Silvia Gaugler, who grew up in Rimini, Italy, and lives in Cold Spring, owns the Lucestella Studio in Beacon, where she makes Capri sandals by hand.
How did you start crafting handmade sandals?
During the pandemic, I decided to get back into the workforce after a long break to raise my children. I had worked in sales and marketing for an Italian clothing manufacturer, but I wanted to do something for myself. It’s now or never, right? I felt homesick because during the lockdown I couldn’t visit my family in Italy, so I thought I needed to do something creative and Italian. I remembered that on my last trip to Positano, on the Amalfi coast, there was a shop where a cobbler was sitting outside with a table, making sandals. I found a style that I wanted and I sat down and watched him make the holes and put the ribbons in. Something clicked and I said, “I have to get that hammer. I want to do that.”
Had you done anything like it before?
I had never even held a hammer. In our house, my husband would do all that stuff. But to make shoes? I’ve always felt creative and have been drawn to colors and textures. Now I’m sanding and burnishing the leather and I’ve discovered I like it. It’s like therapy. I started selling through Instagram [@lucestellastudio], mostly around New York. Before I had my shop, I would go to customers’ homes to get the right fit. I make about two pairs a day. They cost $175, more or less, depending on customization.
How did you learn?
I found a cobbler in Rome who was offering classes online. He said: “We have a pandemic, but let’s try.” He shipped me a box with the essential tools: the hammer and other tools, the nails, leather straps and soles. I logged on to FaceTime every morning at 7:30 and he taught me. We did that for six months.
How did you come up with the name for your shop?
Lucestella was my grandmother’s name. Luce in Italian means “light.” Stella means “star.” Her name was Lucestella Greco. To me, it’s so beautiful. My grandmother was a great person. She became widowed when she was young and had three small kids, so she had to go to work. While she had a hard life, she was always happy. Her house was always full of people. The doorbell rang all day long. People would stop by to say “Hi” because she was so loved and such a positive person. I spent all my summers in her house in Puglia. It’s the heel of the boot. When I grew up, the beaches were empty. Now there are so many tourists. That’s part of what inspired me. Sandals. Summer. The beach. It makes me happy to think about it.
What do people say they like about the sandals?
That they’re handmade in my shop and that they can choose the style. It’s fun, especially for girls. It’s like candy. They can pick the colors and put stars or other things on them. The choices are infinite. As long as my arm and wrist hold up, I will make them. I could have someone else do it for me and I could sell a lot more, and I could do it faster, but I like doing it. It gives me joy. They’re not perfect. Not every nail is going to be completely perfectly aligned. You’re buying an organic product.
Behind The Story
News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.