Archive for August, 2012
The English have long since been at the top of the game of men’s shoe making. The factories in Northampton all stand testament to this long standing, highly skilled traditional industry. Handmade shoes in my opinion are the one luxury that we should invest our hard earned pennies in…
Just think about it…. A pair of stunning men’s shoes, all stitched by hand, each nail hammered into the heel one nail at a time by the trained hand of a master craftsman. And let me add, that this pair of shoes will probably last you ten years, because, no matter how heavy you are on your feet, you can get them full re-soled by that same master craftsman time after time. These shoes are very good value for money. You will probably pay about £240 for a good handmade pair of men’s English shoes, which I think is a very affordable luxury.
Just to give you an idea of the heritage I’m talking about…take Barker Shoes as an example: Founded in 1880 by Arthur Barker, he started making shoes in a workshop at the bottom of his garden. 130 Years later the company is still run by family members, committed to making sure that genuine quality and individuality are consistent in their shoemaking as is the maintenance of the very highest of standards. Each pair of shoes is a work of art. I don’t think shoes get better than that.
I can’t help but be in absolute awe of these men’s handmade shoes.. I;m going to let you into a little secret.. it was actually men’s shoes that got me into the shoe business in the first place (English brand – Italian made Oliver Sweeney to be precise) My husband was a fan of Oliver Sweeney shoes, we discovered them in Harvey Nichols in Leeds when it first opened many moons ago and he was hooked – but to be honest so was I. I fell in love with these men’s shoes and so did he. Oliver Sweeney were not selling online at the time (back in 2003) and when I was considering options for setting up my own business – I thought to myself – “I know I’ll just sell Oliver Sweeney shoes online”! My eureka moment was not so easy to follow through and bring to reality, I have to hasten to add, but seven years on from that moment I’ll still selling Oliver Sweeney shoes.
English shoes were a later addition for me, I started with the very quirky range of Jeffery West shoes – again another brand that I still sell (online at http://www.exclusivefootwear.com) Handmade stunning pieces of very edgy men’s footwear – all very unique and very different from anything I had seen before. You can tell a pair of Jeffery West shoes in an instant. I then discovered to my delight the ranges by Grenson, Barker, Cheaney, Crockett and Jones and Churches (now owned by Prada). Some of these brands I have dabbled in and some I have looked at longingly from afar… But all of them are without doubt champions in their field. Putting aside the wonderful shoe making in Italy and Spain (who without doubt make the best women’s designer shoes) The English have definitely made it to the top of the pile with their men’s shoe making. So here’s to buying British!
The Fashion of Sport..
Fashion and sport have been linked together for a long time..going back to the 70’s it was the edgy footballers of the day that set the trends for the masses to follow. Looking back their perms and European brands such as Lacoste and Sergio Tachini brought back from their trips to the continent led the way for masses of soccer casuals.. let’s just see how over the next few weeks a new set of edgy trend setters will be born. The new league of “winners” will strut their stuff in branded fashion accessories maybe as part of a sponsorship maybe not..but that’s where the brands want to be on the backs and on the feet of the new trend setters, the new sporting heroes. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a few of the pre event profiles of some of these rising stars and have been blown away by their dedication and drive.. I think we can all learn a little from these amazing sports men and women from Victoria Pendleton with her amazing focus to Ashley Mackenzie the Judo champion who has beaten all adversity to become a champion in his field..lets see over the next few weeks how these champions lead us in a different way in the form of fashion.. Footballers I suppose with their enormous salaries can afford to lead from the front wearing couture brands..and who wouldn’t with their disposable income..but the major fashion brands long to be seen on their backs too.. Oliver Sweeney a few years back sponsored the England Cricket team and more recently Marks and Spencer’s produced the suits worn by the England Football team – lucrative deals for the sports men of the day – giving hooks that will engage a whole new audience to their brand. Increasingly sportswear brands are becoming interlinked with fashion too and fashion designers turn sport designers.. Stella McCartney produced a range for Adidas recently and Alexander McQueen (God rest his soul) did a collaboration with Puma. The two really do go hand in hand. Sports wear = fashion and fashionistas want to engage the masses…who wouldn’t want an audience the size of a football stadium. Sporting footwear has also secured its place in the high fashion stakes lets take Yohji Yamamoto who produced his Y3 collection for Adidas..this range of footwear can be found in most high end fashion boutiques..Collaboration there are many Marc Jacobs and Luella have in the past designed trainers for Vans and hat designer Philip Treacy worked with Umbro. It’s going to be very interesting seeing how the next few weeks unfold releasing a whole new range of champion fashion wearers upon us.