A walk in GLYN GIANIS shoes

Words: Megan Colborne

A past resident of Ballito, Glyn Giani has pioneered the path for growth in the shoe industry in South Africa ever since his very first taste of the business when he started out as a fashion designer. Having been bitten by both the business and creativity bugs, and with plenty of degrees and diplomas under his belt, it seems only fitting that Glyn Giani should end up by going off on his own and creating the first — and only — footwear design and technology school in South Africa, the Julonetix Academy.

Glyn grew up in Johannesburg and, with no clear idea of where he wanted his future to take him, he enrolled at the University of Stellenbosch ready to take on a degree in medicine. After completing his first year, he realised that medicine wasn’t what he wanted to do and that he would rather pursue something where he could use his love of business and creativity, something which ultimately led him to the design industry.

After starting off as a fashion designer in Johannesburg in the eighties and wanting to gain a little more business experience, he headed to Mossel Bay in the Western Cape where this self-proclaimed beach bum studied for a further five years to obtain his BCompt degree. On completion of his degree, Glyn started working for Watson Shoes, completing an apprenticeship with an old Greek cobbler under whose tutelage he first learned to make and design shoes. He worked there for four years before heading to Milan, Italy, to further his studies in footwear design.

Glyn swapped the footwear industry for the steel industry in the 2000s when the footwear industry collapsed under the weight of cheap Chinese imports, which had left no place for designers. Not one to give up on his passions, however, he returned to the footwear industry in 2009 with even more enthusiasm and determination, starting the Footwear Design and Technology School, the first and only design school of its kind in South Africa. He found the courage to begin the school after a Google search led him to discover that there was a demand, although small, from people who wanted to know how to make their own shoes. One week and no expenses later, Glyn had enrolled his first students and had launched his very own design school.

Since its start-up, the school has seen about 500 students from all over the country completing the technical footwear design course, which teaches trainees everything from the sketching of designs, drawing of lasts and the dissecting of patterns of the six classical styles (from which any shoe can be created). The skills acquired by Glyn’s students leave them capable of making a complete shoe by hand. The course is offered in two different time periods — a three-month course during which classes are held twice a week from 5 pm to 8 pm and a 14-month course which has one class per month on a Saturday. In an industry which he describes as extremely lucrative, Glyn has kept the business in the family, with daughter Bianca giving lectures for the course in Johannesburg and Pretoria whilst Glyn lectures in Durban and Cape Town. Glyn and wife, Karen who is also deeply involved in the management of the company, often travel to Italy to catch up with the latest trends in shoes and bring them back to South Africa.

The latest move in this busy entrepreneur’s life?

The purchase of a company which manufactures the lasts for the shoes. “We design the lasts, the actual shape that determines what your shoe looks like. It’s an integral part in the beginning of shoe design,” says Glyn. It is a vital skill within the shoe designing process and, to Glyn’s mind, the people who construct these lasts are artists.

A strong believer in job creation, he doesn’t plan on stopping here and his future plans include taking people off the streets, educating them on the skills needed in the footwear industry and placing them in their own small shoe factories.

They say that if the shoe fits, you should wear it, and Glyn has definitely done just that, successfully building a shoe empire to call his own.

 

WEB | www.Julonetix.business.site

FACEBOOK | @footweardesign

 

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