Give shoes and clothes a stylish new lease of life at Golden Goose

The Italian shop can repair and personalise worn-out or old-season apparel and footwear, and even customises skateboards

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I went in with shoes that were ready for the bin, and returned with a pair so snappy, I now feel the need to upgrade my wardrobe to match.

Golden Goose, which landed in the UAE last month, offers an upcycling service at its best. Not only can the team give a pair of shoes or item of clothing a new lease of life, but it also does a masterfully stylish job.

Golden Goose was launched in the early 2000s in Venice, as a men's and women's clothing and footwear brand, firmly embedded in skating culture, yet promising the quality of "Made in Italy". Last March, it embarked on a new chapter, opening its first Forward Store in Milan, to offer more sustainability within fashion, through an extensive programme of personalisation and repair to help extend the life of items such as shirts, jackets, trainers and boots.

With the notion that the most sustainable piece of clothing is the one already in your wardrobe, customers are encouraged to bring in old pieces and work with the team of in-house experts to extend their wear.

Inside the Golden Goose store in Mall of the Emirates. Photo: Golden Goose

Now the concept has arrived in the UAE, bringing with it an intriguing blend of shopping and sustainability that is new for both customers and the region. At 450 square metres, the store in Mall of the Emirates is part-warehouse, part-boutique, with a raw concrete floor, exposed iron pillars and timber shelves dotted with vintage collectables such as typewriters and SLR cameras.

The furniture is salvaged, a hydroponics wall is filled with air-purifying plants, and an industrial cage sits ready to receive donations of unwanted clothes and shoes, to be responsibly repurposed and recycled.

Lining the walls of the store is Golden Goose's own brand of trainers and elevated streetwear, cut for comfort and style, imbued in Italy's legendary fashion know-how. Buyers are encouraged to personalise purchases and make them their own.

Just as in the Milan store, this extends to any brand, with the company boasting it will tackle any project "from Zara to Hermes", for a deep clean or complete makeover. It will also spruce up its own trainers as part of a resale service.

The central space of the store is given over to tables and industrial machines that make up the functioning on-site workshop. Wearing snappy boilersuits emblazoned with the words “Dream Maker”, the in-house experts are a blend of creatives and technicians, able to help guide the hows and whys of even the trickiest trick-out.

The drawers are crammed with retro patches, embroidered flowers and an endless array of buttons, so that jacket you are bored of can be reinvented by swapping out the lining, adding baubles to the lapel, or running words across the back or down the arms in embroidery or grosgrain ribbon. There are even idea books to help kickstart the process.

For shoes, meanwhile, the team can paint, apply graffiti, replace materials or recolour for a bespoke look. Offered as a collaborative process, where the extensive knowledge of the team helps to guide what is feasible, it is deliberately dubbed a "co-creation".

That knowledge is essential for the design process, and a glance around the space reveals trainers half-deconstructed, soles removed in readiness for a rethink. Industrial machines that can stitch, buff, dye and re-glue sit ready.

Before and after images of the writer’s shoes, which were transformed by Golden Goose. Sarah Maisey / The National

To find out exactly what the Golden Goose shoe team can do, I take in an old pair of well-worn Nike Air Force 1s for reinvention. In addition to being worn to death, I had previously customised them (badly) with pink car spray, and they are now reduced to a grubby shade of grey, with the pink half missing. Mildly put, the shoes are well past their prime.

Can I add silver leather to the tongue, I ask? Yes, but because the shoes are old, its material might fall apart, so how do I feel about adding vintage-looking cloth badges instead? I love the idea, but unfortunately, we discover one is too big to fit through the industrial sewing machine. Keen to go ahead anyway, I offer to sew that one on by hand.

Next comes the matter of the famous Nike swoosh. Can I have it in glittery burgundy leather? Of course, is the reply, and why not add some hand-paint graffiti-style "drips" around the front of the shoe? Having never seen such a thing, it's an emphatic "yes" from me, as is the suggestion to add the signature Golden Goose distressing.

A few days later, too, when the team calls to ask if they could paint the pink heel to match the sparkly new swoosh, I find myself nodding down the phone. While Golden Goose routinely allows two weeks for any alteration, my reworked Nikes took only more than a week to complete. When I collect my shoes, the battered old trainers are restored, back to like-new. Now reinvented in burgundy and black, with branded laces, several lace charms are also included, in case I want to add those on.

The transformed pair is so snappy I am tempted to return to Golden Goose and ask for flames to be added to the newly darkened heels. And then perhaps get a matching tattoo.

In terms of pricing, this is accessible while respecting the time put into each project. My shoes, for example, were cleaned and sanitised, priced from Dh175, and I took full advantage of the Dream Maker service, which costs a flat Dh500. The distressing cost a further Dh355.

Had I opted to customise an item of clothing, this would have been charged at Dh155 for a repair or Dh220 to add embroidery or applique, while the time of a Dream Maker would be charged at Dh440.

There are those for whom adding elements will never suffice, so Golden Goose also offers a 1OF1 service. As the name suggests, this is the opportunity to make a one-of-a-kind pair of trainers, to your specifications. Using the Trunk, an imposing retro steamer chest holding every component of the best-selling SuperStar trainers, in every colour and finish available, customers hand-pick each element of the trainer — down to the tread on the sole.

Once chosen, the order is hand-made in Italy and delivered only six weeks later. While this is not cheap — at Dh7,900 — for those searching for a hands-on design experience or a unique shoe for the collection, it's a no-brainer. Golden Goose has plans to launch the same bespoke service for clothes.

And it doesn't stop there. From a striking off-the-rail woman's coat artfully splattered with paint, to all-vegan trainers — which in all-white are begging to be personalised — to backless trainer-slipper hybrids, Golden Goose offers a cornucopia of possibilities. There is even a specialist press so you can customise your skateboard deck, an idea almost worth taking up skating for. Now, if you will excuse me, I am off to try on my new shoes.

Updated: January 11, 2023, 11:25 AM