- Startup M.Gemi sells leather shoes handmade in small, family-owned Italian workshops. Styles range from timeless to on-trend and of-the-moment.
- The company’s loafer, The Felize ($198), helped put them on the map, and as of 2019, it’s been wait-listed over 36,000 times by shoppers.
- In person, they’re a perfect leather travel shoe. They slip on and off quickly in airport security lines, mold into a custom-made fit over time, and look effortlessly stylish at the same time that they’re extremely comfortable. The rubber sole also makes for more cushiony walking.
- Right now, the site is offering 20% off its suede colors (now $158), leather (now $158), Croco leather (now $182), and a leopard print calf-hair (now $238) until November 10. The discount will automatically apply at checkout.
Those who have heard of M.Gemi‘s shoes are just as likely to know the startup’s tagline: “Made in Italy the old way and sold the new way.” And that pretty much sums it up.
Founder Maria Gangemi grew up along the olive tree-lined streets of Sicily. She would go on to mount a career in merchandising and creative for footwear and accessories brands, always reserving a special appreciation for the artistry bestowed upon shoes made in the mom-and-pop operations so commonly found in Italy. Three things ruled the hot, intimate shops clustered in town: quality, attention, and pride in one’s work.
But it’s not always easy to schedule a trip to Italy every time you need a new pair of flats. Which is what led Gangemi to create M.Gemi – a startup that now connects anyone with internet access to shoes done “the old way” in Italy with the same quality as luxury names like Prada, for a fraction of the cost. No plane ticket, upside-down map, or twisted ankles on cobblestone required.
One style – known unofficially as M. Gemi’s gateway shoe for how many first-time shoppers buy it before loading up on more styles – is The Felize.
The Felize ($198) is the classic driver that moonlights as the perfect travel shoe. It slips off easily for airport security lines, combines an effortlessly timeless style with extremely sensible comfort, and is made from a nice leather (or suede) and leather lining that gets better with time – molding to cup your foot like a custom-fit glove. A rubber sole in the suede pair and a rubber peg sole in the pebbled leather pair make for distinctly cushiony steps for a signature driver. It’s the deceptively chic sub-in for sneakers on grocery trips, weekend mornings, or travel days.
It’s versatility, quality, and the still-achievable price is probably why, as of 2018, The Felize had been wait-listed over 36,000 times.
Part of the company’s small-scale – and decidedly human, handmade process – means limited batches. And that can mean frequent sellouts, so not all colors and sizes are regularly available. However, the dexterity of a lean family-owned factory means that, overall, you’ve still got plenty of options. (This company is also known for dropping new styles every single week – specifically, every Monday). The Felize, for example, has been produced in over 160 unique color and material combinations since its debut. M.Gemi itself is only just 5 years old.
Now, you can pick up The Felize in suede colors ($198), leather ($198), Croco leather ($228), and a leopard print calf-hair ($298). The pairs are handmade in Tuscany in a tiny workshop that’s been running for over 30 years. M.Gemi’s partner artisan, Norina, oversees every detail – “including a tiny flame [taken] to the edges to singe away any loose threads.” Plus, they’re virtually season-less.
I have The Felize in green suede, and I’m happy to report that they’re relatively true to size and required zero break-in time. My only fit tip is that they begin snug and grow looser and more custom-fit over time, meaning you should size a half size up for a looser fit immediately. For what it’s worth, my regular size allowed for socks.
I take them to brunch, the office, and the airport – making them one of the most versatile pairs of comfortable shoes I own. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ve answered the age-old question of whether to prioritize strategic packing and polite outfits to the airport or the shameless, sloth-like comfort that would horrify my mother.
After almost a year, I still wear them multiple times per week. They’ve worn into a customized mold over time, but haven’t lost their shape. The color is still a vibrant green, and they show no real visible wear despite my frequent treks across the city. And I’d gladly buy a new pair if these vanished in the night.
If you’re looking for a chic shoe that can go anywhere, The Felize ($198) is my go-to recommendation for anyone that deems the price reasonable. Quality, style, fit, and comfort will deliver – so it really does come down to budget. If you’re willing to spend a little bit more upfront to replace them less often, either because the fit isn’t great, you’re less ecstatic about the style or wear breaks down your cheaper pair, these are worth the splurge in my opinion. And, like other shoppers, you may find yourself returning to grab another handmade Italian shoe from the startup before the year is up.