Thursday, 26 July 2018

Crockett & Jones: A Factory Visit

Visiting the Northampton factory and HQ of shoemakers Crockett & Jones meets all my criteria for the ultimately successful British factory visit. The mix of heritage, skills, pride and modernity of thought and design encapsulate all that is making British manufacturers so successful abroad. In the Far East, US and elsewhere there's a recognition that the UK has a rich history to build on when it comes to making high quality clothing and accessories. After all, it was here that the machinery and skills for mass-production were developed over the last two centuries, building on skills such as tailoring and leather working which had existed for centuries beforehand. Furthermore, the company has been family-owned since its foundation in 1879.

The leather store

The shaped knives that cut the uppers to shape

The clicker and his leather apron. The clicker cuts the leather to shape using shaped knives or templates

A few of the parts that go to make the uppers of a shoe

The closing room where the uppers are stitched together
The uppers of a grain leather boot with broguing

The last store. The lasts are the forms around which the leather uppers will be formed

Lasting: in this remarkable operation the leather uppers are shaped around the lasts before welting and soling

Stitching the welt before heel and sole are added

The sole and heel have been added and in one skilled action they are cut to shape

Finished shoes waiting to be checked before packing and despatch

Shoes on display

Businesses like Crockett & Jones have not only preserved these skills, often through hard times, but have built on them by developing manufacturing and design techniques to keep up to date with modern production and consumer demands. They bring employment and, as one of the handful of shoemakers still in the area, they preserve Northampton's centuries-old shoemaking skills through training and apprenticeships.

Pride is evident at every stage, from the design and pattern cutting to the leather selection and the manufacture of the footwear. In the pattern cutting room modern technology enables the designers to keep ahead of the demands of consumers and fashion and of the differing properties of leather by subtly altering designs and shoe shapes - designs never stand still. 

Everywhere throughout the production process, from the selection of the leather, its cutting, stitching and lasting, the welting (attaching a strip of leather to the upper to which the soles are stitched enabling future resoling - central to the Goodyear welted shoe) and heeling and soling to the finishing, workers go about their business with remarkable dexterity, working on the shoes with infinite skill and care.

When you buy British-made shoes like those from Crockett & Jones you're buying into a heritage of which we should be proud. You know that your shoes have been made from scratch in Northampton and are the result of decades of combined refinement and that  your shoes are made by well-trained and proud crafts people. 

See Crockett & Jones for more information and to buy their shoes.

I was a guest of Crockett & Jones. I received no payment for this piece and all views are mine alone.

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