Golden Goose, which made a name for itself with its $500 handmade sneakers has now turned its attention to repairs. “Someone who feels taken of will always come back,” said its C.E.O. said.
This article is part of a series on Responsible Fashion and innovative efforts to address the issues facing the fashion industry.
Sneakers are the kings of the casual-wear era. They have been a waste product of cheap manufacturing. Golden Goose, a small footwear company, is open to the idea of handicrafts and repair.
The model, despite its high-end price tag, maybe a guide for fashion companies who want to prolong the life of their products.
As Silvio Campara (the chief executive of Golden Goose) explained the high prices of the sneakers, he leaned on the workshop counter in the back of his boutique. “And artisanship creates love.”
This explains why the company gave artisans in their 20s or 30s a prominent role at the flagship. A team of cobblers cleans and restitches shoes, especially sneakers, in a well-equipped atelier.
They are surrounded by polished wheels, a leather-sewing machine, and an ozone-cleaning closet. Another corner of the shop is lined with rows of ribbon rolls and drawers of rhinestones.
Here, embroiderers make patches for jeans and other clothing and then stitch hearts, flowers, and other whimsical designs onto sneakers. This was Golden Goose’s first venture in customization.
“Our goal was to restore the dignity of artisans,” Mr. Campara stated, holding up a half-repaired sneaker that had the insole’s nailheads exposed. He said that it was difficult to find 20 young cobblers, but that they believed that Golden Goose’s repair program would help shape the future of fashion.
He is known for his wry smile when bragging. “Everyone else’s outdated.”
He was accompanied by cobblers in denim jumpsuits, with their official title — “Dream Maker”, written in capitals. They removed sneakers from a special oven that heats rubber, so that the foxing, which wraps some sneaker styles in a strip, can be pulled off and replaced with the outsole.
Alessandro Pastore, a cobbler, said that five years ago, sneakers repair was not possible. He used to lead production at factories that made shoes for Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, and Jimmy Choo. He started hammering rubber onto a stake-mounted sneaker.
We are first and unique and it makes us feel truly valuable
There’s not a single luxury boutique offering this type of service.” “We are first and unique and it makes us feel truly valuable.” (Mr. Campara congratulated him across the counter.
Francesca Rinaldo & Alessandro Gallo founded the brand in 2000. They used an old-fashioned manufacturing method for sneakers. Instead of using vulcanizing rubber soles to cover the top of the sneaker — the usual quick fix in Asia for sneaker production –, Golden Goose turned to the Veneto cordwainers to make the shoes.
Golden Goose created sneakers with hand-sewn uppers and soles that are identical to formal shoes.
It manufactures over a million pairs per year in eight factories around Italy and Veneto. With another wink, Mr. Campara stated that “We are the best” because they were Italian. This country produces luxury goods of the highest quality. We have the best craftsmanship.”
Window shelves in Milan’s boutique display half-rehabbed pairs of sneakers. It can be hard to tell the difference between before and after without looking at the soles.
However, the sneakers — in line with Golden Goose’s “perfect imperfection”, proudly display scuffs and tears as well as inked-on graffiti. Numerous jars are displayed at the laundry station in the workshop of the cobblers.
They indicate the shades of white paint needed, from snow to smoggy to match the effects of wear. The price for the “Lived-In Treatment” is 70 euros. It costs about the same amount in dollars.
The shop is an elegy for this timeless aesthetic. Clothing inspired by varsity sport and Americana features patches, holes, and mended tears; Blondie and INXS play on the sound system. Books are arranged in a way that showcases analog cameras, roller skates, and cassette tapes.
The new Golden Goose model, which offers craft services to customers, is gaining popularity as physical boutiques are losing their relevance in an age where online shopping has made it difficult for them to be relevant.
In fact, the sneaker manufacturer plans to open concept shops in New York City and Dubai this year.
Although repairs are often seen as a loss for brands Mr. Campara says that this approach is beneficial for businesses.
He explained that a customer who feels cared for will always return. Repairs help to keep my products in your mind and in your life. He said that customers spend time in the shop, talk to others about their experience, and often purchase more shoes when they bring in their old pair.
However, a wider culture that values repair would replace the planned disposal of modern fashion.
This would fundamentally change the way we purchase and maintain goods.
Permira’s investment group bought Golden Goose in 2020 for EUR1.3billion. Though venture capitalists often demand the quickest maximum revenue, precluding the sacrifices required by sustainability efforts, Mr. Campara
insisted that he had the faith of investors after ramping up profits in his tenure as chief executive while introducing a host of sustainability-minded initiatives. He stated that they were here to create long-term value and not just revenue. “You can’t make a sale if there aren’t any clients.”
Beyond the workstations of embroiderers and cobblers, the shop also hosts bins that can be recycled for all brands of clothes and shoes. In partnership with ReCircled, they also resell secondhand sneakers and leather jackets for clients.
Golden Goose also announced ambitious goals for sustainability, and inclusivity, and plans to open a shoemaking academy next spring that will train new generations of artisans.
The label’s most innovative sneaker model, the Yatay Model 1B was introduced this spring. It features a low-water-use, vegetable-based leather alternative, developed in collaboration with Coronet, an Italian material producer.
He said that Italy has a distinct advantage in sustainability. “The supply chain exists, so it is easier to invent together.”
Mr. Campara stated that “Made In Italy” has always been a sign of quality, but future buyers will look for more: “Made With Responsibility,” he added, with another happy wink.