GUIDOMAGGI head honcho, Emanuele Briganti, is a busy man, circumnavigating the globe to build his brand and remain on the cutting edge of technology. With a new showroom planned in New York and breathless expansion of the brand, the company’s CEO and founder shared his lofty goals as he seeks to raise the elevator shoe genre to new heights.
The guidomaggi.com (GM) founder took some time out of his busy schedule to speak to British journalist, Dominic Kureen, offering insight into the where, why, how and when of his height increasing luxury footwear.
Hello Emanuele, what is your current role with GM?
I am the CEO, Founder and Creative Director. I am really grateful of the fantastic team we have, everyone contributes to make something amazing.
It has been more than 100 years since GM was founded in 1918, how did you become involved with such a prestigious brand?
EB: Guidomaggi was my great-grandfather, he was a highly respected shoemaker in Italy and set up the company, not as an elevator shoe, rather a beautiful selection of luxury footwear ahead of its time.
My own background is in fashion – I modelled in my 20s for Giorgio Armani, so this industry has been in my roots from my heritage, passion and career path.
The only thing standing in my way with modelling was my height, I stand at 5’9 and you generally need to be at least 6’1 as a male model, which I believe counted against me at times.
This was the only thing I wanted to improve in my life and believed it would make me more confident, so I decided to do something about it.
This is how I came to change the GM line to support men around the world who felt the same.
I have always wanted to do something extraordinary and revolutionary. I consider myself lucky because I found a selection of shoemakers who believed in my product and together we created the first prototypes before opening our stores.
This is my passion and I continue to study ways in which GM can evolve and improve. We now sell in New York, Zurich and Tokyo.
Does the wonderful legacy of GM add pressure to your role?
We live in a world where pressure is part of the game, so the important thing for me is to manage the pressure rather than avoid it.
I try to do my best to continue the revolution started by my grandfather more than a century ago.
Which direction have you sought to take height-raising footwear in?
As a company, we were ambitious to reinvent and add dignity to elevator shoes.They existed before us, but there was no design to the shoes and what was available was either a basic insole or large sole or heel. We wanted to discreetly increase the height of the client and continue to add new technology and innovation to our development process.
We took it a step further by building friendships with our clients, so they are able to have the shoes designed down to the finest detail – our shoes are designed, tinkered, projected and built to be the perfect elevator shoe for our range.
You offer a bespoke service, what sort of things can clients request?
There are two levels of bespoke to what we do. All our products are made to order and people can choose personalisation, type of leather, type of outsole, lining, laces, engraving etc.
The other level of personalisation is the sizing. Every foot is a different fit, whether it be a high instep, wide foot or long toes, so we can make the shoes exactly to suit our clients’ request.
After the first pair of shoes, we have their measurements and can quickly make an exact fit for comfort, which enables us to subsequently express ourselves and create a unique shoe without taking too long to deliver the product.
Can customers expect GM shoes to get ‘bang for their buck’ as a long-term investment?
Yes, GM shoes are handmade in Italy with the highest standard of production and materials.We source our materials from specific farms and high-grade suppliers to ensure the shoes are always of the highest order. All of our leather is 100% Italian and the product is a luxury one.
As with a Rolex watch, you are buying a product which can elevate your status… as well as your height!
GM has incredibly varied range of footwear on offer – do you plan to continue expanding it?
Yes, we have more than 1,000 styles now, and we are continually adjusting to move with the times.Our clients are from all over the world, so who knows what is trending in Canada or Australia? This is why we try to keep most of our models (of shoes) on the website.Together with my team we continue to create new ideas.
In addition to footwear you supply a range of accessories including belts, what makes this so unique?
We can make belts with exactly the same leather as our shoes, for example crocodile belts which are very popular with our Middle Eastern clients.
We can do the same with wallets and are hoping to continue adding to our range of accessories over time.
How do you see GM expanding and what are your aims for the future of the company?
My aim is to open more physical showrooms, we would like to open one in New York as the US is our main market.
We want to make the brand more global while retaining the artisan qualities which have brought us to this point.
Ultimately, my goal is not to make huge numbers like Gucci, but rather to deliver the best and continually improve – my motto is ‘we never stop learning’ and with this in mind I intend to keep improving until my final breath.
I would like to support and protect the cultural Italian richness, and to continue to support the legacies handed down from one generation of the family to another.
How has the new showroom in Zurich been received?
It is the biggest elevator shoe showroom in the world. We always have 150 models available in any size.
We want to offer a wide range of shoes to clients who wish to drop in, and we are working hard to make it a relaxing and pleasant space for anyone who visits.
For men who feel a stigma attached to increasing their height this way, what would you say to reassure them?
The world is becoming less judgemental in this area now, the prejudice of such things is not as clear or widespread at it has been in the past.
There is nothing wrong in self-improvement either. Women wear heels so by the same token why should men feel a stigma wearing something which can improve their dimensions and make them feel more confident?
On the contrary, guidomaggi is hoping to continue making this form of fashion accessible for people from all cultures and backgrounds, playing an integral role in the evolution of men’s fashion along the way.