How Italian-Based Gia Borghini Became A Global Brand
By Karin Eldor
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 stockists like Farfetch and the shelves of fashion purveyors Kith, the Italian-based footwear brand has created its own category of elevated shoes and handbags — and makes a solid case for swapping out sneakers.
It’s no coincidence that the fashion brand with a celebrity following, Gia Borghini, hails from Italy: its founder — or architect, which is highly fitting — Barbara Borghini, was always surrounded by elegance, haute couture fashion (many legacy brands are Italian), the importance of high quality construction, and a strong sense of intuition.
“I am a true Italian, so I let my emotions and instinct guide me more than logic,” Borghini shares. “It’s probably not a correct thing to say for someone who runs a business, but I am very honest about it. I think women are naturally more instinctive, and this can be our biggest strength and what allows us to do and juggle so many things in life.”
Launched in 2016, Gia Borghini quickly catapulted 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’s serendipitous that it arrived on the scene in 2016.
Gia Borghini stands for the quality of timeless pieces, whether flats (always with a distinctive twist that has become a signature trait of Gia Borghini), boots or heels — the brand supports local Italian artisans, because it believes in the power and beauty of craftsmanship. The brand more recently added carryalls and eyewear to its product assortment.
Gia Borghini is known for its curated collections with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, whose limited-release collab was followed by a highly-anticipated drop with Pernille Teisbaek. The launch with Teisbaek was so successful, it led to the stylist’s appointment as Creative Consultant in Spring 2021.
With a highly engaged community of 200K Instagram followers, distribution in over 500 online and physical stockists, and an audience of fashion lovers waiting on Gia Borghini’s newest collections, Borghini’s instinct is clearly on-point.
Discover how the power of intuition and the right influencer collaborations 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 launch Gia Borghini?
Barbara Borghini: After many years of being a stay-at-home mum and fully focusing on my family, I was looking for a new experience and exploring my deep passion for shoes. I also quickly realized that having access at my fingertips to the best artisans in Florence had a huge potential.
Eldor: How did you identify the opportunity or whitespace in the market? It’s especially interesting because you’re from Europe – specifically Italy – where you were surrounded by the legacy brands of haute couture. I love that you identified a space for your brand, which still leans on gorgeous construction and silhouettes, and high quality craftsmanship.
Borghini: A lot of footwear businesses at that time — in 2016 — were built by men and run from their perspective. I wanted to disrupt that narrative. Almost 90% of my team are women. In terms of design and craftsmanship, driving around, meeting and talking to local artisans and fashion entrepreneurs helped shape the idea for the brand that you see today. I also think it’s very important to stay curious and to 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 to the table.
Eldor: Of course, Gia Borghini’s success is attributed to elevated, on-point, sophisticated silhouettes and designs, and high quality craftsmanship. How did you ensure the world understood this messaging, as a global footwear brand?
Borghini: I try to communicate through our content and our social media. 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 thoughtful customer service. I also think seeing influential women like Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Ashley Graham wearing our shoes again and again is a true testament to the comfort and quality we offer.
Eldor: Gia Borghini has leveraged the power of *the right* collaborations, with star power like Pernille Teisbaek, Chiara Ferragni and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Can you share a bit more about what led to these three collaborations?
Borghini: I approached each one of these women simply because I could recognize myself in their style — I could see many similarities but interpreted in different ways. We seemed to share many similar interests and values across interior, art, fashion, and family. I also love to build strong and long-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 up with us after collaborating on four collections, and there’s so much more to come…
Eldor: What advice do you have for other fashion brands, looking to focus on collaborations?
Borghini: Follow your instinct. Choose a collaborator because you are personally interested and feel they can bring a different point of view to your brand, while sharing the same values. Sometimes collaborating without a strategy, solely based on your instinct, is the best strategy. To me that’s a true authentic partnership. The consumer sees through everything these days, so it’s very important to be authentic and genuine, and the rest will follow.
Eldor: You have also aligned with top-tier influencers. Can you share your thoughts on the role influencers have played in your brand’s success?
Borghini: The influencers and friends of the house mean so much to me personally and are the key ingredient to the success of the brand. I feel like they are all part of the family. We try as much as possible to continue working with the talent who has always supported us from day one.
Eldor: I love that you studied marketing and communications early on – how do you apply this skill set to your current role as a founder? I’m sure that knowing the art of storytelling is so critical to your success as a brand founder and entrepreneur!
Borghini: I strongly believe that communication is crucial. The market is incredibly competitive, so you need a strong, clear and loud voice to survive and be recognized at an international level.
Eldor: Do you have any advice for other women who are looking to launch a fashion brand? It can be such an intimidating move.
Borghini: It is very intimidating but if you believe in it and feel you have a strong message to deliver, you should definitely go for it — but be prepared to work very hard and also sacrifice some things.
Eldor: Building a global fashion brand is not always an easy feat, but we grow stronger from these challenges along the way! Can you share a moment that was challenging or a mistake that you successfully overcame and learned from?
Borghini: Every day there is a new challenge and I also often make mistakes. But what works for me is to take a step back, regroup with my team and strategize on how to best move forward. I prefer a ‘trial and error’ approach rather than having a goal and not going after it at all.
Photo Source: Alessio Boccini