Norton of Morton

Read a new instalment of Norton of Morton every Saturday at 4 o'clock

Saturday 16 June 2018

Percy Stride: factory visit

In which G.M. Norton introduces you to an English-made footwear brand and tours a shoe factory.

Percy Stride - such an English-sounding name. It could be a character from Harry Potter, or in a Wodehouse novel. I can imagine reading, "What-ho, Percy old stick! I say, those are some natty shoes you're wearing."

So perhaps it's fitting that Percy Stride is the name of a relatively new shoe brand that makes their wares in a Northampton shoe factory. 

Percy Stride first came to my attention on Instagram, which to be honest, is where I discover most things in these modern times. 
The shoe enterprise was set up by a lovely lady called Danielle Wathes, who kindly invited me to Northampton to meet her, admire her shoes in person and excitingly, to take a tour of the very factory where they are made. 

The factory in question is NPS, which stands for Northampton Productive Society. Although it's now in private ownership, when the factory was founded back in 1881, it was run as a co-operative made up of five men that banded together to make footwear. For 35 years, NPS made Dr Martens under their Solovair brand. Alas, they're now made overseas so if you find yourself disappointed with modern Dr Martens, now you know the reason why they're suddenly so inferior. 

Driven by the desire to make a quality shoe, Danielle approached NPS to make her shoes. Made in small batches, Danielle is constantly making visits to the factory to check up on things and to have a natter with the people that work there. Quite rightly, Danielle places a big importance on building these personal relationships.
It was an absolute pleasure meeting Danielle. Her passion for menswear was obvious. 

During our factory tour, we went through the different parts of the production process which is made up of clicking, closing, lasting, levelling and finishing. 
It was fascinating to be inside a real factory. Employing 67 local people, the NPS factory makes 200 pairs a day, with each person having a specific job. I loved the individual work stations, with photos or newspaper clippings pinned up. 

Excitingly, I also got to see a batch of Percy Stride shoes that were in the final stages of being made. 
At the end of the factory tour, we all headed over to the factory shop where I got the opportunity to take a thorough look at the finished Percy Stride shoes. The first collection is called Timeless and is made up of a range of oxford shoes. With that all-important Goodyear welt construction, this means that shoes can be re-heeled or re-soled. 
With a keen eye for design, Danielle has used embossing techniques, which is a particularly impressive touch, making them stand out from other shoe brands. Roman Numerals are etched onto the leather, building on the time theme. 
The black and white pair really takes the time theme further, with a screen print of a pocket watch displayed prominently on the outside back quarter. They're a very striking pair indeed.

Danielle and I had a really enjoyable chinwag. I got the chance to look at her shoe designs, to find out what influenced the brand and to discover what future plans she has for Percy Stride. Of course, that was in between chats about Harry Potter and Star Wars. We also made time for two trips to the nearby tearooms. Danielle even interviewed yours truly, which you can read on the Percy Stride blog
Next week, I will share with you a pair of the Percy Stride Nightfall Blue shoes that were sent to me this week. I'd last seen them still being made on the factory floor. Just wonderful.

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of 'Norton of Morton'


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