Back in September I was in Florence and Milan exclusively for Gucci, and those of you who were on that journey digitally with me might have remembered there were two different workshop visits; one was to the town of Casellina where Gucci carried out R&D and special orders for all their bags and SLGs (you can read that full post here), whilst Monsummano (another town in Florence that’s also some distance away) is where Gucci has all their shoes made, from the creation of prototypes to yes, special orders like bespoke made-to-order footwear from moccasins to loafers.
And much like Casellina, it’s all about the lab-coated artisans all dressed in white and working away in hushed tones as each works on a different aspect of the shoe in question, which goes through countless stations from cutting the leather down to the right shapes before they are pieced together to adding on the different parts, from the sole to the heel and even the hardware bits, which more often than not in the case of Gucci would be their iconic horsebit embellishment that goes across the shoe.
But unlike bags that only have to be well-made and of course, look good, artisans working on footwear at the Monsummano atelier also have to contend with comfort, with much emphasis given to the way the shoes are sewn, from the time the upper is sewed together to the much later stage of again sewing the upper to the sole, which technically is the top and the bottom of the shoe as one.
So what are the different stages required to complete the shoe from start to finish? Happily enough I was given the chance to witness the entire process (albeit a rather fast-forwarded one for the purpose of the tour), and like my experience at Casellina, it’s definitely an unforgettable one, from first designing paper models that are then used as templates to cut the leather on, to sewing and hammering the seams that ‘fold’ the leather under before the sole is glued and then sewn again for added durability.
Each step required a pair of skilled hands and special tools, with the skilled hands playing an even bigger part when it came to dabbing and shading the leather with dyes, before another artisan armed with brushes took over to add the finishing touches. It’s polished by, you guessed it, another artisan before decorative patterns are added to the shoe, which might include incisions and nails, before it’s given a proper quality-controlled once over before they are lovingly boxed and shipped.
And while it is true that most everything we buy nowadays is automated and created without much effort that eventually shows in the product you’re using, it is comforting to know that the good folks at Gucci’s Monsummano still believe in crafting shoes the old fashioned way that are well, destined to walk many more miles with you.