In 2003, I opened the doors to The Shoe Hive at 115 South Royal Street. I had no idea what I was doing. I filled the shelves with lines I loved but couldn’t find elsewhere and was basically rolling the dice. I’d never been in retail and had no data model to follow on assembling inventory.
Not long after we had opened, a gentleman walked in with literally a suitcase of shoes. I was totally new to buying and didn’t even really understand that this sort of thing would start happening to me all the time. He was charming, the shoes were beautiful, and you could tell they were well-made, and so on a whim I wrote an order.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was the first account in the United States to write an order for this legendary Italian company called Atilio Giusti Leombruni.
The rest is history and it is by far the number one and most loved brand at The Shoe Hive, and the only brand we have carried every single season since 2003.
After doing this for more than 15 years, it occurred to me I had never been to a shoe factory. So this year, I finally decided to do it and AGL was the obvious choice. I took my whole family to the Adriatic coast of eastern Italy to see how these amazing shoes get to us.
From the moment we walked into the AGL factory in Montegranaro, they were gracious, warm, and treated us like family, greeting us with a pastry and juice reception to start our day.
Everyone who’s obsessed with this line by now knows the three sisters who are the face of the brand. One of the sisters, Sara, the CEO, met us in the lobby, along with Kim Kleist, who is American but has lived in Italy and worked at AGL for more than a decade. After touring the offices and getting a glimpse at the design studio where next year’s styles are mid-conception – what a thrill – we entered the production facility. And it was overwhelming…in a good way.
And little did we expect, the Giusti brother gave us a tour. I didn’t even know there was a brother; they keep him hidden! He runs the production and it is a finely oiled machine.
From beginning to end, it is an operation of precision and care. They make every single pair under this roof; there is absolutely no outsourcing. Your AGL shoes are made, start to finish, by AGL crafters. Each pair of shoes is touched by hand more than 50 times in the process. FIFTY TIMES. From stretching the leather by hand over the lasts, to adhering the soles and embellishments, to ironing the interior at the end of the line, it is all a process of personal attention to detail. No wonder these shoes are so beautiful and comfortable and last for so many years.
I have always considered the AGL shoes in my personal closet more than just parts of an outfit — they are foundations of my wardrobe. If you haven’t tried them, I hope you’ll come in and learn more about this vital part of our identity at The Shoe Hive.