This review post is not sponsored, I paid for my M.Gemi Felize loafers, but this post does contain affiliate links.
When I was around 26 years old, I started taking business trips to Milan, Paris, and London twice a year as a fashion designer. It was a perk of the job. I would go with my boss to attend fabric shows and shop the stores in these countries to view emerging trends. During these trips, it was as if the entire fashion industry descended on these countries and I once joked that if the conference hall outside of Paris that hosted Premiere Vision —one of the leading fabric shows worldwide—were to blow up, the fashion industry would cease to exist.
What I learned from these trips was that I love, absolutely love, Italian fashion and style…and Italian men…and cars….and food, and, okay, Italians do just about everything well, including knowing how they live. One thing they do need to work on, however, is their transit system. Other than that, perfezione assoluta. Speaking about style, it’s hard to even capture in words what makes Italian style so great. It’s an understated luxury that’s modern yet glamorous and has a luxurious sensuality. Somehow they give a classic look a sexy attitude. The pieces are timeless yet look fresh, everything looks expensive and, like the French, you know the Italians make use of less in their closets.
Much of how I dress and style clients are inspired by what I saw on the streets of Italy. Italian fashion is neutral-driven with doses of color and/or drama, high quality, and there is always harmony and balance in an Italian look even if there is a lot going on. Etro may be an Italian fashion house known for designing stunning yet busy prints with a lot of drama, but in true Italian fashion, each one of those prints is harmonious, stunning, and of the highest quality.
Anyway, I’ve gone off track because I got swept up in the beauty of Italian fashion and completely forgot what I was talking about. M. Gemi’s Felize loafers, right. So, M.Gemi is a brand I have been suggesting to my clients for some years now. They make handmade shoes the old-fashioned way in Italy. Their roots started in Sicily by M.Gemi’s founder Maria Gangemi who developed an appreciation of the attention to detail by local artisans and the quality of fine handmade shoes. The mission of the company is to make shoes this old way and sell them in the new way of today and do it sustainably. I have yet to work with a client who hasn’t used the word comfortable when trying a pair.
M.Gemi’s shoes (website here) are sourced and made throughout Italy and constructed in ways that have been passed down for generations with each region of Italy inspiring a different design process. The goal of M.Gemi is to preserve a centuries-old craft while also effectively speeding up the supply chain by building small batches of inventory more rapidly than typical manufacturing models. M.Gemi creates a limited surplus inventory, sells at an accessible price point, and keeps its product out of landfills.
You can watch more about the process in this video.
The History of The Driving Loafer
With my passion for Italian design, I have always loved driving loafers which were originally created around 1909 specifically for driving. They were designed for race car drivers who up until that point were wearing clunky shoes that were hard to wear when manipulating the pedals. In true Italian form, the driving shoe was not only designed for function but with a sense of style. The pebbled bottom distributes weight evenly across the pedals and the pebbling up the back of the shoe helps keep the shoes from slipping while in the driving position while also protecting the suede from wear when the foot is in that stance. For pedestrians, these pebbled bottoms also help relieve pressure when pounding the pavement.
In 1963, the driving shoe was released to the public by a company aptly named The Car Shoe headed up by Gianni Mostile. This luxury style was seen as a one-percenter luxury item used exclusively for driving. Because who owns shoes just for driving? And it was Tod’s that made this style more accessible to the masses, albeit still at a luxurious price point. It was then that Fiat founder, Gianni Agnelli (fun fact, my first car was a 1978 Fiat Spider convertible because even when I was 18 I naturally gravitated towards beautiful Italian things), who was known for his extraordinary sprezzatura, meaning studied carelessness (so Italian), and known to have inspired the James Bond wardrobe and was a well-known supporter of these shoes helped to make these shoes even more wildly popular.
Given their history, driving loafers are shoes that are equal parts function and luxury. They were designed to solve a problem yet at the same time, they’re precious. The only thing separating the suede of the soles from the ground is the pebbled rubber soles. The arch of the sole is pure suede and they practically look one step up from slippers. These are fussy shoes you don’t labor in, don’t walk for miles wearing, can’t wear in inclement weather, and have a simple, elegant design that isn’t cheap. Why the heck would you ever want to buy a pair?
Because they are amazing. That’s why.
To understand driving loafers is to fully understand the whole of what driving loafers are. You can’t go into purchasing a pair of driving loafers with the expectation of them being any more than what they were designed to be — high-maintenance gorgeous, luxury shoes that come with very particular parameters. Either this makes perfect sense to you or it doesn’t. I don’t do anything messy wearing my driving loafers, I check the weather report before leaving the house in them, I put them in their dust bag at night and maybe I sing them a lullaby when I do. That’s between me and my shoes. For me, I don’t need my driving loafers to be more than what they were intended to be. I have a closet full of Aquatalia shoes and boots that are gorgeous and designed for inclement weather. My Allbirds are comfy, functional wool sneakers and slip-ons that serve a purpose, and my Birkenstock Gizehs are pretty and sturdy and can be walked in mileage equivalent of from here to the moon.
Italian fashion captures what fashion lost a very long time ago which is passion, style, and craftsmanship and, while, okay, it isn’t in the realm of reality that everything we own is precious and high maintenance, I think we all need at least a few things in our closet that stoke feelings of passion, beauty, and awe. The wonderful thing I’ve found about M.Gemi’s shoes is that while the price point may be higher than what some people may be used to spending on shoes, for handcrafted styles made in Italy crafted by artisans who have been passing down their crafts for generations , that price point is incredibly reasonable.
My Review of M.Gemi’s Felize Driving Loafers
How I came to own a pair of the M. Gemi Felize driving loafers is quite funny. It was a particularly busy day and I happened to be texting with my virtual assistant, Jess. Normally, Jess handles administrative backend work for me but when I mentioned I was looking for a navy pair of loafers for my client, Ms. Incandescent, she took the initiative to look around (love her) and found a pair of driving loafers from Tod’s. I told her I had already picked another pair of Tod’s loafers for Ms. Incandescent and while she has a budget to spend, asking her to buy two pairs of Tod’s loafers in addition to everything else on the list was asking a lot.
So Jess sent me the M.Gemi Felize driving loafers in Midnight Blue which are, for lack of a better word, gorgeous. However, I wanted something a bit more professional and less casual which Jess came through on again and we eventually settled on The Edetta in Dark Blue, also from M.Gemi. Yet, Jess and I couldn’t get the Felize loafers out of our heads. We spent the day texting about which colors we would buy, like it was the movie Sophie’s Choice and we were forced to decide which child would live; it was an impossible decision. It kept on and on, all day as if we had a mandatory discussion topic. I told Jess I never looked good in any driving loafers. As much as I love them and they suit my style, my small feet, fat ankles, and big legs always made me look like I was wearing grandpa slippers. Yet despite that, when Jess mentioned there was an offer of $50 off your first order, that was it, it was worth the try and with M.Gemi’s generous free shipping return policy, we both ordered them at the same time, a 1/2 size up as recommended. She got the Blood Orange and I, the Magenta, a color that never fails to make me happy. We tracked our shipments the same way women hoping to get pregnant track their ovulation cycles and despite coming from Italy, we got them in no time.
The second my Felize loafers arrived, I took my gorgeous bright magenta pair out of the box, put them on and they were instantly comfortable, shockingly supportive, and like heaven. Best of all, I finally found a pair of driving loafers that look sleek and stylish and exactly the way driving loafers are supposed to look on my feet. I wear them most days and even wore them to walk a mile to get dinner with my husband a week ago. I was surprised to see the unprotected arch area of the sole didn’t get a mark from walking outdoors and that my feet felt very supported and comfortable even on a somewhat long walk. The pebbling on the sole feels good to walk on and sometimes makes this unobtrusive, sweet gripping sound I find strangely adorable. Within minutes of owning them, I texted about six clients telling them they were buying them for spring.
To get you inspired, I have put together five looks using just five of the many colors these shoes come in, and be sure to check out the other shoes M.Gemi also offers. To feed the addiction and FOMO, they’re always adding, and taking away, new colors.
If you have a neutral-driven wardrobe, it can be hard to choose which pair of M.Gemi Felize loafers to pick. A look like this is an example. You could wear any of the colorful pairs they offer. In this case, I styled their Lavender pair with slim straight jeans from AG, a layered sweater from Brochu Walker, and Ovate hoop earrings from Missoma.
While driving loafers are rooted in Italian history, there is also something incredibly classic American preppy in their look that makes them suitable for someone who appreciates this simple, timeless style. I styled this pair of M.Gemi Felize drivers in Sunshine with a pair of J.Crew chino shorts, a blue and white striped luxe cotton button-down shirt from Frank & Eileen, a link bracelet from Gorjana, and bar earrings from Maison Miru.
If you think driving loafers are only for casual vacations and hammocks while sipping Aperol spritzes, these shoes can absolutely be worn to the workplace, especially these days. Post-pandemic and a desire to dress again but in a casual way, as I mentioned last week, it’s time to put money towards our casual pieces. Driving loafers are not meant to be worn with rigid suits or formal looks, but can look incredibly stylish finishing off power casual outfits. I paired these M.Gemi Felize driving loafers in Gray with lovely cropped pleated chinos from M.M. LaFleur that I styled simply with a silk t-shirt top from Cuyana, horn necklace, layered bangles, and denim jacket from AG.
It can be hard to find loafers that go with dresses and while driving loafers don’t work with all dresses they can work with easy dresses, casual styles, or dresses for work that are business casual. I added a bold pop to this work look using the M.Gemi Felize loafers in Blood Orange. The silk horse print dress from Equipment has been layered with a thin duster cardigan from M.M. Lafleur, cinched with a belt from Anderson’s, and a Black Wooden Bead & Gold Cube Necklace from Wolf & Badger.
Driving loafers can be worn as a pop or worn to harmonize with your look. With this warm, elegant, casual outfit, I added these M.Gemi Felize driving loafers in Saddle. I styled them with a pair of olive casual straight-leg pants from Alex Mill, a Peruvian cotton pullover from Eileen Fisher, silk square scarf from Vida, tortoise square hoops from Madewell, and the same layered bangles as used in look three.
Shipping and Caring For Your M.Gemi Felize Driving Loafers
The only downside is M.Gemi only ships to the United States and it doesn’t seem like this will be changing anytime soon. If you are concerned about the preciousness of suede, you can follow this tip: spray your suede with protection spray every hour in the evening in a well-ventilated area from around dinnertime until you go to bed and let dry overnight. Multiple layers offer better protection than just one. If the spray darkens the color of your loafers, it should correct in a few days as your shoes fully dry. Buffing gently with the soft side of a suede brush— which you should own if you own suede— will also help bring your suede back to its original color more quickly. Another downside is that due to the soft suede, the bottoms of the shoes at the toe tip will scuff. You can coat this area with a little Shoe Goo if you walk a lot and want to add a little invisible reinforcement.
One Pair Won’t Be Enough
When I was reading the reviews about M.Gemi Felize driving loafers, someone said they own 10 pairs. I wondered what was wrong with this person, but now I get it. Ten still seems a bit extreme, but I understand what would compel her to own that many. I purchased their Saddle shade about a week after receiving my magenta pair, Jess already bought a second pair in Magenta and I am planning out which additional pairs I will also buy. Jess and I basically bring up our loafers daily, just like someone in love tries to work that person’s name into every conversation. Like Italy will put you in a trance with its stunning style and beauty, so will these shoes. At least one pair is a must, but don’t say I didn’t warn you, one pair also won’t be enough. Shop for M.Gemi’s Felize driving loafers here.