As Ettinger has been making its pieces in the historic leather-making centre of Walsall, so Cheaney has been doing the same in the heritage show making centre that is Northampton. We catch up with our crafty cousins for the latest on this exciting British brand.
As far back as the 17th century, shoe-makers were prolific in Northampton, with much of the work done in the outhouses of people’s gardens (known as shops). Each ‘shop’ would specialise in a different aspect of shoe-making, and the shoes would be moved from maker to maker until they were completed.
Over the years, the factory has supplied many brands, Vivienne Westwood, Geoffrey West and Toast are recent examples.
Harnessing this already vibrant supply chain, prominent shoe-making families began to organise manufacturing, with Joseph Cheaney establishing J. Cheaney, Boots & Shoemakers in the Northamptonshire town of Desborough. Joseph Cheaney, brought the whole process under one roof, in what was a perfect example of 19th century industrial revolution. This is a brand very much bound up with history. What’s so unique and brilliant is that Cheaney is still based in Desbrorough, at a factory Joseph moved the business to in 1896.
Much like Ettinger, the pre-eminent Cheaney factory produced (and produces) superior products, and even though many other Northamptonshire shoemakers were forced to close their doors, the demand for Cheaney’s shoes remained high. Over the years, the factory has supplied many brands, Vivienne Westwood, Geoffrey West and Toast are recent examples.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until 2009 that that brand began selling under its own name, following a purchase of the establishment by William and Jonathan Church. Our two brands are cut from a similar cloth (skin), so it’s great to hear more about what this heritage name is doing right now.
With a number of heritage shoe makers operating out of Northamptonshire, each has to have their own character. “We’re famous for our brogues and tweed boots. We’ve got our classics nailed,” explains Cheaney’s Marketing Manager, Katie Basford.
But, as these master craftsmen know, a modern day twist can help different audiences to experience these classics. For example, this year’s Spring/Summer collection sees Cheaney classics, such as the Trafalgar, re-invigorated in earthy muted suede, with the whole collection brought to life with an on-location safari shoot.
The brand is also currently working on a capsule collection with influencer Richard Biedul. ‘My desire to develop a footwear collection stemmed from my own inability to find the holy grail: the “perfect shoe” to compliment the clothing I was both designing and wearing,” explains Richard.
“I wanted something that was simultaneously classic yet contemporary, elegant yet masculine, refined yet durable and above all, I wanted something that was ethically, sustainably and responsibly manufactured here in the UK.” Cheaney ticked all the boxes. The result being a contemporary capsule collection including a sandal, loafer and a Derby. “It’s not a seasonal collection,” adds Katie, “they are versatile - you can wear them from office to pub.” Perfect for getting out and about in this summer and autumn.
Last, but very much not least, Cheaney has been supplying shoes for the fantastically popular and BAFTA award-winning TV series, Peaky Blinders, featuring, among others: Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, and other famous names such as Tom Hardy, Sam Claflin and Adrien Brody.
We sent a few styles in for season five of Peaky Blinders - 15 pairs
Cheaney’s boots are, of course, a perfect match for the production’s industrial 19th century aesthetic. “We sent a few styles in for season five of Peaky Blinders - 15 pairs,” explains Katie. The shoes used in the show were: King in Black, Brixworth in Black and Edwin in Dark Leaf and Sand Canvas.
Even in these challenging times, great British brands like Cheaney’s and Ettinger are continuing to push forward - creating beautiful British pieces, and getting people back to work. “The business has survived and thrived through many testing times in its 130 year history and we remain positive in the knowledge that Cheaney will prosper once more,” says Katie.
...we remain positive in the knowledge that Cheaney will prosper once more
British brands must stand together during this challenging time, in order that we come out stronger. The future is still searingly bright for beautiful high-class British products - hats off to this great British innovator.