After two years on the shoe floor of Seattle's best shoe store, Nordstrom, Justin found a connection that could help him get to the leather mecca of the world - Florence, Italy. With an opportunity of a lifetime ahead of him, Justin quickly cashed out his pension (at 24), took what little savings he had, packed his life up and just moved to Italy where he knew neither the language nor any Italians!
It was worth every risk. In Florence, he was fortunate enough to apprentice with the late legendary bespoke shoemaker, Mr. Stefano Bemer, before his untimely passing. During this apprenticeship, Justin's eyes truly opened to the beauty that could be created in footwear.
In Italy, Justin learned the art of handmade, bespoke shoemaking as well as the art of artisanal shoe shining (something that would prove beneficial for the future). However, no road to success is without a few bumps. Having plowed through his savings while apprenticing (worthy, but not well paid work!), Justin found himself back home, to replenish his savings. It took a year, which included the back-and-forth travel between Seattle and Europe in order to see his then girlfriend while at the same time continuing to make contacts in the industry.
It was during this year of downtime that Justin decided to start his world-wide read blog, The Shoe Snob, wanting to create a source of knowledge where he could share insights into the shoe industry of which had never been unveiled before.
Now writing about shoes, and getting closer to designing....Justin was still hungry to learn. He needed a mentor. This was a no-brainer as he had admired Gaziano & Girling since their launch in 2006. Justin contacted Tony & Dean in the hopes to work for them and further his knowledge. They were both keen to help Justin where they could, but the problem became the impossibility of commuting 6 hours, day in and day out without a wage (as his skill set still needed improvement on the making side of things before being paid). Justin realised that he needed to find another route.
There was a position at Gieves & Hawkes, No. 1 Savile Row, for a military-grade shoe shining expert. Luckily, this was skill he learned in Italy, and now he had a foot in the door, so to speak, to the industry.
"After 7 years from the day I vowed to launch my own shoe line, my dreams finally came to reality in March 2013 and to this day I continue to strive for the greater goal of seeing more men across the world wearing better shoes whether they be my own or someone else’s." -Justin FitzPatrick
London, United Kingdom