The brand, best known for its successful Superstar sneaker style, was acquired in 2020 by private equity fund Permira from the Carlyle Europe Buyout fund with a price tag pegged at 1.28 billion euros and is now ready to take its responsibility stance a step further.
Campara told WWD that the ultimate reasoning behind the strategy — called “Forward Agenda” and articulated over four pillars with key initiatives for each — is taking care of the Golden Goose community, including employees and their loved ones, as well as the brand’s audience, be it its customers or social media followers.
The new chapter, he said, was already “embedded in the brand’s ethos since the beginning. It may sound like utopia but it’s in fact very factual, in that it’s built on drivers that are very logical… We don’t see it like a performance [indicator], as many of our peers do,” he said.
The four pillars include innovation, the valuation of craft, care for the people, and engagement with communities. These are articulated with different goals to be met by 2025, many of which, Campara explained, will come to life by 2023. A new chief sustainability officer, Federica Ruzzi, joined the brand last year after stints at Moncler, Fiat and Toyota.
“Our goal was to give a timeless interpretation to our responsibility journey and unfurl it over a long-term time frame, with clear goals … that would allow us to understand where we are at in regard to our ambitions and also to allow stakeholders to understand our ability to turn them into concrete actions,” the executive offered.
When it comes to driving innovation, Golden Goose has set several objectives connected to responsible sourcing and manufacturing, tackling some of the most pressing challenges for the industry. The brand has pledged to launch its first fully circular design project; enhance the use of low-impact materials by 40 percent and 50 percent for its sneakers and ready-to-wear offering, respectively; extend the Cradle-to-Cradle Certification to all its new products, as well as tracing all raw materials it uses.
The brand is also on a journey to become carbon neutral across its international facilities by 2025.
Traceability is particularly high on Campara’s agenda. Next month, Golden Goose is expected to announce the merger with an established Italian supplier with strong R&D potential. While Campara didn’t share more details, he did say that the acquisition will unlock traceability potential for the footwear specialist, as well as set the foundations for the development of its first bio-based sneaker style.
“It’s a big deal… instead of envisioning an R&D-minded partnership to prove our sustainability, our bigger ambition is to imagine a platform, open also to other brands, that will involve the consumers,” and unlock innovation that’s perceived and perceivable by them, the executive noted.
“We often hear talking about the most intangible sides of technology — think blockchain for instance — but the real issue is the obsolescence of the Made in Italy supply chain, not in terms of quality and artisanship but in regards to its lack of a cultural mind-set that acknowledges how important traceability is for consumers,” Campara opined. “Traceability means preserving the same authentic conversation you have about the brand also about products… Made in Italy is no longer enough, new consumers want to know how it’s done not only where it’s done,” he said.
According to Campara, innovation and “technology should always go hand in hand with craftsmanship… which we’ve always championed without losing sight of the future.”
As a company born out of the highly artisanal shoemaking district in the Veneto region, Campara’s mission to preserve local craftsmanship is being channeled in the creation of Fondamenta, the company’s academy bowing in 2023 to train rising artisans across every stage of the manufacturing pipeline, all the while serving as a creative hub and professional shoemaking school.
“Over the past 50 years, manufacturing jobs have not been advertised in the best way possible,” the executive noted. “We need to change the vocabulary and ethics tied to this job and these people that have allowed Made in Italy to be what it is. Fondamenta is the place where we celebrate the return to artisanship, rewriting its vocabulary, putting people under the spotlight,” he explained.
In sync with Golden Goose’s “people-centric” approach, social corporate responsibility initiatives are tied to the shoemaker’s community of employees and customers, harkening back to its seminal community-driven bent. They stretch far beyond communication, entailing, for instance, the opening of new, so-called Forward stores in 2022.
Dubbed as an innovative retail concept bowing in Milan and New York, the stores, described by Campara as the “sexy aspect” of the Forward Agenda, will offer opportunities for customers to extend the products’ life cycle or give them a new life, via repair and customization services. They will also mark a chance for customers and the company’s artisans to meet and share their stories.
Other social corporate responsibility projects falling under the “We Care” pillar include the goal to achieve high-level social compliance standard for at least 80 percent of its direct and strategic suppliers and sub-suppliers; attaining premium health and safety, as well as workforce gender equality certifications for its offices and stores worldwide.
In response to the humanitarian crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the company has pledged an undisclosed donation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and its employees and relatives were encouraged to collect essential goods destined to refugees. The brand has also temporarily halted shipments to Russia, where it operates via wholesale accounts.
Golden Goose counts 190 stores in 92 countries and generates 70 percent of its business from direct-to-consumer operations.
Campara noted the company is de facto listening carefully to what its audience has to say, but he wants to unleash that potential even more.
To this end, the fourth pillar in the agenda, called “We Share,” is about “creating a layer in which you can engage the audience,” he said. Starting in 2022 Golden Goose will unveil the Golden TV, which incidentally is also the name it gave to its Milan’s flagship.
Under that moniker, the sneaker maker will regroup all its social media activities focusing on people and giving up on the top-down communication approach. “Our aim is not to influence people, we’re not looking for praise… No one cares about the stories Golden Goose has to tell, people want to listen to stories from the communities that are relevant to the Golden Goose world,” the executive said.
The brand’s social media channels will thus become a platform for employees and fans of the brand to tell their stories and be part of the change, he explained.