The Shoe Snob Blog

February 27, 2015

My Time in Milan

Barbanera Gatsby Spectators

Barbanera Gatsby Spectators

In the hopes of always trying new things and getting better products to make my shoes with, I went to Milan for the bi-annual Lineapelle leather fair and am currently still here. As luck would have it, I came down with a cold the day before leaving and still havent shaken it off. Travelling while ill definitely takes the fun out of it, but at least it’s just a cold and not a fever!

Saint Crispins Brogues

Saint Crispins Brogues

Like Pitti, what I love about coming to Milan is that I have several friends here that are in the industry of whom I always enjoy getting the chance to see. On top of that, you usually bump into others you didnt expect to see as I did with my good friend Phillip Car of Saint Crispins. What’s great about it, is that not only do you get to see friends but that you also get to discuss the industry and exchange ideas. For me, the thought of other brands being competitors doesn’t exist. I dont try to fight for the sale of an exisiting customer but rather try and create a new customer that has never worn goodyear welted shoes. That is my ultimate goal: to transform the minds of men into bettering their shoe collection, one pair at a time (if not more!)

Myself, with Sebastiano and Sergio Guardi of Barbanera taking a shameless selfie while having a few drinks before dinner

Myself, with Sebastiano and Sergio Guardi of Barbanera taking a shameless selfie while having a few drinks before dinner

Therefore it might seem strange that every chance I get, I meet up with the Barbanera brothers, who are like my Italian brothers from another mother, and talk about the industry and how to succeed in it. In reality their product could be considered somewhat similar to mine (although we all agree that they are quite different). The fact is that they make smart, goodyear welted shoes that have a classic base and modern details injected into them, quite like mine do. And their price point is similar too. Other shoemakers might not dream of being so close to their so-called “competitor” but in reality nothing would please me more than to see them succeed.

Riccardo Bestetti's office

Riccardo Bestetti’s office

Tonight, I am quite excited for as I am going to an amazing restaraunt with my good friends, Riccardo Bestetti and Gianni Cerrutti (of Passaggio Cravatte) and it just so happened that Mr. Hugo Jacomet of Parisian Gentleman was going to be in town too and will be accompanying us with his lovely wife Sonya Nicholson and photographer Lyle Roblin. And its not that I am trying to drop names here but rather show that the great thing about our industry is that we can all get together, be friends and exchange ideas. And for me, that is one of the greatest pleasures of doing what I do: the idea of getting people in the same space to make friends, share ideas and hopefully come together to better the industry. I have always said it and I will continue to do so and that is the fact that I truly believe if we all dropped the idea of having/being competitors, became friends and shared ideas, the shoe industry would be far better off and we would all sell more shoes, make more money and reach more clients. Cheers to that!

Riccardo Bestetti bespoke shoes

Riccardo Bestetti bespoke shoes

7-Fold Passaggio Cravatte Tie

7-Fold Passaggio Cravatte Tie

  • Hazwan

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for the article. I really respect your goal which is to have more people wearing good shoes. I’d like to point out that even though you don’t think that your competitors affect you, they actually do in many ways. This is from a business point of view and the market for shoes is always expanding but without a source of differentiation I’m afraid it will be a struggle for you to make your company sustainable and see your goal come close to completion. Without trying to target and market your product and offering something of a greater value vis-a-vis your competitors, it might be detrimental to the company like many other shoe companies which have been bought over.

    • TheShoeSnob

      Thanks for your input. Of course I know what you are saying. I do feel that I have differentiated my product, quite so in fact and do offer a good value for money (IMHO). But I still believe in doing things differently and so far it hasnt let me down. I did after all make it this far. And while I intend to be successful, I dont intend to be like Nike, selling millions of shoes a year. After all I am in a niche market and if I can add another 1000 people a year to this market, that would be great and enough to keep me happy and paid for the rest of my days. And the fact still remains that there are enough people out there to keep us all well paid, the problem is that most of them are wearing designer stuff when they could be wearing classic stuff and those are who I hope to change, with the blog.

      • Hazwan

        And you’re doing a great job with educating people through your blog. Thank you for that. I guess it depends on your goals. I just wanna wish you well and all the best in your endeavors!

    • MS

      I beg to differ. Good businesses, trustable businesses, good brands, are invariably complementary about their close competition and learn from each other. There is nothing wrong with that. Quality improves accordingly.
      Pretty much every industry has their own shows and conferences.
      These events allow companies not only to learn what is going on and to find out how to improve, they also (accidentally or deliberately) foster competition and innovation and differentiation.

      Targeting markets and giving them what they want is inexact and overrated (see Henry Ford quote on Faster Horses). Much better to do what gives you passion and enjoyment and stands you out from the crowd. As this business shows.

      Plus, there are other elements besides operational and development.
      You never know which major manufacturer might come knocking and buys you out (Fitz joings LVMH stable, retires with large amount of well earned cash… ) and of course, keep your friends close, your (potential) enemies closer!