Whether you’ve spotted Gia Borghini’s exquisite silhouettes on celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Ashley Graham or Gabrielle Union-Wade, the world’s top influencers, or on the pages of online retailers like Farfetch and the shelves of fashion purveyors Kith, The Italian shoe brand has created its own category of elevated shoes and handbags – and makes a solid case for swapping sneakers.
It’s no coincidence that the fashion brand followed by a celebrity, Gia Borghini, comes from Italy: its founder – or architectwhich is fitting – Barbara Borghini, has always been surrounded by elegance, haute couture fashion (many traditional brands are Italian), the importance of high quality construction and a strong sense of intuition.
“I’m a real Italian, so I let my emotions and instinct guide me more than logic,” Borghini shares. “That’s probably not the right thing to say for someone running a business, but I’m being very honest about it. I think women are naturally more instinctive, and that may be our greatest strength and what allows us to do and juggle so many things in life.
Launched in 2016, Gia Borghini quickly catapulted itself to “It” status when Danish influencer and stylist Pernille Teisbaek created a collaboration with the brand.
Gia Borghini is named after Borghini’s daughter, Ginevra, who Barbara says is “a powerful source of inspiration”. With female empowerment being one of the main pillars of the brand, it was by chance that it came onto the scene in 2016.
Gia Borghini is synonymous with quality timeless pieces, whether flats (always with a distinctive touch that has become a signature trait of Gia Borghini), boots or heels – the brand supports local Italian artisans , because she believes in the power and beauty of craftsmanship. The brand recently added tote bags and eyewear to its product line.
Gia Borghini is known for her curated collections with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, whose limited-release collaboration was followed by a much-anticipated drop with Pernille Teisbaek. The launch with Teisbaek has been so successful that it led to the stylist’s appointment as a creative consultant in spring 2021.
With a highly engaged community of 200,000 Instagram followers, distribution to over 500 online and physical retailers, and a fashion-loving audience waiting for Gia Borghini’s latest collections, Borghini’s instincts are clearly on tap.
Find out how the power of intuition and good collaborations with influencers played a role in Gia Borghini’s meteoric rise in the fashion landscape.
Karin Eldor: What was the spark or breakthrough that led you to cast Gia Borghini?
Barbara Borgini: After many years of being a stay-at-home mom and fully devoting myself to my family, I was looking for a new experience and exploring my deep passion for shoes. I also quickly realized that having access to the best artisans in Florence at your fingertips had enormous potential.
Eldor: How did you identify the opportunity or white space in the market? It’s particularly interesting because you come from Europe – especially Italy – where you were surrounded by the brands that were inherited from haute couture. I love that you have identified a space for your brand, which still relies on beautiful construction and silhouettes, and high quality craftsmanship.
Borgini: Many shoe companies at this time – in 2016 – were started by men and run from their perspective. I wanted to disrupt this narrative. Almost 90% of my team are women. In terms of design and craftsmanship, driving, meeting and chatting with local artisans and fashion entrepreneurs helped shape the idea of the brand you see today. I also think it’s very important to stay curious and never stop exchanging ideas, learning, listening and building a strong team of professionals based in different parts of the world who can bring different perspectives at the table.
Eldor: Of course, Gia Borghini’s success is attributed to refined, sharp, sophisticated silhouettes and designs, and high-quality craftsmanship. How did you make sure the world understood this message, as a global shoe brand?
Borgini: I try to communicate through our content and our social networks. Through the different voices that support the brand and our customers. We really try to produce fashionable, comfortable and elevated shoes with strong communication and always considerate customer service. I also think seeing influential women like Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Ashley Graham wear our shoes again and again is a true testament to the comfort and quality we provide.
Eldor: Gia Borghini has harnessed the power of *good* collaborations, with stars like Pernille Teisbaek, Chiara Ferragni and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Can you tell us a bit more about what led to these three collaborations?
Borgini: I approached each of these women simply because I could identify with their style – I could see many similarities but interpreted in different ways. We seemed to share many similar interests and values in interiors, art, fashion and family. I also enjoy building strong and lasting relationships. I want to build a Gia Borghini family, more than just a team! Pernille is now a Creative Consultant, Chiara continues to wear our shoes and support the brand, Rosie has a new project coming with us after collaborating on four collections, and there is so much more to come…
Eldor: What advice do you have for other fashion brands looking to focus on collaborations?
Borgini: Follow your instincts. Choose a collaborator because you are personally interested and feel that they can bring a different point of view to your brand, while sharing the same values. Sometimes collaborating without a strategy, just based on your instincts, is the best strategy. For me, it’s a real authentic partnership. The consumer sees through everything these days, so being authentic and genuine is very important, and the rest will follow.
Eldor: You have also aligned yourself with top influencers. Can you share your thoughts on the role influencers have played in the success of your brand?
Borgini: Influencers and friends from home mean a lot to me personally and are the key ingredient to brand success. I feel like they are all part of the family. We try as much as possible to continue working with the talent that has always supported us since day one.
Eldor: I love that you studied marketing and communications early on – how do you apply that skill set to your current role as a founder? I’m sure knowing the art of storytelling is so critical to your success as a brand builder and entrepreneur!
Borgini: I firmly believe that communication is crucial. The market is incredibly competitive, so you need a loud, clear, loud voice to survive and be recognized internationally.
Eldor: Do you have any advice for other women looking to start a fashion brand? It can be such an intimidating gesture.
Borgini: It’s very daunting, but if you believe in it and feel like you have a strong message to deliver, you absolutely have to go – but be prepared to work very hard and sacrifice some things.
Eldor: Building a global fashion brand is not always an easy task, but we are getting stronger through these challenges along the way! Can you share a difficult moment or mistake that you successfully overcame and learned from?
Borgini: Every day there is a new challenge and I also often make mistakes. But what works for me is taking a step back, regrouping with my team, and strategizing on the best way forward. I prefer a “trial and error” approach rather than having a goal and not pursuing it at all.