The Shoe Snob Blog

April 30, 2018

Written by , Posted in News

My Story — The 5 Year Plan — The Year of Transition — Part 2: Back to Italy

photo courtesy of Neil Watson of A&H mag

I flew back to Italy knowing my fate with Stefano. No shoes sold meant no placement for me. I could feel it, especially as it was obvious that Stefano’s business was struggling as he was often very stressed you know that rumors spread quickly in small places. But even so he couldn’t offer me anything he still allowed me to hang out continuing to make shoes as I could only be in Italy for 2 months as that was the limit to my money. But now I was faced with a predicament of not knowing what to do next. I knew that I couldn’t just give up and go home. I had to try and figure out a way to stay in Europe.

There was my girlfriend. We were still dating and we didn’t really want to end and well, long distance relationship’s half way across the world wasn’t really something either one of us wanted to do. So, very prematurely, we decided that the only way to stick together was to get married (at some point soon). We did not plan a date but we kept the talks of it. I stayed in Italy for as long as I could before having to go home. We made a plan that she would move to Brighton, England and that I would work the Winter sales in Seattle and come back to her at the end of January 2010.

***Rewind time to when I was still in Seattle, never having left but knowing that I wanted to start my own shoe line. I remember one day my dad telling me, ‘Justin, I have an article for you in the latest Robb Report that you are going to love.’ I was excited. So when I got to his house, he showed me and it was an article about the launch of this new brand of shoes, Gaziano & Girling. I was enamored with what I saw and immediately found Tony Gaziano’s email and sent him a message asking if I could come to England and apprentice with him. He kindly replied saying that they were far too young into their business to take someone on, not having time nor resources but asked that I kept in touch. And that I did.***

With the plan of moving to England once my girlfriend and I got married, I immediately remembered Tony Gaziano and his declaration of keeping in touch, so I said to myself ‘now is my time to get in touch as I have experience under my belt and can make a pair of shoes.’ So I emailed him saying that I was coming to visit England at the end of January and wanted to come visit with the preface of talking about me working for them potentially now that I had the skillset to knock out a pair of shoes. Tony, as usual, was very kind and said ‘of course, please let us know when you are here and we can arrange a time for you to come to the factory and show us what you have done.’ I was stoked to say the least and knew that no matter what I would be working with Tony in some form or another.

So I was back home in Seattle, working for Nordstrom, busting my ass so hard to make money to get back to my girlfriend and to go to England and meet the shoemakers that I always originally wanted to work for. I remember this time period so well as it was the first time that I really worked like my life depended on it as I put in 150 hours into a 15 day period, without one day off. The beauty of commission. When fighting for one’s dreams there are no limits to what you will do and I learned this in those two weeks. And it was all worth it in the end. I made enough to go visit England for two months where my money would be cut into half from the strength of the British Pound.