The Guban Factory

the guban factory One the best-known Romanian brands in the communist era

Pre-war and inter-war Romania managed to develop its own "stars", products made locally in workshops and factories. Among them, the Guban brand held pride of place. It managed to preserve its reputation after the creation of the communist regime, and remained an exception until 1989. We've talked about the history of shoe-making and shoe polish produced by Guban factories with Marius Cornea, a curator with the Museum of Banat in Timişoara.



"Guban is a brand that was named after Blaziu Guban, born in Bihor County in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1904, in the countryside. Blaziu was a poor kid. He was adopted by a family from Oradea. He only graduated the first 5 grades. Before the First World War, he worked as a caretaker at a pig farm. Then he got hired at a local shoe factory in Oradea, where he developed an interest in combing chemical substances and materials. The Guban shoe polish was invented by Blaziu Guban in 1935, during his time in Timișoara. In 1932, the manager of a shoe factory in Timișoara invited Blaziu Guban to join his team. 1935 was the year when the fate of the Guban brand was decided. It was then that Blaziu came up with the recipe for the shoe polish. It was only later, in 1937, that he registered the Guban Brand with the Trade Register, alongside two other associates, under the name the Guban Timișoara Chemical Factories. The polish guaranteed the maintenance of leather shoes. What is interesting is that, in order to make his shoe polish known, Blaziu Guban called a factory in Timișoara that delivered tin boxes engraved with his name. In the first phase, Blaziu gave the boxes to employees, his associates and friends, who in turn advertised this kind of shoe polish".



For the postwar generations, the Guban name didn't just stand for shoe polish, but shoes themselves, mixing comfort and style in a locally-made product unlike any other in the communist era. Marius Cornea gave us more details:



"Of course, Romania knows the Guban brand particularly from the prospect of its shoe line. But the history of shoe-making started only in 1959. In 1948, when factories and enterprises across Romania were nationalized, Blaziu was the only factory owner from the former regime who, owing to his personal connection with Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, the communist leader at the time, managed to hold on to his factory until 1952, when he was forced to relinquish both the Guban name, and his factory in favor of the state. Communist authorities promised, however, to keep him in charge until the end of his days. This is a notable exception in the history of Romanian factories at the time. So, until 1978, the year of his death, Guban remained the director of his factory".



The first shoes were produced at the factory in Timișoara in 1959. The design combined the elegance of dress shoes with the comfort of every-day shoes. Another feature was synthetic leather, invented by Blaziu's son, Tiberiu, which imitated crocodile and snake leather. The shoes grew very popular very fast, not just among ordinary Romanians, but also among international personalities. Marius Cornea is back on the microphone.



"There was an entire marketing policy. The Ceaușescu family, Nicolae and Elena, were regular clients of the Guban factory in Timișoara. Elena Ceaușescu was known for her preference of the Guban brand. She usually wore brownish, greenish or pink shoes. The boot tree used by Elena Ceaușescu was on permanent display in an exhibition at the Maria Terezia Bastion in Timișoara, an exhibition that displayed most local brands to official delegations over 1970-1980. In the same exhibitions you could admire shoes ordered by actresses such as Sophia Loren or Gina Lollobrigida. What is interesting is the fact that the exhibition also showed shoes ordered by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and poet Tudor Arghezi".



After 1989, the factory in Timișoara underwent a broad process of restructuring, alongside most of Romanian industry. Still, the prestige of the Guban brand was not forgotten. (VP)



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Publicat: 2021-10-16 14:00:00
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