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Guidi: The Philosophy and Process Behind Its Shoes

Guidi: The Philosophy and Process Behind Its Shoes

This story is taken from Situation 17 of Highsnobiety journal. You should purchase the brand new situation right here.

Italian shoemaker Guidi melds centuries of artisanal custom with a modern-minded strategy and aesthetic. That’s why the footwear firm has grow to be a go-to for the style world’s extraordinarily well-heeled cognoscenti season after season.

Pescia, Italy is a small, picturesque city tucked away amid the rolling, sunburned Tuscan hills, with their neat tomato gardens and cypress timber that seem like benevolent sentinels. It brings to thoughts a country idyll that any vacationer may dream up: family-owned eating places in previous stucco buildings serving mind-blowing pasta, medieval walled cities, small farms littering the countryside — a seductively easy various to frenetic metropolis life.

Tuscany definitely does have all that, nevertheless it’s additionally residence to a number of the greatest artisans in trend at present and particularly well-known for its leather-working experience. One of many corporations to have thrived right here in Pescia is Guidi, a leather-based tannery that has been making its personal footwear since 2004. Within the years because the firm launched its washed, soft-looking footwear and equipment, Guidi has turn into a staple for trend’s avant-garde. Go to any unbiased boutique catering to these clients who wouldn’t be caught lifeless in a division retailer, whether or not it’s Atelier in New York, L’Eclaireur in Paris, or Anchoret in Beijing, and you’re sure to seek out Guidi amongst its choice.

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

The firm’s full identify is Guidi 1896 S.r.l. The “1896” represents the yr it began tanning leather-based. Right now, it’s nonetheless a household enterprise, run by Ruggero Guidi, whom everybody refers to easily as “Mr. Guidi.” The tannery has provided leather-based to style homes resembling Prada, Maison Margiela, and Rick Owens, and has all the time thrived in its leather-making capability. However Mr. Guidi additionally made a interest of accumulating previous employee’s footwear and mountaineering boots. He was fascinated by the historic facet of the shoemaking course of, the craftsmanship it required, its handmade nature. Sooner or later he had the thought to recreate the footwear, to provide them new life and a brand new house. He started his experiments round 2003, displaying them to Alessia Righi Amante, who on the time had simply give up working for the cult label Carpe Diem, one among Guidi’s shoppers, and was operating a small showroom in Paris. Mr. Guidi, who was into making the footwear however not likely into promoting them, requested Righi Amante to assist him out.

“I liked the shoes, but they looked too new, like something people would wear to church on Sunday,” says Righi Amante throughout our dialog on the Guidi workplaces in Pescia. We’re sitting in a room by which the painstakingly restored medieval frescos on the ceiling are lit by ultra-modern Flos lighting. An indication commemorating a 1531 go to by the Pope leaves little question as to the historical past of the place. All of it appears somewhat surreal but someway becoming.

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

Again when Righi Amante labored for the model, Carpe Diem was all about distressing, washing, burying, and doing no matter else to its clothes to make them look worn-in. Righi Amante suggested Mr. Guidi to throw the footwear into one of many tanning drums, which may also be crammed with water. The footwear got here out splendidly distressed, though broken in locations. However, the discerning consumers at luxurious boutiques akin to Maxfield and L’Eclaireur liked the best way they appeared and insisted on stocking them. That gave Righi Amante one other concept: to dye the footwear within the drums as an alternative of simply washing them. By then, Mr. Guidi had requested her to return onboard to maintain gross sales full-time. By 2007, Amante was presenting Guidi at a devoted showroom in Paris.

The secret sauce of the Guidi aesthetic is a technique often known as “object-dyeing.” It makes the footwear look and really feel smooth, and it renders your complete shoe the identical shade. That is delicate however necessary. Take a look at most footwear rigorously and you’ll see a shade mismatch between the higher and the only. It’s because the higher and the soles are often made at totally different amenities earlier than the shoe is put collectively, and the leather-based is already dyed. Against this, on the meeting stage, all Guidi footwear are both the pure brown of oil-tanned leather-based or the lighter, off-white tone of vegetable-tanned leather-based. Every pair is dyed after meeting as a totally shaped object — therefore the time period “object-dyeing.” This course of permits the corporate to work on an unprecedented array of colours with out dropping its aesthetic signature.

“I liked the shoes, but they looked too new, like something people would wear to church on Sunday.”

Righi Amante

Apart from dyeing, Guidi’s important commerce secret, like with each shoemaker, is its lasts — the molds that give every shoe mannequin its specific form. The Guidi shoemaking course of is hyperlocal. Every pair of footwear begins out on the firm’s major facility, the place the uncooked hides undergo the tanning course of in huge spinning drums. The hides are then moved to a footwear manufacturing unit a 10-minute drive away, the place they’re become footwear. After that, the assembled footwear is returned to the tannery to be dyed.

Guidi doesn’t personal its footwear-making manufacturing unit however is its solely shopper. The manufacturing unit is owned by Paolo Rugiati, and like many Italian companies, it’s been in his household for a number of generations. His father and Mr. Guidi’s father have been pals. Earlier than Guidi, his firm made climbing and mountaineering boots.

“These kinds of traditional, regular shoes are hard to make in Italy now because of competition from places like China and Vietnam,” Rugiati says. “All the low- and medium-level factories in Italy have closed and we’ve lost many jobs. So now we concentrate on making high-end products.”

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

In his early 50s, Rugiati is match and unassumingly dressed. He prefers fishing to trend, and when requested if he thinks Guidi footwear look unusual, he laughs affirmatively. On the ground of his two-room manufacturing unit, Rugiati performs probably the most intricate step within the shoemaking course of, slicing the shoe uppers by hand.

“Cutting is my favorite part of the process,” says Rugiati, who began studying the shoemaking course of from his father when he was 15 years previous. “You really have to know how each type of leather behaves.”

I watch as he locations a tanned horse pores and skin on a slicing desk, places the paper sample on prime of it, and with a number of assured motions, cuts out all the one-piece higher with a particular knife. It takes him about 30 seconds. He makes use of the remainder of the pores and skin to chop the liner. After that, the elements move by way of a few dozen pairs of palms, every artisan collaborating in a number of steps, some working completely by hand and others machine-assisted. I watch as they hammer, sand, mould, glue, and sew, their palms outlined by years of shoemaking work, the two-dimensional piece of leather-based slowly turning into a three-dimensional boot. The means of setting up a pair of Guidi’s PL2 front-zip boot takes about two hours.

“Cutting is my favorite part of the process. You really have to know how each type of leather behaves.”


Guidi makes use of a Goodyear welt, a way by which the shoe higher is joined to the only by way of a further strip of fabric (the welt) utilizing heat-activated glue and industrial-strength stitching. A cavity between the insole and outsole is full of cork, with the web impact being a water-proof sole. When correctly cared for, the footwear can final for many years, and the method of sewing the only to the welt relatively than instantly into the higher makes Goodyear-welted soles simpler to exchange.

One other delicate however necessary element that provides a Guidi shoe its specific look is the stacked leather-based heel, considered one of just a few elements Guidi outsources to a specialist. The heel is made from thick items of leather-based stacked collectively and then glued and nailed via. To chop corners, many shoemakers have executed away with this conventional course of, or use plastic or pressed leather-based scraps as an alternative of actual leather-based — assume IKEA making furnishings out of plywood fairly than actual wooden.

As soon as the boots are assembled, the final step is to rigorously sand down the uncooked outer edges of the only and strip away any glue spots. Now they’re prepared to return to the tannery.

Guidi is one thing of an unintentional unicorn amongst artisanal manufacturers. Shoemaking began out as a ardour challenge, nevertheless it now surpasses the tannery a part of the enterprise. And whereas the rise of streetwear has many such manufacturers on the defensive, Guidi is doing extraordinarily properly. It’s one of many few corporations that has stayed true to its aesthetic rules, refusing to bow to tendencies.

A big a part of Guidi’s progress is because of its reputation in China. It’s troublesome to elucidate fairly why Guidi slightly than another artisanal model has achieved cult standing amongst Chinese language shoppers.

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

“At some point, several years ago, Chinese movie stars and musicians started wearing Guidi, as they were becoming more conscious of the fashion avant-garde,” says Lu Han, proprietor of Atelier New York, which presently shares 1,500 pairs of Guidi footwear. “Before, Chinese celebrities were into your usual Chanel and Dior, but now they’re becoming more discerning, and their fans are following their lead.” Han factors out different elements which have contributed to Guidi’s reputation, such because the model’s use of horse leather-based — a novelty to Chinese language clients — the unconventional look of its footwear, and the footwear’ relative consolation.

Pita Cheng, proprietor of Hong Kong boutique INK, concurs: “We were the first to carry Guidi in China in 2010 and our first order was just nine pairs of men’s shoes. But around 2013, more and more female customers started asking for it, including famous Chinese tastemakers.” INK has ordered 2,500 pairs of Guidi footwear for Fall/Winter 2018 to fulfill in-store demand.

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

Guidi’s relative shortage has spawned a wholesome resale enterprise in China and a whole business of faux merchandise. Every pair of genuine Guidi footwear now comes with a QR code that confirms the product’s origins by way of authentication platform Certilogo. However success is each welcome and a fear for the model.

“I’m glad people are buying our shoes, but I hope they buy them for the right reasons,” says Righi Amante, who is worried concerning the common buyer treating Guidi merely as one other style product to be consumed and discarded in line with developments. “We want them to know about the artisanal process, about the craftsmanship.”

In its first years as a shoemaker, most of Guidi’s marketplace for footwear was males, who gravitated to its understated, lived-in type. As we speak, nevertheless, the demographics have flipped. Round 80 % of Guidi clients at the moment are ladies, which helps to reply one query I had for Righi Amante: Why is Guidi in no rush to make sneakers when sneakers comprise the lion’s share of the lads’s footwear market?

“I’m glad people are buying our shoes, but I hope they buy them for the right reasons. We want them to know about the artisanal process, about the craftsmanship.”

Righi Amante

“It’s not a statement,” Righi Amante solutions. “It’s just that we’re adamant about keeping the artisanal way of production, so we haven’t found a way to make sneakers the way we want. A collaboration of some sort would make more sense.”

The freshly constructed footwear at the moment are again on the tannery. The tannery itself is a big one-story constructing. All of the footwear are dyed in a machine that appears like an enormous, stripped-out washer whose drum has been rotated 90 levels. The dyeing is completed by a single operator, Mr. Giacomo, who additionally mixes all the colours, checks them, and comes up with new ones. Just one shade could be utilized at a time. I watch as Mr. Giacomo fills the drum with water, pours within the premixed dye, and lets the drum spin for some time. One after the other, he drops in 25 pairs of PL2s. The dyeing course of takes roughly 40 minutes. If the dye doesn’t take appropriately, the boots return for an additional 40-minute session. The course of — the color-mixing particularly — is a mixture of artwork and science.

“Black is the hardest color to get right,” Mr. Giacomo says. “And different leather types take the dye differently.”

Because the boots are dyed, that crisp, new-leather odor you get if you open a field of Guidi footwear permeates the air. Stacks upon stacks of uncooked hides and tanned skins fill the huge flooring. In one other drum, crocodile leather-based is being tanned.

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

“Usually, crocodile is tanned only with chrome, which makes it shiny,” says Guidi communications supervisor Michele La Verde. “I think we’re the only company that tans crocodile leather with a mix of tan and chrome, giving the leather a matte effect.”

After the footwear are dyed, they go to an adjoining constructing for drying, high quality management, packing, and delivery. Once I enter, tons of of pairs of footwear are drying — black, white, darkish purple, and a shocking hue that’s both grayish blue or bluish grey. A number of staff are busy stuffing the footwear with paper earlier than hanging them to dry. On common, it takes every week for a shoe to air-dry. They’re then moved to a different station for examination and packing in line with retailer orders.

Apart from overseeing gross sales, Righi Amante is charged with creating the artistic aspect of the model. Guidi eschews conventional advertising. Its Instagram account is @guidi_community, the place different individuals’s Guidi footage are reposted, emphasizing the purchasers’ connection to the model moderately than tailoring its advertising message by means of self-styled imagery. By means of its “Art for Art’s Sake” program, Guidi has additionally supported numerous younger artists.

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

On the time of my go to, Righi Amante is in the midst of getting ready the brand new set up for Guidi’s Paris showroom, taking me to a metalworking store to see its progress. Her concept is to make a small “bamboo” grove made out of blackened metal. Items of footwear from Guidi’s in depth archive are to be impaled on every stem.

A month and a half later, Righi Amante’s imaginative and prescient involves fruition at Guidi’s showroom in Paris’ 11th arrondissement, a wholesome distance away from Le Marais, the place most trend showrooms are. A former carton-making facility, the constructing is tucked away on a small road, throughout from the imposing Church of Saint Joseph des Nations. Within the roughly eight years since I first visited the showroom, I’ve seen it develop from a small nook location on Rue de Thorigny to what’s now an enormous L-shaped room plus courtyard, with catered lunches served in a devoted kitchen.

The metal bamboo grove greets me as I stroll in, spectacular in its metallic glory. Inside, rows of footwear and boots in several colours are positioned on metallic cabinets sheathed in Guidi leather-based. There are additionally dozens of types of luggage, from fanny packs to giant weekenders, and leather-based, silver, and black diamond jewellery, a brand new improvement. The place is bustling with appointments for consumers from all over the world.

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

Highsnobiety / Edward Chiu

After years of experimentation with dyeing, Guidi leather-based has moved away from conventional black. There’s now a Guidi rainbow of types, with the model looking for to develop a brand new shade for each season. Typically Guidi surprises retailer house owners with a restricted version, such because the current metallic olive camouflage PL1 boot. The boot is restricted to 300 pairs, every painted by hand, which is the one solution to obtain the specified camouflage impact.

Guidi is old-school in that it doesn’t function its personal shops, not even on-line. The model subscribes to the normal wholesale mannequin, preferring to construct lasting relationships with rigorously chosen boutiques around the globe, of which there at the moment are 130.

Guidi’s dedication to those conventional enterprise and manufacturing processes hardly looks like a viable recipe for fulfillment within the trendy period. And but, Guidi doesn’t simply endure — it thrives. Mr. Guidi and his group have made conventional manufacturing trendy, carving out a distinct segment for individuals who care about how issues are made. Guidi shoppers perceive the aesthetic premise and underlying high quality every shoe represents. A Guidi shoe is made utilizing the perfect obtainable supplies and methods, nevertheless it’s not a dressy shoe a banker wears to the workplace, or a lawyer to a marriage. Neither is it the country type of boot that appeals to would-be cowboys or classic workwear lovers. Moderately, it occupies a context of its personal making, inviting the wearer so as to add their very own signature to the footwear via additional put on. Regardless of their excessive worth level, Guidi footwear don’t scream luxurious — fairly the other; they current an understatement bordering on disdain. And that’s precisely their attraction.

Highsnobiety / Micaiah Carter

Highsnobiety journal Problem 17 is on the market now from our on-line retailer and at choose premium stockists and boutiques worldwide.

  • Producer:
    Michele la Verde
  • D.O.P. & Edit:
    Alessandro Pacini & Ruben Spizzichino
  • Music:
    Syo the Producer

Phrases by
Eugene Rabkin


Eugene Rabkin is the founder and editor of StyleZeitgeist. He was born in the united states and lives in New York Metropolis.

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