There aren't many companies like Gaerne anymore. For centuries shoemaking has thrived around the market in Montebelluna, just north of Venice in Northeastern Italy. Local artisans would crowd into the market to sell their wares and purchase the supplies to make more. In the surrounding area a strong, vibrant shoe industry emerged about this hub and from it sprang globally-recognised brands, like Fila, Alpinestars and Scarpe. Yet in recent years the globalisation of industry has changed things, most of these companies have shifted their production overseas, away from the harsh Italian taxes and legislation. As these companies departed the industry that was once so alive began to decline and the artisans that drove the area's success became more and more scarce. The economics of it are simple, to produce a shoe in Italy today costs ten times more than it does in the Far-east or Eastern Europe, and the expertise in production there is world-class these days.
Gaerne is one of the few companies left who believe that there are people out there who still want to buy Italian craftsmanship, who are looking to buy from brands who put a little bit of their soul into each and every product they make. Bucking the trend for outsourcing, every single pair of shoes or boots they make is made in the same, small building on the edge of Asolo, much as they have been for the last 50 years. While the materials and technologies change with the times, the attention that goes into making them doesn't. They may not be a name that we are as familiar with on the gravity side of mountain biking, but their boots were certainly up to spec for James Stewart in Supercross, or Fabien Cancellara on the road. As they prepare to launch their first enduro and downhill-worthy shoes, we took a look inside this legendary shoemaker.
The shoes of their sponsored athletes, past and present take pride of place in their showroom.
Design then begins by covering the footform with art tape that can be drawn on and they can start to layout the shoe as it will sit on the foot. Once they have a shape they are happy with the tape is then ultra-carefully peeled from the form.
The elements of the upper are then all stitched together by hand.