Tony Gaziano, bespoke shoemaker
Bespoke shoemaker Tony Gaziano might be jetting off across Asia and America, but he fully embraces his English roots. He shares with Jessica Chan the hidden gems of his storied home.
He’s made shoes for Ralph Lauren and Ermenegildo Zegna Couture and dressed the feet of celebrities like Henry Cavill and Léa Seydoux. Tony Gaziano, co-founder of Gaziano & Girling, is one of Savile Row’s finest bespoke shoemakers.
I met with the debonair 45-year-old at Kevin Seah Bespoke’s atelier – where his readyto-wear and made-toorder selections are available – during one of his coveted trunk shows. While nursing his whisky, the Englishman shares how he, an architecture school drop-out, made a serendipitous decision to join the design department of a shoe factory and, eventually, rose to become an international authority on made-to-order leather shoes. “Shoes grew on me,” he chuckled “I knew I wanted to be in fashion or luxury, but it was only after 18 months on the job (at the factory) did I realise how much I enjoyed it.” Subsequently, Gaziano worked at English shoemakers Edward Green and Cleverly. The latter is where he met business partner (and the other half of Gaziano & Girling), Dean Girling. He later roped Girling into Edward Green. He’d made the last and leather, while Girling would complete the stitching of each shoe. Six years on, Gaziano & Girling was born in storied Northamptonshire, England. From there, he’d make regular trips to Savile Row where their flagship store is; their New York showroom; and wherever their many trunk shows take him.
What makes Gaziano & Girling stand out from other bespoke shoemakers and luxury brands?
It boils down to Dean and my deep understanding of quality, from the expertise of last making to the leather used. You’d get a product that’s almost ornamental, as if it is something you can admire. We fly down to big cities of Asia – in fact, our initial clients were Japanese and Americans – just for fittings. We bring the British bespoke shoe-making experience to our clients’ doorsteps.
I am guiding clients on this journey to find that perfect pair, especially for those who are new to bespoke shoes. When they move from high street and designer labels and onto a new level of luxury (that I provide), their world opens up to shoes in 100 different shades, styles and shapes. For example, what type of shoes for what occasion, what colours go with which fabric and so on. Now, they are like kids in a candy shop.
Share with us a trunk show tradition.
We used to hold trunk shows cum parties at Grand Hyatt Tokyo. There’d be 40 to 50 people in one room, having drinks and trying on shoes. When the excitement settles (and hunger comes knocking), we would pop down to The Oak Door for a steak dinner. I still think it’s one of the best meats I’ve ever had; and the best service one could ever ask for.
You have a flagship store along
Savile Row. Why base yourself in Northamptonshire?
I am always telling anyone who visits to get out of London and go to the countryside.
One of my favourite spots is this nondescript restaurant called Thai Garden near where I stay in Kettering. It’s the most random place. You have these two guys from Hong Kong cooking Thai, Malaysian and Cantonese food in one kitchen that serves a maximum of 20 people. Even our friends from Japan and other Asian cities have sang its praises. For a more elaborate affair, there’s The Oak Room Restaurant within The George Hotel of Stamford. It’s this 15th century coaching inn that’s been transformed into a private hotel. I always feel like I’m back 400 years in time when I’m here. They have this showpiece of a roast beef they would serve straight from a silver domed wagon – an absolute classic.
And Northamptonshire is teeming with history. There are many castles but the most significant is the Althorp Estate, which was once home to Diana, Princess of Wales. It was founded by the Spencer family of politicians and admirals, who has stayed there since 1508. The sprawling estate is home to cottages, farms and woodlands that play host to a variety of events, including the Althorp Food & Drink Festival.
What are your favourite haunts along Savile Row?
I love Asian food so China Tang at The Dorchester with its authentic Cantonese fare (including dim sum) comes to mind immediately. Sartoria is my go-to Italian Restaurant. It has just been renovated so it has an amazing ambience to go with the equally fantastic food by chef Francesco Mazzei. You get dishes from his hometown of Calabria and surrounding areas. It being just 100 yards away from my shop is even better.
China Tang Althorpe Estate
Grand Hyatt Tokyo