While up in Northampton last week, I stopped in to see Gaziano & Girling’s new workshop. And Tony was kind enough to show me round. There aren’t many shoe makers in England that combine a bespoke and ready-made business in the way that G&G now does, both responding to client’s requests and designing new collections for wholesale and private-label work.

These two sides of the business inform each other in some interesting ways. For example, working with clients on their ideas for bespoke can create inspiration for a ready-made collection. And while some other brands get input from clients through special orders, it is not the same proportion or relationship as that gained by bespoke. You can see some of the slightly more daring G&G bespoke ideas here, from stingray through to laser designs. These are all waiting to go to Japan with Dean for a trunk show.

gaziano-girling-three

“Having a ready-made business also teaches you rigour,” comments Dean. “Manufacturing forces you to be disciplined and consistent. If a bespoke shoemaker makes one pair wrong, he can tweak it or redo it. You can’t do that with an order of 100 ready-made.”

Bespoke shoemakers without any manufacturing, on the other hand, have a slightly narrower perspective. For example, they often have to use merchants for sourcing leather. A business with bigger volume can afford to order its own leather in bulk, and deal with the tanneries directly.

“I think it also teaches you how much tolerance men have for the fit of their shoes,” says Dean. “Bespoke tends to focus quite narrowly on how a man’s shoes should fit, according to fixed ideas or a golden formula. But if you watch a man try on sizes, you realise how much personal preference plays a role. You remember there’s a person on the other end.

“Some men prefer very tight, others quite loose; the Japanese will nearly always go for a size longer and narrower than you’d think. There’s a difference between having the size that ‘fits’ and the size that a customer thinks looks good.”

And of course, bespoke shoes inform the quality and design of ready-made, as these pictures and Gaziano & Girling’s burgeoning reputation attest. Characteristic design features include the peaked toe-cap and aggressive waist treatment.

Finally, a quick tip from Dean on polishing: try mixing the water you use with a little surgical spirit, in around a 4:1 ratio. Brings out the shine just lovely.

Good luck to Dean and Tony in their new home. (And Daniel, pictured below – apparently a regular reader of Permanent Style!)

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Horatio

As I understand it, surgical spirit is a mix of methanol and ethanol. Here in the States, we can normally get only isopropanol, commonly called rubbing alcohol.

So, Simon–can we use rubbing alcohol instead of surgical spirit?

Poinz

Horatio, Simon, you can certainly get ethanol, at least in the US. It’s sold both at pharmacies and paint departments, as ‘denatured alcohol’. Denaturing simply means that they put a tiny bit of something in it that makes you sick as a dog if you drink it, so it is not taxed as liquor.

Poinz

TMR

Simon – where can one buy Gaziano & Girling’s wonderful creations in London? Their website shows an address on Savile Row, but it does not to be there on the real Row… Advice appreciated.

Anonymous

Dear Simon,

When will we see an article on G&G in The Rake?

Best regards,
Patrick

Lindsay Eric McKee

Are the leathers of the G&G Ready to Wear as good as, say Crockett & Jones handgrade shoes?
I briefly popped into G&G in Saville Row just over a year ago and tried on a Oxford Cap Toe, gradually increasing the size of shoe from a tight size 11 to a more comfortable size 12 and they informed me that they could make adjustments which would make for a very comfortable fit. This seemed to be a higher level of quality service and a lot more attention to fitting for a pair of RTW than even Crockett & Jones, excellent as they are. I have no problem with the G&G shoe style and I intend to consider G&G even for Ready to Wear, considering their level of attention to even Ready to Wear. I am very fussy about a shoe that fits well.