The first new shoe factory for years has been opened in Northampton by Foster and Sons.
The high end boot and shoemaker of Jermyn Street, London, is aiming to create top quality ready to wear shoes using the skills of Northampton craftsmen to complement its bespoke ranges originated in London.
Lord Lieutenant David Laing cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony of the St James Mill Road factory.
He said: “I am wearing Northamptonshire shoes, have done for many years, they have served me very well. Fosters here is a new chapter opening. I might not be in the market for an £8,000 pair but it is great to have a quality product and the price is good.”
Fosters and Sons have provided footwear for a stellar list of clients including Fred Astaire and Charlie Chaplin but the aim of the new factory is to open up the firm’s archive of top quality shoe designs to a broader market.
CEO Matthew Allen said: “I have been Chief Executive since Oct last year. They contacted me last July saying they wanted to open a new Goodyear welted factory. Initially I thought I had heard everything up until then. I’ll believe it when I see it. They were actually deadly serious about it. We started planning in October, began putting it together in April and six months later it has all come together seamlessly.
“Northampton is the home of Goodyear welted footwear. The skills here, the experience, it is really is the centre of the footwear industry in the UK. Fosters has a very long heritage with a bespoke touch. We want to make the very finest Goodyear welted shoes here.
“We want to take all that heritage and turn that into a ready wear product that has got the Fosters DNA running through it. They will be off the shelf. You can also customise, so they can ask for a pink lining or whatever but if they want to go to the next level and have a pair of shoes made just for them then we can take care of them in London.
“We are looking for a place in Northampton for a small shop. Northampton is popular for people to come up from London and do a tour of all the factory shops. Fosters has a very strong heritage. The English craftsmanship and the way they are made in Northampton cannot be copied. We are quite confident we have a very successful future ahead.”
A team of eight will keep the factory running. Dan Murray has been a shoemaker for 32 years and is a workshop senior at the new factory.
“There were three of us to start with Matthew me and Joe we have helped Matthew set the machines up design the factory and set things in place.
“I am looking forward to learning new skills, there are always new things to learn in shoemaking. We are going to develop the product which will mean learning new skills. I am also looking forward to looking into the back catalogue of Fosters for designs, the back catalogue is over 200 years old.”