Interview with Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling


March 9, 2013 by Ville Raivio

“Tony Gaziano 36 [this interview took place four years ago], director and design manager,  with one girl, aged 10, and a step daughter, aged 22. Dean Girling 39, Director and finance manager, with one girl, 11 months old. I was originally training in architecture, but lost interest. I grew up in Northamptonshire where shoe factories were everywhere and went into a design office in one of them, I found my interest through my father who always had great enthusiasm for clothing and shoes. So the combination of my father’s influence and the area I grew up in clicked into place. I went into my first design office, where I had a boss who was straight out of victorian England, he insisted that I learn everything the hard way and worked from the factory floor up, obtaining knowledge from every area of the process.

Products from Pukimo Raivio

Kiton, grey sports jacket, size 50EU
Ralph Lauren, Black Label suit, size 52EU

I was forced to deal with the product with a holistic approach rather than a designer who simply sits and draws pictures, and ’till this day myself and Dean are a major part of our bespoke and ready made production, so much so that we can make shoes between us without help from another craftsmen. Dean’s upbringing was almost exactly the same as mine, only he did not have quite as much focus on the design side. Dean has always been self-employed and became very good at  managing finances, hence the two areas we cover in the company.

Dean comes from a shoemaking family, his father was a shoemaker and he grew up with it, over the years he became familiar with all the processes. He also has a keen sense of style, which I think influenced him to excel through to working with the best shoes. I would describe myself as classic contemporary (classic with a twist), which is what I think our brand is about, modern classics. Dean’s style is a little more classic than mine, but we pretty much share the same values. Myself and Dean worked together for nearly 10 years before we formed the company, we were together at Cleverley, me the last maker/designer and Dean the Laster/sole maker. Dean came up with the idea that we should break away, and after many nagging months I agreed. I would say that it was a long term dream, but one I never thought would actually happen, when you have the security of a good company behind you it’s very difficult to break away, especially if you have a family.

I like people I can see, meet and communicate with, obviously I can admire and respect all the typical style icons like Fred Astaire, Duke of Windsor etc, but I am much more influenced by people I am surrounded with, and I think part of style is in genuine character. I have met many of the old school guys over the years, a mixture of French, American, English folk etc, even Japanese. Now and again you get a guy come along who simply knows how to put everything together, he lives to no dresscode rules, only to what his eye tells him, and it turns out great. These are the guys that stick in my mind.

Being English [my favourite model] has to be the Oxford, and also because of how wonderfully versatile it can be, especially from a designer’s perspective. It can be the complete formal shoe or even an outrageous fashion shoe, depending on the detail you put into it, all of the other shoes are more on the casual side and are limited to how formal they can be, therefore not as versatile. [Our personal style] has to be either England or Italy, as far as products are concerned.  I like both equally for different reasons, however this applies to me mainly for suits and shirts, I can’t quite enjoy Italian shoes, a little too over-designed for me. When it comes to best-dressed men though, the Americans, Japanese and many Europeans would be great contenders for best-dressed men. [My hobbies include] running, and lots of it, I try to run 2 marathons a year, so when I am not running them I am training for them. Dean does a lot of shooting, he also has a Harley-Davidson that he plays around with.

I would say try and avoid bad weather with leather soles, if you get your shoes soaking wet, let them dry naturally with some news paper inside to absorb, and then put the trees in when they dry of a little. If you put the trees in straight away they will never  absorb a great deal of moisture as the wood is not that porous. Give them a wax polish every 2 or 3 times you wear them, after a few months of wax polish remove the wax using a mild cleaner and then apply a good shoe cream, leave them for a while to absorb the cream ( maybe overnight) and then start applying the wax polish again. Other than that, simply check the wear of the soles regulary so that they are not wearing too thin. If the sole is very thin, then return them to the original maker for re-soling and renovation.

I would say that you need to build your shoe collection around your clothes, don’t simply admire samples. Many shoes can look nice in sample form, but when you get them on your feet there is a chance you will decide that style is not for you. Look at the colours of cloth you have, and think about what coloured shoes will go with it, so when you look at the leather swatch you almost know what you are looking for. Also think of the occasions you will be wearing them for, office, evening etc…  Keep it basic, there is nothing worse than overdesigning a bespoke shoe simply because you have the licence to detail. Many customers can simply add too much detail with bespoke shoes. Once you have the basics, then you can get more adventurous.”

Pictures: © Gaziano&Girling

~ Originally published in Finnish on the 7th of November 2009


  1. Lavado E d'Hugo says:

    WOW!I can see both Italy and England in your shoe designs. My favorites are both English and Italian menswear. Especially Italian!There is something about Italian menswear that has this…! that I just find irrasistable! And so HOT!!! I LIVE IN SEATTLE WHERE CAN I GET YOUR SHOES?

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