Lozano, with some of Gambino Alliance's products.
The Chelsea boots depicting Kim Kardashian and
Marilyn Monroe are a collaboration with artist
— As a kid in Venezuela, Miguel Lozano helped his
father make promotional products for such well-known
names as Mercedes-Benz and Bacardi. By the time he was
12, he had hired himself out as a graphic designer and
web developer for a barbershop, and while in high school
in Orlando, he and a friend had an online sneaker
boutique that sold limited edition — and high-priced
— sneakers to collectors.
as an encore, the 18-year-old Florida International
University sophomore has launched a men’s luxury
footwear line that he hopes will marry his passion for
shoes with his dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
always been into shoes," said Lozano, a finance and
marketing major. "I used to own a lot of them —
at least 50 pairs."
longer. As a college student with limited storage space,
he’s culled his collection to mostly sneakers and
dress shoes. But his company, Gambino Alliance, affords
him an emotional outlet. Last month he opened a
Kickstarter account to raise money for his project. In
less than 48 hours, he had made his goal of $20,000. The
campaign ended Sunday.
Kickstarter fundraiser was just the latest step in an
almost two-year process. Lozano actually began working
on his footwear line back in 2015, as a college
freshman. Why not, he asked himself, design a really
nice pair of Chelsea boots, something he would love to
boots are a classic, "but they’re also
trending," Lozano noted. "Everyone wants a
Lozano did what he usually does when faced with a
challenge. He dove into research online, until he found
a factory in Pakistan willing to make some samples. Then
he invested months in pursuit of the quality he wanted.
It took 20 different tries for the factory to get it
quality of the leather is very, very important," he
explained. "Eighty percent of what’s out there is
pig leather, and it’s not very good. I wanted cowhide
leather. It’s more expensive, but it also feels so
was particular about more than just the leather, though.
He sent the factory back to the drawing board several
times because it wasn’t meeting his design
requirements. What’s more, the soles of the boots
"were pretty bad. Extremely ugly." He wanted
flexible rubber soles — and something extra, too.
Inspired by NASA’s use of material — a detail he
picked up during his research — he added temper foam
to the inside soles.
the best comfort," he added.
May 2016, nearly six months after he had first started,
Lozano received a sample that met his requirements, from
the stitching to the sole to the materials, all sourced
from Germany and Italy. Lozano then moved on to working
on another style: the classic Derby shoe. The production
of this one was easier. By then he had done the research
on materials for the boots and looked through the
Pantone catalog to select the colors for his footwear.
He decided on some of the trending hues but also
"picked out a lot of what I like."
this effort has come with a price, of course, and it’s
not just one that can be measured in dollars. Between
his studies, his commitment to get Gambino off the
ground, and freelancing for a children’s swimwear
company, Lozano doesn’t have much time for the usual
"That’s just not my scene," he said. "I
did a lot of partying in high school already."
originally named his footwear line "Lucky Luciano"
because he wanted to evoke the fashion of the Italian
mafia. The name, though, was trademarked, so he moved
onto Gambino — as in one of the "Five
Families" that is said to rule organized crime in
New York City — and added "Alliance" to
distinguish it from other businesses with the same name.
a while, he used his savings and earnings from a short
internship and freelance work to fund his new business,
but the arduous process of making shoe samples wiped out
his account. He landed an investor this past November,
an organic food and soap distributor, after he built a
website and ran the social media marketing for the
that infusion, he ordered 200 pairs of shoes, which
arrived in January. He’s been sending those to
influencers — that is, local and national celebrities
with lots of followers on social media. So far several
have posted pictures of the shoes.
Alliance’s Chelsea boots retail at $320 and the Derby
at $240, but Kickstarter backers get them for discounted
prices starting at $169 for the Derby and $239 for the
now we’re at the branding stage," Lozano said.
"We’re all about the branding. We want people to
know we’re out there."
what about the future? On top of his list is to find
more investors, perhaps by launching a million-dollar
Kickstarter campaign. He also figures he will limit the
purchase of Gambino products to a dedicated website, at
least until he comes up with a good business plan to put
the product in stores.
though, "this can’t be just a hobby, like
something I do because I like it," he said.
"It has to make sense. It has to be