Golden Goose marks its twentieth year since conception: a dive into the brand’s history from power moves and success stories to controversies and challenges
Golden Goose and the principals of perfect imperfection
Renowned for street-smart shoes with a distressed aesthetic, Golden Goose’s founders were precursors to the trend which only took center stage in the luxury sneaker industry a few years ago. Deliberately aged, scuffed and made to look lived-in, Golden Goose has worn this badge with honor since its first sneaker launch in 2007. Weathered wear has been a uniform for non-conformists and the brand’s origin story finds its roots in these principles of perfect imperfection. Challenging norms of aesthetics through conceptual shoes and perhaps even the playing field were the main focus since the beginning. Competitive advantage over colorful athlete-endorsed kicks or big names in the industry was made possible by an emphasis on handmade and craftsmanship, hallmarks of the centuries-old Italian shoemaking industry. It resulted in a brand of unique and original codes of conduct that follow through to this day. CEO of the label, Silvio Campara affirms: «Craft and manual touches are key to us. This is why our Italian heritage is and will always be at the core of the brand. We have a firm will to preserve traditional craft through perfect imperfections. The way we treat surfaces is our signature. We like things that are lived in, distressed, touched with life. In our family we want everything to be as non-perfect as possible. Life is not perfect. We inject life into what we do».
Craftsmanship at Golden Goose
Sneaker makers of Golden Goose are master cobblers who handcraft each pair within a span of four to eight hours. The process includes assembly of tread, upper and sole, then embellishment and performing the art of purposeful aging – rip, tear, smudge, repeat. They are made from fine, supple Italian leather and high quality fabrics including suede and corduroy. The handcrafting is not without its pain points since distressing sneakers made of premium raw materials takes precise willpower and effort from the artisans who have had to challenge themselves, unlearning ingrained standards of perfection. Various hand-tools and techniques are employed to achieve this, for example: exposure to sunlight lends a yellowed vintage look to the soles. This lived-in signature of the brand goes beyond aesthetics or principles, with a focus on comfort. Leather is hand-treated and sanded to soften the stiffness, removing the customary breaking-in period that comes with such shoes, leaving behind a ready-to-wear or rather pre-worn sneaker. One of their values is to choose materials, which they claim are not just surfaces but rather life companions and canvases on which to write the story of life, day after day. For this reason, the craftsmen are not just glorified cobblers but the core of the brand’s success and story. Campara claims that Golden Goose is the only handmade sneaker in the luxury market and that the brand is lucky to have a perceptible craftsmanship, as the concept of handmade often goes unnoticed through miscommunication.
The ‘Made in Italy’ approach to sustainability
Made in Italy is more than a strategic asset for Golden Goose. Equipped with an elaborate network of local suppliers and a team of artisans in Venice, the brand has an all-Italian supply chain and a self-invented production process. «Before us, sneakers were almost all produced in Asia. We had to invent a production chain from scratch», shared Campara in an interview The products are manufactured in Veneto and the Riviera del Brenta region, with other smaller sites scattered across the country. Golden Goose also claims to work with sustainably sourced Italian leather that undergoes restricted quality control. As sustainability continues to become a prerequisite, the leather industry at large is being called out for its lack of transparency regarding sourcing of raw materials, treatment of animals raised and working conditions of artisans. Studies have shown that many tanneries use toxic tanning agents that bleed into waste-water; often plastic components are used in soles and fabric trimmings end up in landfills. Made in Italy is still a guarantee of highest quality but traceability and transparency are strong contenders for ensuring a sustainable practice. For Golden Goose, it is the method of making by hand that injects sustainability into the brand. Italian leather is heralded for its quality composition which lends to the sneakers’ lifespan, rendering them ‘made to last’, despite their otherwise worn-out appearance. This lived-in look adds dimension of wearability to the shoes in the sneaker-head community.
A forerunner with a unique product: Golden Goose luxury sneaker industry
The casualization of fashion over the last five to six years was initially capitalized by the luxury sneaker industry where Golden Goose had already gained momentum to establish itself as a forerunner with a unique product. The brand has grown over the last two decades through acquisitions by private equity shareholders. In 2013, with revenues of twenty million euros it was bought by Style Capital Group. Two years later Ergon Capital led an assembly of investors in acquiring a majority stake of the company. 2017 saw Golden Goose completely acquired by Carlyle Group and a year later the brand closed with revenues of two hundred million euros. Silvio Campara was appointed CEO in 2018.Having joined Golden Goose more than seven years ago when the team was a mere seventeen people at a time where the brand’s presence is spread over ninety countries and almost eighty per cent of its turnover is generated outside Italy, Campara has accumulated many feathers in his cap within the fashion industry. From polishing silverware as a waiter to becoming a sales associate at Alexander McQueen, his professional story is slightly akin to one of rags to riches. From McQueen, Campara moved to Giorgio Armani in 2006 where he established the label’s retail network in Asia. He then proceeded to Style Capital and moved into buy-out operations through which he was introduced to Golden Goose’s founders. Golden Goose maintains financial growth despite the pandemic as it closes 2020 with a turnover of two hundred and sixty three million euros as compared to two hundred and sixty two million in 2019 and projects revenues to grow in 2021. Campara reveals that this is contributed to by their market hold in the United States. The latest in line to acquire Golden Goose is Permira, a British global investment company that bought the label from Carlyle Group for 1.3 billion in February 2020. Francesco Pascalizi, partner at Permira, says in a press release: «Golden Goose is a next-gen luxury brand and can be considered the creator of the high-end sneakers category». Permira is also a stakeholder in Dr.Martens, the iconic British footwear brand.
Lampoon review: Golden Goose marking the first score
The milestone of twenty years finds celebratory projects underway for Golden Goose; such as publishing a book which talks of the company’s steadfast rise and launching a new space in Milan. The Perfect Imperfections of Golden Goose journeys across the artisans’ experimentations, the ideas of the founders and the first showrooms that stood by the brand, all while highlighting the ethos that makes Golden Goose a success story: workmanship, passion, research and aesthetic; characteristics duplicated in the new Golden Goose office in Milan. With more than four thousand square meters spanning across two industrial sheds and a location that is chosen to host the Milano-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics, the space makes subtle recalls to the first headquarters of the brand in Marghera through Italian heritage and architectural references. Released at the beginning of 2021, a new sneaker, aptly named The Twenty, has been added to the brand’s celebratory events through twenty launches in twenty different parts of the world.
Venetian label launched in the year 2000. The brand’s product line includes handmade sneakers, accessories and ready-to-wear.