On the outskirts of Florence, in Italy’s traditional shoe-making home, sits a nondescript, boxy building that was built during the post-war Italian industrial boom of the 1950s. While the factory doesn’t look like much from the outside, once through the door it’s an altogether different story. The facility has the honorable distinction of making the Gucci loafer, one of the most iconic shoes made by one of the most prestigious and revered brands the world over.
If teleported into the building without any knowledge of the craft that held within those walls, one could reasonably think workers were turning out semiconductors or some other ultra-modern device. The neatly-organized space is bright and clean with machinery clustered sporadically along a looping line. It is the perfect marriage of technology and traditional craft with a seasoned group of shoemakers, sewers and cutters all under one roof. The nexus of old and new world is best exemplified in the attire of the tradespeople themselves; each worker wears a white lab coat with a beautifully tanned leather apron in a charming way that only Italians can pull off. The craftsmen attach the leather loafers to the last by hand with a nail and hammer while sitting on a little wooden stool at a well worn and purpose built work bench. Even the tools have their own Gucci embossed leather kit to keep all necessary instruments organized and at hand. Looking around, I had a vision of what it would have been like for an Italian 1950s me driving my Cinquecento to the factory, grabbing my apron and going to work as a skilled (and humble) craftsman. If Daniel Day Lewis can do it, why not me?
After the moccasin uppers are sewn together (by hand, of course) and lasted, they move down “the line” to a team who begins the long coloring process of staining the leather. This hand staining involves several stain and dry repetitions which eventually result in a beautifully tonal rich leather coloring. It was the workers who stained the shoes who most impressed me, wielding a steady hand and paint brush with an ease that is only born from years and years of experience. To me, it seems, the easier a processes looks, the harder it most likely is.
Eventually, the loafers make their way around the room to the welting step and through layers and layers of finishing. This finishing process includes polishing, more hand staining, drying, more polishing and eventually to the craftsman who attaches the classic Gucci “Horsebit” hardware. The finished shoes are then packed up neatly awaiting final delivery to the store or customer. The process of making leather shoes at Gucci is a beautiful one and held in high regard for an obvious reason. The craftspeople in that simple building outside Florence are the unique combination of experience, technology and a historical skill set that has developed over generations. What more could one want in an icon?
Comments on “Made in Italy | The Iconic Gucci Loafer”
About 17 years ago I worked at a store a few doors down from the local Gucci outpost. One day we received a box from UPS. It was a delivery of Gucci loafers. I held up one, the first time I had ever held a Gucci loafer. It was handsome as hell.
Of course we sealed the box back up and brought it to the store. Can’t say we weren’t tempted though.
Cool post! I love to see how stuff is made.. ! That’s one of the things that brought me to the bespoke shoe business. The first time I visited a factory I fell in love with the craftsmanship of a hand made shoe… like this one!…
I what more Michael.. where else were you in Italy?!…
There are a couple more posts from Italy…more cool stuff coming.
I’ve got to say, seeing all that modern machinery and the lab coats and ID badges was very… disappointing. In my mind, those loafers are made in a rustic workshop with dust and leather scraps on the floor by an old man who has been making these shoes since he was a teenager.
@Dan – It’s sort of like learning that Santa Claus doesn’t exist…
I love the old school cobblers and the leatherworking tools. But how do I snatch up one of those awesome leather Gucci aprons the dude was wearing!
Santa Claus can’t fabricate shoe Jesus
Its like those Mr Rogers segments where he takes ya inside a comb factory to see how they’re made- but this is just much cooler…
Forget the shoe, that apron is what I want!
The day I got my hands on a pair of those iconic shoes(vintage but like new) it felt like a rite of passage for me style-wise. Great post!
Those shoes are fucking amazing.
@Noble…..I had the exact same reaction about that apron, and also some time back, the factory coveralls the Porsche workmen use in Germany. Never did get any dammit.
Everybody willing to commit white collar crime to get one of those bewitching aprons – raise your hand!
Wonderful to see inside the factory. Great picture of the tool kit, all clean and arrange neatly :)
Great post, thanks
@ Andrea – Hand Raised!
Really great contrast between the sterile looking workshop and the leather toolkit.
Must. Possess. Apron!
Anyone out there know what they call those flower shaped parts holders? I have been looking for them but not sure what they are called oir who sells them.
That leather toolkit and work desk!!!! Awesomeness!
Excellent photos, did you use a prime lens and full frame camera?
While in Firenze, could you visit Sartoria Seminara and provide us with a summary including images?
wonderful endorsement of the italian shoe trade. thank you! unfortunately this amazing craft is drying up in italy, many many amazing resources of great tradition and high quality have gone in the past 5+ years. Mainly because the US consumer market won’t pay or can recognize quality. look in your closets, how many pairs of your shoes are made in China vs Italy or EU?? Looks like the burgeoning chinese luxury consumer may end up stepping in where the US consumer let down and saving these venerable italian crafts!
@kari – Are 60+ million Italians able to recognize or pay for Italian-made quality? The US has many of problems, but the market for Italian-made shoes is not one of them.
what is with everyone wanting the damn apron?
do you want to be a billboard for gucci or something? are you that materialistic to want to ‘rock’ one of these? gimme a break.
Now onto the shoes… what a delight! I too enjoy seeing these “how its made” posts.
It’s nice to see their shoes without those god awful monograms for a change.
@Noble County Gold
That is one pretty apron!
It’s just a nice full body leather apron, plus it looks rather soft.
I can just immagine the incredible smell that there must be in such a place!
I would pay a premium for that gucci apron.
Photos are incredible
Cool! I have the shoes and I really, really want the apron!
The amazing part is the slowness with which the shoes are made…it is the hand nailing, the aniline dye, brushing and cutting that make the shoes so organic. In the end you pay for imperfections, the human touch, and someones job. By contrast, mass production on automated machinery producers a cheaper shoe, one that may or may not last as long but certainly will not look human made…there is room for both in the world I prefer the later. I prefer used vintage handmade to new machine made…I like to know I am putting food on this guys table ….that is the weird double edged sword of consumerism…the poorer we get the less likely we can buy the things that would actually keep us employed, and healthy, and in a slow “food” world culture
Everything about this makes me happy.
Amazing craftmenship…I’ll take two of those aprons please..one in black..embossed:)
Where can you get the welted version? Mine are mocs…
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