March 3, 2017 / Luxury Lifestyle

Sole Traders: Handcrafted British Shoes

Gaziano & Girling combines traditional craftsmanship with modern design to produce contemporary bespoke footwear from a traditional Savile Row address


The duo behind English shoemaker Gaziano & Girling have come a long way since their early days of crafting footwear in a humble garage. You could call it itchy feet. Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling describe it as a “shared ennui, a yearning to create,” and a belief that they could reinvent a timeless classic—a combination of circumstances that led the pair to leave independent careers in the shoe industry and join forces as Gaziano & Girling. “We felt the industry had become a bit stale. We wanted to make something of real quality with a refined aesthetic using our bespoke skills, but giving it a contemporary twist,” Gaziano says.

Tony Gaziano (left) and Dean Girling among their bespoke and benchmade designs in their Savile Row atelier. Photograph (and banner image): Greg FunnellSo in 2006, they set to work. Gaziano, who had previously abandoned architecture in favor of shoe design and pattern cutting, worked out of his garage. Girling, who had studied shoemaking at the renowned Cordwainers college [part of the London College of Fashion] in East London and served an apprenticeship with shoe brand John Lobb, “out of my shed.”

We wanted to make something of real quality with a refined aesthetic

Within two and a half years, the pair had a contract with Ralph Lauren and opened a factory in Kettering, Northamptonshire—the first in 100 years—at the heart of Britain’s shoemaking industry, with three employees. Through their contacts, they established a base on London’s Savile Row where they could meet clients and schedule fittings, before, in 2012, moving into their own premises across the road at No.39—the first bespoke shoemaker resident on Savile Row. Sophisticated and inviting, with deep-red leather armchairs and their beautiful shoes displayed in walnut cabinets, No.39 has the look and feel of an elegant drawing room as much as a showroom. “We always wanted to be here. It’s a sartorial center with worldwide recognition,” says Girling. 

Gaziano & Girling’s designs are unique, mixing Italian lines with British craft. Photograph: Greg FunnellThe brand only makes some 100 bespoke pairs of shoes each year. The service, which allows them to “push the boundaries of craftsmanship,” takes 12 months from initial fitting to completion, with every step, from the cutting and lasting of the leather to the stitching of the welt and sole, executed by hand. “Customers can personalize to the extreme,” says Gaziano. “Most shoes we make tend to be crafted from luxury skins, and they are shoes with character.” 

Combining handcrafting and manufacturing skills, Gaziano & Girling is at the top of both the bespoke and benchmade industries.  Photograph: Greg FunnellAlong with a walk-in collection, Gaziano & Girling offers a made-to-order service, which allows clients to “customize to a degree by changing toe shape, color, shades, or pattern. The finished pair has the feeling of a bespoke shoe, but is benchmade,” says Girling.

Gaziano & Girling recently opened a second showroom, in New York, and—in response to customer demand—now produces a women’s collection.

A patina service is on offer in Gaziano & Girling's Savile Row store—any pair of benchmade, made-to-order, or bespoke shoes can be given a hand-painted finish. Photograph: Greg FunnellWhen they’re not traveling to visit clients or host trunk shows, the pair each spend, on average, a day a week in the Savile Row store, and the remainder in Kettering at their factory, immersed in the production of their shoes. Artisans both, quality and craft remain the priority.

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Stephanie Jones
is a regular contributor to Christie's International Real Estate magazine