Good shoes are so expensive. Actually, so are crappy shoes. Unless you go the Payless route, it's likely that you're going to spend a big chunk of cash on your next pair of boots, ballerina flats or oxfords, whether they're from Steve Madden or Charlotte Olympia.
That's why Italian shoe brand Attilio Giusti Leombruni, sold at Nordstrom and other stores across the US, is so refreshing. The company might be 55-years-old, but the shoes have only been available in the US for the past four. The made-in-Italy styles are contemporary with a menswear edge—lots of oxfords, easy ballet flats—and they don't cost a small fortune. I know that I'd rather spend $300 on a pair of well-made, long-lasting shoes than $150 on something that's going fall apart in a season.
The coolest thing about AGL, though, is not the actual shoes, but the women making them. Founder Piero Giusti's three granddaughters—Sara, Vera, and Marianna—run the company. I recently emailed with them about the shoes, the business, and their family bond.
Fashionista: How did each of you decide to join the family business? Was it always a given? Vera: The entire family has always worked in the business and my father passed on the managerial duties to the three of us. I am in charge of communications and brand image, Sara specializes in sales and customer service, and Marianna is the creative one who designs all of the collections. It is a family matter! My father Attilio Giusti and my mother Chiara Leombruni still work in the business, giving us the benefit of their experience.
Sara: Since we were children, we have helped our parents at the factory. I love working here and it is important to continue the tradition. We each have different responsibilities in the company but we also work together. I speak five languages and specialize in sales but I also give my suggestions in design and materials of the collection.
Marianna: The family business has given me the chance to make my passion my job. I have designed shoes since I was a child, so there is no other place I would rather work.
What is your birth order, and how do you think that affects your roles? Vera: Sara was born in 1978 and is the eldest. I was born in 1980. Marianna was born in 1982 and is the youngest and most creative of the Giusti sisters.
Marianna: Our ages do not affect our roles at all—we have been fortunate to find roles in the company that follow our personal talents. [Ed note: Of course the baby said that!]
The shoes are made in Italy, yet the prices are pretty moderate. How do you keep costs down? Sara: For more than 20 years, our company has continued to buy materials directly from suppliers that have produced leathers and soles for AGL since my grandfather was the AGL leader. So one of our secrets is the suppliers’ fidelity and the second secret is our strict control of each phases of the production.
The styles are very modern—was it a struggle to modernize the line? How did you make the transformation? Sara: The entry of three women into the company management was a great change, probably the biggest the company has faced so far, because it involves every aspect of decision-making within Attilio Giusti Leombruni.
Vera: Attilio Giusti Leombruni, despite its name, now has a female heart. The transition into modernism was really natural since my father decided to leave us with the management of the company.
Marianna: We are three young Italian girls who love fashion. We work hard and have fun, drama-free! We feel very lucky to do what we love.
How did you choose Stella Tennant for your first print campaign? Sara: She is our fashion icon. At 40 years old with four children, Stella is a rare, authentic modern beauty.
Vera: Stella is really cool, authentic and original beauty. In addition to being one of the most famous models of all time, she’s a real woman. This is why we have chosen her as our spokeswoman.
Marianna: Stella is an inspiration to me and I design styles thinking of women like her.
You've made a big push in the States over the last couple of years. Is the customer in the US different than the customer in Italy? If she is, how so? Sara: The company is currently active in 20 countries from Europe to America, Japan, Russia, Hong Kong and Israel. Our Italian customer is no different than our American customer. AGL has an international business and is appreciate for its modern and cosmopolitan style.
Vera: The Attilio Giusti Leombruni woman all over the world is creative chic: she adapts current fashions to her personal style - a style that should be desirable but never showy. In our opinion, shoes should never be too trendy or flashy, but always classic.