Sunday, 16 February 2014

Church's: A religion in shoes

THEY SAY: ‘If you want to know a man, walk a mile in his shoes’, but if his shoes are made by one of the icons of  handmade shoe manufacturing, Church’s, you can probably forgo the mile trot and already have some idea that you are dealing with distinguished man, with unquestionable style. 
Favourites of both James Bond actors Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan, the brand was choice de jour during Brosnan’s tenure as Ian Fleming’s ice cool hero.
As with the famous spy, who has become an integral part of fabric and tradition of literature, cinema and Britain, it is tradition that Church’s has formed part of when it comes to manufacturing ‘classic’ footwear.

Proudly boasting the moniker of ‘English’ shoes, Church’s history and ‘traditions’ stretch back to Cromwellian times, the company even remains at its original home and area that must be seen as the heartbeat of British shoe production, Northampton.
The standards set back then have remained with Church’s, who are still and rightfully regarded as a ‘benchmark firm for high-quality’ footwear.
At its St James Road factory, Church’s still use the same the 250 point operation and eight week craftsmanship procedure, using the finest leather to create each pair.

It is these attitudes and approaches that create a lasting impression and of course that, in turn, reflects on the wearer, bespoke in as so many ways.
Welted soles, utilising the Goodyear construction process, which in technical terms sees the ‘sole and upper sole first stitched to the ‘welt’, a strip of hand-cut leather, which is then stitched to the bottom of the shoe during the early stages of production’, have become a hallmark of reliability and strength of English shoes worldwide and of course is synonymous with Church’s.

Continual moves to push boundaries is also something Church’s has always explored, the current business employs 700 staff, with the brand expanding its footwear selection along with accessory lines. More of this in a bit.
But in man ways it’s a process of ‘Never stand still, but never stray far from your roots’.
The global company approach of Church’s, which now has a majority ownership by Prada in the 1990s, is nothing new with rapid expansion seeing awards at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace back in 1881, before the brand began to seek links across Europe and South Africa, before finally reaching the New World in 1907 with buyers found in America and Canada.

It seems odd then that the brand set down its first roots in London in 1921, the brand being in many ways as synonymous with London as the Bowler hat, Underground and black cabs, and surely centreing its production on footwear for the Armed Forces during World War II only further fitted the link with Church’s and this sceptred isle.

Here endeth the lesson until part two: