Once upon a time you used to walk into a designer boutique and feel like you were buying something special that was handcrafted by artisans that have been using the same techniques for generations. Fast forward to today and many of these products are more likely to be made in China rather than in a family-owned factory in Italy.
There are however a few exceptions. Recently I was invited by Gucci to try their made to measure service for their iconic horsebit loafers. This exclusive service is strictly for VIPs and allows customers to choose every detail of their shoes from the fabric and colour down to the hardware and monogramming.
For those of you who don’t know, the horesbit loafer is as iconic to Gucci as the 2.55 bag is to Chanel. Inspired by equestrian hardware, it debuted back in 1953 and was a favourite with style icons such as Jane Birkin and Sofia Loren as well as modern celebrities like Li Bing Bing and Jodie Foster. Since then it is continually being reinterpreted by the house on a range of collections from shoes to handbags.
The loafers are also one of the few styles that are still made [over 90 per cent] by hand at the brand’s factory in Florence. It takes around three days to complete one pair, using over 130 components from sewing and dying to assembling. The artisans also use a range of specific techniques that ensure that the shoe is super comfortable including a tubular construction making it super light and pliable.
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the horsebit loafer, Gucci recently flew in a group of artisans from Florence to Hong Kong to demonstrate their unique craftsmanship. I was lucky to watch these masters at work, before ordering my own special pair (in burgundy calf leather with champagne-coloured hardware). It will make the perfect addition to my autumn wardrobe – it’s still bang on trend but, more importantly, will last a lifetime.