The Thatcher years rightly or wrongly saw the ultimate demise of the textile trade in Manchester, the mining industry in Newcastle and within a whisker of its fate, the shoemaking industry in Northamptonshire. Under the spell of economic policy, employment was compromised with a fervent dedication to reduce inflation, which saw shoe factories that once peppered the landscape of Northampton converted into apartment buildings. As a result, production began to move to overseas territories such as China where the cheap labour phenomenon proved the death knell for homegrown industry.
After decades of decline, the last 10 years have seen a renaissance in the British footwear industry. For those leading shoe manufacturers who survived the barren years orders are increasing and production is booming. Flexing the parameters of irony, the same companies that survived the factory closures of the Thatcher years have found consumer demand in places like China – when cheap production at one time threatened this industry’s very core. Markets as far away as South Korea and the Philippines have provided a lifeline for shoes made in Northampton, where craftsmanship and a long heritage have dovetailed with a global luxury trend fuelled by a growing affluence favouring the artisanal and handmade.
One of the companies to be enriched, by this global ideological reposition towards artisanal brands is Edward Green. Established by its namesake 130 years ago, the eminent cordwainers of the Northampton shoemaking hub devote the same level of handwork in production. Creating a modest figure of 350 pairs a week, it is a fraction of their shoemaking friends in the vicinity. Writer, novelist, adventurer and heavy liquor drinker Ernest Hemingway wore their boots; American Composer Cole Porter owned a selection of the shoes and the rebellious style icon the Duke of Windsor was also a patron of the brand. In more modern times, the stylish elite of the same stature rely on Edward Green, exalting their undeniable commitment to quality-driven craftmanship and Made in England legacy.