As I continue my tour of shoe factory shops in and around Northampton, I finally took a visit to the factory which kick-started my interest in documenting our rich shoe heritage, Crockett & Jones.
Whilst taking a short cut across town with a client a couple of months ago, we passed Crockett & Jones factory, just a 5 minute drive from the town centre.
A quality shoe brand with international appeal
It surprised me just how well regarded the Crockett & Jones brand was and what global appeal and reach Northampton's fine shoe brands had (my client was English and his colleagues who favoured Crockett & Jones above all brands were from Brazil and Holland.)
The Crockett & Jones shoe factory shop
This strong sense of international appeal was cemented in my shoe factory shop visit. Up a flight of stairs above the main factory floor, the outlet shop was busy with Japanese, a few visitors from surrounding counties (I know because I asked them) and an Australian.
The strength of interest from Japan is well documented and it is a combination of beautifully handcrafted shoes and distinctive English styling that appeal to this discerning consumer.
Crockett & Jones shoes certainly embody quality and a timeless aesthetic; their men's range is still very traditional as opposed to some of the contemporary interpretations offered by other luxury shoe brands in Northampton.
Because of its limited opening times, the Crockett & Jones factory shop is always fairly busy, especially on a Saturday morning so be ready to get stuck in and explore the range on your own. The shop is staffed by those that work in the factory during the week and so their technical knowledge is great and, if you're patient, it's worth waiting to grab their attention for advice.
The shop offers a good, broad range with prices from £130, considerably less than half the usual retail price. Whilst the factory shoe shop currently only sells gentlemen's shoes, Crockett & Jones do also have a decent range of shoes and boots.
In terms of something a bit more modern, the unlined Newquay Derby from Crockett & Jones is a more casual alternative, extremely comfortable and pretty cool in grey with purple laces.
Exquisitely English shoes good enough for James Bond
All beautifully handcrafted shoes and all 'exquisitely English' and why, I believe, Crockett & Jones shoes are so incredibly popular with an international audience.
For me the enduring appeal of this classic English brand is epitomised by the choice of the Bond team to use Crockett & Jones shoes in 2012s Skyfall. The shoes weren't made specifically for the film but picked straight from the existing range; Crockett & Jones are already quintessentially British, just like Bond.
With the business now in its 5th generation Jones, I don't see the Crockett & Jones brand changing drastically any time soon. Thank goodness.