Sergio & Sebastiano Guardi (Barbanera) I

"We want to be 100% made in Italy, that's our soul!"

Sergio & Sebastiano Guardi (Barbanera) I

Studio portrait pic by VanMossevelde+N

How did you catch the shoe virus? How did you start this partnership with Alessandro and Filippo Pagliacci and why did you chose shoes?

We’ve always been shoes-maniacs, since we were very young. All kind of shoes! First Sneakers, basketball shoes, football shoes, later artisanal shoes, the great Italian and English masters. As we like to say, shoes change entirely your image, they’re absolutely important. “A well dressed man with ugly shoes is nothing but a man with ugly shoes“. Our father cared a lot about his style and about shoes. He used to say that the best money you can spend is for good shoes, speaking about clothes. We love shoes, even female shoes. High heels! They’re so sexy. We always stop by a good shoe shop when we meet one, even if it’s for women.

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For example, Sergio has a high heel shoe tattooed on his chest! So, when the right moment arrived, it was natural to build a shoe brand. We already knew what to do and how to do it: making great shoes, top quality shoes with no compromise.  Alesssandro and Fillippo have different personalities but they got the same passion for style and shoes, so it was easy to start together. Sebastiano met Filippo for the first time on a train journey, they started to talk, became friends and found out they share lots of similar passions and tastes, and everything started from there. Sergio was living in Berlin, he was a musician, but he was going to come back to Italy, and when he was asked to join the company he was very happy to do it.

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What is each one’s background?

Very different and in the same time similar. We (Sergio & Sebastiano) were born and grew up in Sicily. Our background, our culture is influenced by that, there are some particular differences between people from south and north of Italy. Fillippo and Alessandro are from Milan. People from the south are usually more passionate, sometimes “creative”, but also instinctive, sometimes too much.

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Our father was an artist and also an antique  and paintings collector, so we grew up in a place full of old, antique objects, art, very very old books even from 15th century… well, this influenced us. We love that stuff. Alessandro and Filippo are amazing too, they’re more sharp and precise, we need their attitude to balance our “madness”, without that we’d be lost. Even if we must confess that sometimes Filippo seems to be from the south as well!

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Four different personalities under one roof. How can you all manage to keep the egos out of the workplace? 

Well, even if we’re different it’s not so hard. I think the secret is everyone knows each other very well and accepts the differences. For example we speak a lot, we’re very instinctive. Alessandro and Filippo, instead, are more silent and “wise”. But all of us want the best for the company and we’re open to accept the other’s point of view. It usually happens that someone says “ok, your idea is better than mine, let’s do it“.

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What are the biggest challenges in today shoemaking?

Making great, amazing shoes, keeping competitive or reasonable prices. It’s not an easy moment, crisis is everywhere, it’s not easy nowadays to sell shoes that cost more than 300 or 400 Euros. And, we want to make high quality shoes with no compromise. We want to be 100% made in Italy, that’s our soul! We don’t want to save money and give a lower quality shoe to our clients.

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Following this policy maybe we’re not gaining a lot of money now as we could, but we’re sure that on a long term it’s going to be the right choice. Another challenge is to make people understand the difference between a high quality shoe and a “middle” quality shoe, that between a 200 Euros shoe and a 500 Euros shoe there are so many differences, everything changes. It’s important to make them understand that a 100% made in Italy shoe will never be the same of a made in “xxxxx” shoe. And the importance of the details and the materials you use to make them.

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