Behind the scenes of our shoe creation process.

Every February, I find myself in Vigevano, about 45 minutes southwest of Milan. The small town, well off the tourist grid, has been a hub of high end Italian shoe production for generations. Today, I’ll visit factories and material suppliers in this annual winter trip. Come with me for a glimpse into how it all comes together!

7:00 AM - I wake up thinking about shoes. Again. My creative brain never stops! I love to head out early and walk the streets of Vigevano, feel the town wake all around me and organize my thoughts.  It always connects me back into Italy and reminds me of how lucky I am to be back in my native country following my dream.  The store owner is opening his doors, the smell of pastries wafts from the local bakery. I can’t resist and stop for one. Buy some secret cookies for the long afternoons at the factory. Seeing parents walking their kids to school reminds me of my husband and son back home. It’s hard to be a mom entrepreneur and be away.

8:00 AM - I’m back at the hotel doing some light yoga followed by a hot shower with my favorite body wash that I bring on every trip. The eucalyptus jasmine scent makes me feel pampered and energized. I usually lay out two outfits the night before, so in the morning I don’t have to think too long about it. On a factory day, I like to dress comfortably but always very feminine, a combination I like to also carry in my designs. Before heading down to breakfast, I video chat with my husband back in Los Angeles. I catch our son Luca before he heads to bed and blow him virtual kisses.

8:30 AM - I’m a big breakfast person and start by filling my plate with every piece of fruit I see. The seasonal selection reminds me it’s winter. I miss my basket of fresh figs. The strong espresso helps with the jet lag. I’m checking emails, thinking through the schedule and meetings for the day. Following up with buyers and business back in LA.

Camilla Gabrieli bridal shoes

9:00 AM - Donato, my Milan based modellista, a technical expert in the creative process, picks me up in his new red Alfa Romeo. His second career would have been racing on the F1 circuit. First stop is a heel supplier who’s introducing new technology related to sustainable ABS materials. Heels have always been my favorite element to design and inspire the shoe that will surround it. Shaving off a few millimeters produces the perfect shape I had envisioned. Seeing my sketch come to life is always thrilling.

Camilla Gabrieli made in Italy shoes

Camilla Gabrieli hand made shoes Italy

10.30 AM - We race to the next supplier before the sacred two hour Italian lunch break. I learned the hard way that it’s impossible to get a meeting anywhere close to noon. Italians love their food. We meet with a silk supplier friend of Donato’s for an exclusive preview of their Spring 2020 fabrics. Sustainability is at the top of my mind and sourcing eco materials for my latest creations is paramount.

12.03 PM - LUNCH! Donato, Carlo and I head to a local trattoria that’s been run by a family friend for three generations. He recommends the handmade pasta of the day and says it’s the best in the area. After ordering it, I agree. Over lunch, we talk about Lineapelle, two days away, the biannual event where all material suppliers showcase their new products and innovations. Leaving the restaurant, we walk to Vero Latte, one of my favorite gelato shops ever. I choose the salted pistachio and lavender honey. 

Camilla Gabrieli Italy travel Milan Lu Bar

2.00 PM We head to my factory and meet with the owner and his technical director who oversees all new prototype development. There are always technical issues to be resolved. He jokes my designs keep him on his toes. Coming from a family of designers taught me to appreciate this detailed technical work that makes each shoe possible. The thin PVC straps in my Stella sandals were proving difficult to secure on the outsole, we almost thought the design had to change. I was stubborn to fight for a solution and we finally found one. It made my day!

Camilla Gabrieli designer at shoe factory Italy

Camilla Gabrieli shoe making Italy factory

4.30 PM - My stashed cookies have come in handy! I eat them along with my fourth espresso of the day. In the shoe boxing area, my quality control expert is reviewing every shoe before it heads out to my beautiful brides-to-be. When I first started my line two years ago, I learned some tough lessons about differing factory standards and quality. Watching each shoe being inspected, placed into their own bag and then boxed is tremendously satisfying. I imagine my brides opening the box, taking the shoes out like jewels and slipping them on their feet. It reminds me of the very first pair of bridal shoes I designed for my own wedding. All the wonderful memories of that summer day at a castle hilltop in Tuscany come flooding in.

Camilla Gabrieli designer at shoe factory Italy

5.30 PM - An old family friend has an apartment in Brera, a fashionable Milan neighborhood ten minutes walk from the Duomo. It’s a wonderful home away from home. Milan traffic is the worst. If you survive driving in the center of an Italian city, you can drive anywhere. I use the time for a quick call with my husband and son who are just waking up in LA.

7.00 PM - Changing for the night, I brought one of my new favorite fashion pieces, a silver sequin embellished mini dress by Paco Rabanne, that I’ve been dying to wear. It goes perfectly with my limited edition glitter Sofia pumps the factory had ready for me! They will drop on the site as a special edition soon.

Lineapelle falls on the same dates as Milan Fashion Week and it’s so nice to have many old friends in the industry close by. We all go out for aperitivo and catch up on fashion gossip, relationships and summer travel plans.

Carlo e Camilla in segheria dinner table fashion week milan

Carlo e Camilla in Segheria cocktail

9:00 PM - After the aperitivo, I head to Carlo e Camilla in Segheria for light dinner with a friend and mentor, who’s been an inspiration throughout my career. Her encouragement and advice was invaluable to me when I decided to start my own line. We make plans to meet each other this summer near Porto Cervo and compare crazy schedules of our next few days.

10:30 PM - We head to the Moncler Genius 2020 party in a Milan warehouse. You can hear the music from blocks away. It’s a fashion week who’s who type party and everyone is here. I love the various art installations and models walking on walls. Of all the designer collaborations, my favorite was the JW Anderson puffer coats decorated with spikes.

Moncler genius fashion show

Moncler Genius fashion show

11:30 PM - My phone lights up with plans of friends who are heading out into the wee hours, but I’m happy to head home and excited to get in bed. The days here are super productive but long and pacing yourself this week is key. Tomorrow, I head to Lineapelle at the conference center where I’ll meet existing and prospective new suppliers and see their latest offerings. As my eyes close, I’m thinking back on today and all that I accomplished. Tomorrow it will begin again, the constant flux and energy. Having your own line, it never stops.