How Gustin's Italian sneakers are made

Published: May 25, 2023

gustin horween chromexcel 8 high top sneakers
The finished product: Gustin's Horween high top sneakers.

We love the craft of making the perfect garment. It’s rare to actually get to see how a garment you wear is made. Today we’d like to show you how the Gustin shoes you’ll be wearing are created. The process is both ancient and modern. The people are devoted to perfection and the movements are precise.

All of our sneakers are are made in Italy. This is the first product that has taken us away from USA manufacturing. The reason is simple: Italy has mastered this style of shoe. Crafting shoes is almost a point of national pride there. It’s art and something to be honored in Italy. We’re sure you already know about this reputation, but in the process of exploring manufacturing options we have witnessed it first hand and it’s true. As of today, we found no USA options that can keep pace with the quality and variety we demand. One day this might change, but for now the highest quality sneakers come from only one place on earth - Italy.

To us, this is art. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Cutting the leather

Cutting sets the foundation for a great sneaker. After the leather is selected (Nappa leather for our white low top sneakers, Chromexcel, Dublin, or Buffalo for our Horween Sneakers. The leather hides for our sneaker uppers are cut one-at-time a with dies. Each hide is unique and careful cutting without any stacking of leather ensures only the best sections of leather are used across all the hides. This extreme attention to detail, by only cutting one piece of leather at a time, is an example of Italian production that sets them apart from the rest of the world.

die cutting gustin leather sneakers

Sewing the upper

The silhouette of our sneakers is critically important and sewing the uppers together with extreme care is what starts to bring our shoes to life. You can see how flat pieces come together to begin forming the true shape of the shoe. Reinforcement is placed on the heel, toe and around the laces. Binding on edges provides a clean finish. On the high-tops, this is when we install the metal eyelets.

sewing gustin leather sneakers

Lasting the sneaker

Lasting our sneakers is what really brings the entire shoe together: the fit and the shape. It’s a long journey that’s important to the overall integrity and style of the shoe. Here, the last is inserted into the upper and the leather is pulled around the last.

lasting gustin leather sneakers

Next, the shoe is flipped and sealed onto the insole board. The machine pictured below is calibrated according to the the specific shape of our shoe. Glue is injected between the insole board and the upper to keep it attached before the nails are placed into the heel.

lasting gustin leather sneakers

The technician is now checking to see if the leather has been pulled correctly. Using pliers, he adjusts around heel before tacking down the upper to the insole with nails.

nailing the heel on gustin leather sneakers

Confirming solid and proper lasting ensures a great end result. Our shoe is inspected and held under a heat vent to soften the leather in case any wrinkles or adjustments need to be made.

lasting gustin leather sneakers

Attaching the soles

Margom serena soles are a defining look of our sneakers and preparing to connect the uppers to that sole is a multi step process. First, the bottom of the lasted upper needs to be made more uniform and clean. The edges of the shoe are thoroughly skived.

preparing gustin leather sneakers for the sole

You can see the transformation from a rough, uneven surface (left) into a much cleaner bottom post-skive.

skiving bottom of gustin leather sneakers

Getting the right fit between the uppers and sole is what helps create the sleek profile we refuse to live without. The uppers are placed into the Margom sole and pressure is applied to ensure the upper is sitting at the right depth in the sole. With the upper temporarily pushed into the sole, the technician marks any areas for additional skiving.

testing gustin leather sneakers

Glue is applied to the bottom of the upper to assist with attaching the Margom serena sole (which will later be stitched on). Cork is used to fill spaces on the insole board and serves as additional shock absorbency. This is another example of a fine touch that very few factories do.

applying cork to gustin leather sneakers

Our Margom soles are attached using two processes: adhesive and stitching. First, a small amount of adhesive is applied to the bottom of the upper and the inside of the sole. The two are brought together with high pressure.

attaching margom soles to gustin leather sneakers

For an even stronger connection, the sole is stitched to the upper.

sewing soles to gustin leather sneakers

Finishing the sneakers

The final steps include cleaning and lacing by hand. After one more final inspection, the shoes are wrapped and boxed.

gustin sienna high top sneakers
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