In recent seasons commentators and brands alike have taken a keen interest in how and where their clothes are made. There have been numerous labels launched on the 'Made in...' wave of public intrigue and enthusiasm and I for one, welcome it. However, one launch seemingly passed me by..until now. For AW11, ASOS' Made in England footwear range is in its third full season. It was unveiled back in August and I was able to see just how the offering has evolved, talk to the craftsmen behind the range and order my own pair.
The 'Made in England' collection sees the ASOS footwear designers team up with one of the country's oldest and more special shoe manufacturers, NPS Shoes Ltd. Founded in 1881, at the height of the industrial revolution, as one of the world's original footwear manufacturers, NPS was formed as a workers cooperative, Northamptonshire Productive Society, and was the oldest of its type in the UK up until 2006. Although no longer a cooperative the employees and craftsmen maintain the original skills and ethics dating back over one hundred and twenty five years. Based in Wellingborough, NPS shoes are known for their goodyear welt technology and use it in all their shoe production. This particular technique is needed to fix their famed Solovair sole onto soft sole suspension boots and shoes. The name might not feel that familiar on first reading but I'm quite sure that you've seen or indeed worn their work without even knowing it. As I was talked through the capsule range for ASOS I was informed about the relationship with Dr. Marten's. To cut a long and complicated story short, shoe manufacturer R. Griggs Group Ltd. had the patent to produce Dr. Marten boots but not the technology so in 1960 Griggs and NPS collaborated to create a boot using the Solovair sole and a Griggs boot, the result was the now iconic Dr. Marten boot. Today their range consists of a number of collections including heritage, country and solovair but it is great to see ASOS open them up to a new audience.
The range for ASOS consists of hiking boots, derby shoes, two tone leather brogues, eight hole lace up flat shoes, chukkas and ankle boots. All feel decidedly British and showcase fine great British craftsmanship in addition to covetable design. On the launch night, a number of invited guests (myself included) were able to create their own made to measure pair of either chukkas or derbys. In addition to having a hand in the design of the choice it afforded the opportunity to learn a little more about NPS shoes...
First things first... my feet were measured. Apparently I am a perfect 10.
My choice. Chukka boots in a combination of wonderfully named rust and snuff with a natural welt and micro brown sole.
It was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. Extremely happy with my choice made on that late August evening, all I had to do was wait for NPS and ASOS to realise my order. Five weeks later and just as real Autumn weather sets in my chukkas arrived...
A lovely addition to my ever growing shoe collection. These will certainly pound the pavements this season and beyond.
For me, when it comes to manufacturing today the real onus should be on quality. Of course the slogans of 'British is best' are catchy but it just isn't true for everything. For me, we should not be interested in making something in this country simply for the sake of it or for branding. Simply put certain places or countries excel at different things. However, when it comes to shoes few places are better than Northampton and it is great to see a brand like ASOS support this tradition. I'm so pleased to see and fortunate enough to wear the fruits of this collaboration. Long may it continue.