Fashion News

Golden Goose unveils its latest in-store repair scheme — and sneakerheads are loving it

The luxury Italian trainers brand has added expert cobblers to select stores who will mend and repair shoes as part of the brand’s sustainability efforts

“We want to show [customers] the value of repairing old shoes instead of throwing them away,” Silvio Campara, the CEO of Golden Goose, said of the initiative

Golden Goose, the upstart maker of €500 trainers, is turning back the clock to keep pace with its trendy Generation Z fans, staffing its stores with trained cobblers to help meet demand for products that won’t end up in a landfill.

The Italian brand, a favourite of Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift, has long insisted that its customisable, star-emblazoned trainers only improve with age. But adding repair services performed by cobblers — who can mend and revive shoes made by Golden Goose or anyone else — is helping the company bring the concept to the next level, Chief Executive Officer Silvio Campara said in an interview.

“At a time of standardised production, we want to engage with the client in the creative process and encourage loyalty,” said Campara, who helped reposition a small Venetian fashion firm into a vintage-inspired brand whose 2022 sales grew 30 per cent to about €500 million. “We also want to show them the value of repairing old shoes instead of throwing them away.”

Selena Gomez is among the legion of celebrities who favour Golden Goose as their trainers option

Golden Goose, which is controlled by Permira Holdings LLP, is already known for its personalised trainers, with company designers who help add touches like embroidery or tattoo-style graphics. Shoe repair by qualified cobblers is a newer service being rolled out at selected stores across the world.

It could make a good fit with the company’s core demographic: more than 80 per cent of Golden Goose buyers are Millennials or Gen Z, Campara said, and they put a premium on breaking out of the throwaway-product cycle.

Tailoring and repair, now available at Golden Goose locations including Milan, New York, and Dubai, extends the trainer’s lifecycle and reduces environmental impact, the CEO said. The goal is to have about 70 cobblers at some 10 key stores and at a Golden Goose repair hub near Venice.

For cobbler Marco Zanin, who has worked at Golden Goose since 2019, shoe repair is second nature. The 36-year-old Venetian said he “grew up surrounded by shoes — when I was a child I played next to my aunt who crafted vamps” as upper portions are called.

And while old-world artisans might seem to be a strange fit in a fashion setting like downtown Milan, where Zanin works today, diehard ‘sneakerheads’ have proved enthusiastic about the cobbler programme, he said.

“The kids who come in are curious, they want to know everything about the shoes and how to master working on them,” said Zanin, who studied urban planning and worked as a DJ before joining Golden Goose.

While the brand’s young buyers have long used trainers as a sort of “blank slate to add on details” the cobbler programme adds the possibility to “rebuild, rework, and refurbish them” he said.

The Golden Goose store in Milan. Image: Golden Goose

Innovations directed at young buyers are something of an obsession for Golden Goose, and at 43 years old, the trainer maker’s CEO exudes a stylish, youthful demeanour that suggests a deep insight into the casual fashion world.

But Campara said he’s not taking chances in misinterpreting the rapidly changing tastes of his core demographic. He set up a ‘Gen Z board’ at the company to delve into what customers are thinking, and proudly notes that, with over two thirds of his workforce under 32, he has more insight into young buyers than many competitors.

Golden Goose has already passed through the hands of three global investment groups. Carlyle Group bought the company from Ergon Capital Partners SA in 2017, sparking its expansion into the US and China. Three years later, Permira bought Carlyle’s majority stake.

The current fashion landscape suffers from “a lack of artisan manpower’ Campara said. To stand out in a crowded field, he wants to bring on board people who are “not simply workers but artisans, who we are training ourselves for this purpose”.