My Visit to the AGL Factory in Italy, Home of Our Most-Loved and Longest-Carried Line

In 2003, I opened the doors to The Shoe Hive at 115 South Royal Street. I had no idea what I was doing. I filled the shelves with lines I loved but couldn’t find elsewhere and was basically rolling the dice. I’d never been in retail and had no data model to follow on assembling inventory.

Not long after we had opened, a gentleman walked in with literally a suitcase of shoes. I was totally new to buying and didn’t even really understand that this sort of thing would start happening to me all the time. He was charming, the shoes were beautiful, and you could tell they were well-made, and so on a whim I wrote an order.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was the first account in the United States to write an order for this legendary Italian company called Atilio Giusti Leombruni.

The rest is history and it is by far the number one and most loved brand at The Shoe Hive, and the only brand we have carried every single season since 2003.

After doing this for more than 15 years, it occurred to me I had never been to a shoe factory. So this year, I finally decided to do it and AGL was the obvious choice. I took my whole family to the Adriatic coast of eastern Italy to see how these amazing shoes get to us.

From the moment we walked into the AGL factory in Montegranaro, they were gracious, warm, and treated us like family, greeting us with a pastry and juice reception to start our day.

Everyone who’s obsessed with this line by now knows the three sisters who are the face of the brand. One of the sisters, Sara, the CEO, met us in the lobby, along with Kim Kleist, who is American but has lived in Italy and worked at AGL for more than a decade. After touring the offices and getting a glimpse at the design studio where next year’s styles are mid-conception – what a thrill – we entered the production facility. And it was overwhelming…in a good way.

And little did we expect, the Giusti brother gave us a tour. I didn’t even know there was a brother; they keep him hidden! He runs the production and it is a finely oiled machine.

From beginning to end, it is an operation of precision and care. They make every single pair under this roof; there is absolutely no outsourcing. Your AGL shoes are made, start to finish, by AGL crafters. Each pair of shoes is touched by hand more than 50 times in the process. FIFTY TIMES. From stretching the leather by hand over the lasts, to adhering the soles and embellishments, to ironing the interior at the end of the line, it is all a process of personal attention to detail. No wonder these shoes are so beautiful and comfortable and last for so many years.

I have always considered the AGL shoes in my personal closet more than just parts of an outfit — they are foundations of my wardrobe. If you haven’t tried them, I hope you’ll come in and learn more about this vital part of our identity at The Shoe Hive.


  • The latest from Elizabeth
I spent the first part of my career as a copy-writer who helped elected officials brag about their support for entrepreneurs. Then I decided to get off the printed page and do it myself. The Shoe Hive made a splash on the fashion scene in Washington, and was named the region’s best shoe store in its first year. Fourteen years later, I have tripled the store’s size and also opened a sister store, The Hive. At The Hive, we offer clothing lines that are sophisticated and approachable like Rag & Bone, Tibi, Raquel Allegra, Ulla Johnson and Veronica Beard. We have tried to fill our racks with clothing you will want to wear all the time, elevated basics that are worth the investment.

Heard the buzz? The Shoe Hive & The Hive are a pair of luxury boutiques in Old Town Alexandria. Featuring both big name designers like Rag & Bone and Stuart Weitzman and smaller brands like AGL and L'Agence, our unique selection and impeccable service are what set us apart.

The Shoe Hive                         The Hive
127 S. Fairfax Street               301 Cameron Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
              Alexandria, VA 22314

703.548.7105                          703.548.7110

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