We’ve partnered with British shoemaking experts, NPS Solovair to produce our first men’s footwear range. 

" At NPS we've been making Goodyear Welted footwear for 143 years. Many of the people working for us are multi-generational NPS employees. Its knowledge passed down from grandfather, to father, to son or daughter. That continuity of experience and knowledge is impossible to replicate."

NPS (Northamptonshire Productive Society) was founded in the village of Wollaston in Northamptonshire in 1881. It was formed when shoemakers from the surrounding villages decided to combine to form a cooperative. Before this, shoemakers in the villages would work from home and a horse and cart would collect the leather uppers that they'd cut or the shoes that they'd made at the end of each week. 

For the first twenty years they worked in the village of Wollaston together as a cooperative and then in the early 1900’s they constructed a purpose-built Goodyear Welted shoe factory, from where NPS still operates to this day. 

The county of Northamptonshire was, and still is, the UK’s foremost shoemaking county. This was due to the particularly good quality soil found here making it a popular area to farm and graze cattle along with plentiful Oak woodland for tanning leather. Because of this many tanneries were located in the region, followed quickly by the shoe factories such as NPS looking for close proximity to leather supplies.

The Goodyear Welted construction was the traditional shoemaking method of this era, which Britain and in particular Northamptonshire is well known for. NPS still use this traditional technique to this day. 

A traditional Goodyear Welted shoe includes a leather welt and sole. The welt is stitched to the outside perimeter of the shoe and then the sole is stitched directly onto the welt, instead of directly onto the upper, as with other constructions.

This method made it possible to strip footwear back and re-sole over and over as required. This of course meant less waste and a much-extended lifespan. Solovair like to use the analogy of a bicycle. When you get a flat tyre, you don’t throw away the bike, you fix the puncture. Likewise with Goodyear Welted footwear, when the sole inevitably wears out you don’t throw them away, you replace the sole. 

Predominantly NPS now make Goodyear Welted Solovair footwear but use heat to fuse a moulded PVC sole to a PVC welt. This provides exceptional comfort but with all the benefits of the Goodyear Welted construction. Any excess PVC trimmed off the sole is recycled to create more soles and reduce waste. After the carefully cut leather segments are stitched together to form a 3D upper, (a process called ‘closing’), they are ‘lasted’ and the soles are fused to welt. Finally, it’s time for the finishing process. The Finishing room is where the creams and waxes, (burgundy rub-off in the case of our shoes), are added to give depth and character. This stage of the process is very manual and labour intensive – it takes time to polish and perfect. 

Every part of the making and packaging process happens in the UK using traditional making processes and knowledge passed down from generation to generation. Many of the employees of NPS are multi-generational. They are keeping these precious Northamptonshire shoemaking traditions alive, with younger generations now joining the company. As champions of British craft and design we couldn’t think of a better partner to make our first shoes with. Using NPS’s expert tried and tested, traditional construction methods and then adding our Aubin twist. We have produced three styles with Solovair. All are made using tonal coloured stitching on the sole and a slightly thinner PVC sole, creating a more refined look while still capturing Solovair’s DNA.

“Each pattern, in every size has its own specific ‘knife or die’ which is placed on top of the leather and a heavy clicking machine is used to ‘punch the different sections. Once all the pieces have been cut, they are carefully labelled and wheeled through to the ‘closing room”. It’s traditions such as this which make our footwear completely unique, a celebration of British craft that’s Second to None.