Craft / February 2018

Bodileys: Born to Last

We speak with Sarah Dudley, CEO of British shoemaker Bodileys, about the history and bona fides of this 99-year-old Northampton brand.

Northampton-based footwear brand Bodileys has been creating shoes since 1919. Photograph by Kim Lang.

Established nearly a century ago, Bodileys began as a leading retailer of footwear in the British mecca of men’s shoemaking, Northampton. Starting out selling the wares of local cordwainers including Crockett & Jones, Cheaney and Alfred Sargent, more recently, the firm has evolved into a footwear brand in its own right — motivated in part by the renewed interest in traditional craftsmanship spurred by the menswear blogosphere (not to mention websites such as the one you’re currently perusing).

CEO Sarah Dudley, the latest member of the founding family to steward the business, relates a little of the history of Bodileys. “The shop was established in the heart of Northampton in 1919 and every family member who has been at the helm has made changes over the years,” she says. “When I first started to work at Bodileys in the year 2000, my father was running the business very successfully selling ladies’ Italian footwear as well as the Northampton men’s shoes that we are so renowned for.”

At the dawn of the 21st century, in what might be described as the toddler days of the internet age, Sarah says it became apparent that the Northampton men’s shoe was becoming very popular and more accessible to the overseas market. “We became aware that our company was being talked about in what we used to call ‘hobby websites’ — now known as blogs — internationally. My father, John Steadman, was a very forward-thinking person and I believe we were the first shoe retailer to set up a website to sell all over the world.”

When her father passed away suddenly in 2008, Sarah found herself at the helm in the midst of the evolving retail market. The brand enlisted John Garner, who previously worked at Edward Green and came out of retirement to help design the brand’s first in-house range, the London Collection.

Tags

Contributor

Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.