Ritmo Bello Interviews Salsa Shoe Designer Giancarlo Gabellini

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Giancarlo Gabellini

You can always tell when someone is passionate about what they do.  Whether it is their job or simply a fun pastime, it’s clear that this passion drives them to do amazing things. 

Giancarlo Gabellini is a great example of this type of passion.  As the owner and creator of Gabellini Dance Shoes, Giancarlo has become well known within the salsa dance world for his innovative salsa dance shoe designs.  Indeed, Giancarlo’s passion for social salsa dancing has allowed him to dance, travel, and grow his business in a way that sets him apart from other salsa shoe designers.  I had the unique privilege to interview Giancarlo recently and learn more about salsa dancing from a shoe designer’s point of view.  I hope you enjoy the interview!


Ritmo Bello:   Giancarlo, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to address the Ritmo Bello audience.  Salsa dancers here in San Diego would love to know what makes your dance shoes great for dancers.  What makes Gabellini Dance Shoes a good option for them to consider?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:   Gabellini Dance Shoes was created because of my introduction to salsa. While it goes without saying quality and comfort are essential our shoes reflect the lifestyle and the fashion sense of the salsa community.

Ritmo Bello:  How did Gabellini Dance Shoes get started? 

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  The idea came out of necessity. After taking dance classes for about 6 months I committed to buying dance shoes. When I shopped around I was absolutely shocked by the available styles, most of which looked like something from 1970’s. I could see that there was a definite need for a stylish dance shoe.  Putting the concept of a fashion forward dance shoe in motion was second nature because I have a background in production from my years in the garment industry.

Ritmo Bello:  How has your experience in the garment industry influenced the design of your dance shoes?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  Working in the garment industry involves studying fashion trends and using quality manufacturing techniques, both of which are essential to putting out top notch dance shoes. As far as styling goes you look at what dancers are wearing as street shoes and then incorporate those features into beautiful dance shoe. Salsa has the best social dancers around and we deserve styles that reflect our lifestyle.

Ritmo Bello:  Your website describes the best dance shoe soles as those made of suede.  Can you explain why you make that recommendation?  Are there any advantages to these types of soles versus other types?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  I always do my home work, the best way to test dance shoes is to wear them.  I wore different types of dance shoes, from rubber sole dance shoes that restrict your movement to a jazz slipper that offers neither comfort nor support. My best advice came from experienced performers and the consensus was that a suede sole is the perfect balance of friction and maneuverability.  I added a small rubber portion at the back of the sole for that extra stopping traction when you need it.

The Lead Shoe

Ritmo Bello:  I know you that you offer five unique styles of dance shoes.  Can you describe what makes each one different and unique? 

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  Unlike traditional dance shoes that focus your entire weight on the heel and ball of the foot our styles have a new design concept. All of our shoes have a wedge shaped sole that distributes the weight of the foot over the whole surface of the sole.  We incorporate and build in arch support with metal shanks and reinforced sides. We always use 100% leather outer and lining to hold the form of the shoe.

Fly Out in Red

Besides the distinct style options, there are some differences in flexibility.  The Fly is the lightest and most flexible shoe because it is 3/4 lined in leather.  The Classic has a leather outer and is fully lined in leather but it will soften up like a dance slipper and you’ll be able to reverse point.  The Lead and Sancho are structured shoes that offer full support and will hold their form.  All of our shoes are lighter than the average dance shoes because we use a patented material we use for our soles. 

Ritmo Bello:  You create shoes that are available for men and women? 

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  Yes, the Fly and Classic styles are available in women sizes. Our busiest day for women dance shoes is always Sunday afternoon, the ladies coming looking for comfort after a long weekend of workshops and all night dancing. 

 Classic Shoe

Ritmo Bello:  Lots of dancers first learn about your products through the salsa congresses you attend each year.  Is it true that you attend 40 plus salsa congresses a year? 

Gabellini Dance Shoes
:  We are now very popular with Swing and Ballroom dancers so we are doubling the amount of events we attend every year. With every business I’ve owned I consider direct contact with my customer crucial for success, there is no better way to get feedback about your product. Salsa Congresses provide what I call “grass roots marketing” and allows Gabellini Shoes to be part of the dance community and also helps support the events.

Gabellini Dance Shoes at a Salsa Congress

Ritmo Bello:  What’s the best thing about attending these salsa congresses?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  Over the past years I’ve made friends with so many social dancers, instructors and performers. It’s always fun joining up at the events and exchanging stories about our salsa travels.  I share a character trait that I think all dancers have, we are very social people with a certain “joie de virvre”. No matter where I travel in the world there’s an instant connection with fellow salsa dancers, it like running into an old friend.

San Diego Salsa Festival

Ritmo Bello:  I assume, then, that you will be at the San Diego Salsa Festival this year in September?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  Angel and Tulane are fantastic hosts and I had great time at the last 2 events so I’ll definitely be back. On a side note, now when people ask me the question” If you could live anywhere?” my first pick is San Diego.  I’m not sure how many shoes I have to sell for that beach front property!

Ritmo Bello:  For those interested in purchasing your shoes online, how do you know which size will be the best fit? 

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  I do have a size chart online that’s very accurate but I always encourage dancers to ask me questions if there any doubt about sizing.

The Sancho

Ritmo Bello What’s your return/exchange policy like?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  I know you have to make a leap of faith when buying shoes online, I offer free return shipping for exchanges and refunds and an absolute 100% customer satisfaction guarantee. I’m old school when it comes to customer service.  The customer is always right. 

Ritmo Bello: I understand that you ship everywhere all over the world, is that right?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  We have customers all over the world, To give overseas customer the same return shipping advantage we opened a warehouse in the UK this year. We will open a distribution center in Rome and Germany by the end of the 2009. 

Ritmo Bello:  Can you tell me a little about your “wholesale” program and who can participate in that program?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  We want to put Gabellini dance shoes on anyone who loves to dance so we have many options available. Along with our very successful distribution program for dance schools we also offer dance troupes volume discounts.

Ritmo Bello: What is the most interesting story you have from your travels and business of Gabellini Dance Shoes?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  One event in particular always brings a smile to my face. At my first salsa congress as a vendor, way before I knew anyone in the business, I was at my booth when a guy comes up and asks if I knew where the room for the advanced salsa workshop was. I pointed him in the right direction and warned him “Not to feel bad if it was above his head, I had heard the class was pretty challenging”, he went on to the class. Later someone told me his name was Tito, as in “Tito and Tamara” I guess he was amused too since he’s become one of my regular customers. 

Ritmo Bello: Anything else you’d like to share with San Diego dance community?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  Make sure you take advantage of our draw for a free pair of dance shoes that we give away each month. We’re also excited about our new woman’s formal shoe line coming our by the end of the year, so stay tuned. 

Ritmo Bello: How can the Ritmo Bello audience reach you if they want to find out more information about Gabellini Dance Shoes?

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  The best way to contact me is via email.   I always answer questions and usually within 24hrs.  gabellini.net@gmail.com  You can also visit me at my website, Gabellini Dance Shoes.

Gabellini Dance Shoes Website

Ritmo Bello:  Giancarlo, on behalf of the Ritmo Bello and San Diego dance community thanks so much for your time.

Gabellini Dance Shoes:  Always a pleasure, I’ll see everyone again on my next trip to the West Coast events. Come by and say hello!

John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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