, they see the quality, the lines, the passion that was put into it. Some people can talk about it forever, some people can’t but they can still see and feel the difference.Lapo G&G

Most of our customers up to now have been people who are passionate about shoes but we are making a good looking enough shoe which attracts new customers who were probably not into the welted trade before. These days, there is a luxury brand explosion and everybody seems to enjoy dressing again. In that way, we are a little bit lucky but also we are rewarded of all the attention and hard work we put in our shoes. We don’t cut any corners. Everything is done the way it should be done. Nowadays because of commercial fashion brands and people spending a lot of money on something that is not worth, they really understand when they see something that is.Tassel G&G

FTDF: Do you reject trends or do you embrace them?

TG: I kind of reject trends. I like timeless. Trends are for younger people than me.

FTDF: You are the figure of the brand, can you tell us about your partner Dean Girling?

TG: Dean is more the mechanical side. He is a little bit crazy with quality; he is our factory worst enemy! He has tremendous technical knowledge about shoes, he understands the mechanics of the shoes. If something is not right, he can walk into the factory and put it right. He lets me create, I let him maintain.Gaziano & Girling

FTDF: You are famous for you square toe, is it some sort of tribute to the masters shoemaker of the past Nikolaus Tuczek and Cleverley?

TG: A little bit. My favorite shoemaker was definitely Anthony Cleverley, whom I think was younger, and sharper than George Cleverley. During my time at Cleverley I fell in love with his shoes. Much of my inspiration comes from there, especially the Deco Line.Bespoke G&G

FTDF: What are the differences between the Deco Line and the Bench Made Line?

TG: In a nutshell, there is simply more handwork. For instance, we have to handcurve the waist. However, we use bespoke leathers for everything so quality wise  everything is on the same levels in regards to materials but there is a lot more handwork for the Deco Line. Also there was a lot more attention to the design aesthetic of the Deco. It is not to everybody’s taste, it is a little bit sharp for a lot of people but for us it is a special Line which in a way represents the 1920’s as opposed to the more traditional stuff which is inspired for the 1940’s and 1950’s.Deco-sole

FTDF: Would you agree that the Deco is the closest you could get to a bespoke shoe in RTW?

TG: I definitely think so.Holden Deco Line

FTDF: Where do you see Gaziano & Girling as a brand in five to ten years?

TG: I would like to have at least three shops, one in London, one in Paris and one in NYC. Moreover, the quality has to grow as the company grows. We cannot increase the production without increasing the number of craftsmen. It is a long process, it means lots of training. We don’t want to take over the world, but we want to get bigger while maintaining our philosophy and quality standards. It will be hard but it can be done.

We would like to thank Tony Gaziano for his kindness and his wit. We also would like to thank Marc Fass, owner of Calceom, who made this interview happen.

Paris, November 2012. All rights reserved.