A Nigerian shoemaker who moved to Northampton has returned to the trade after being inspired by the town’s shoe history.
After setting up his business, Patrik Dyas has now been commissioned to make a pair of shoes for the king of a Nigerian tribe.
He said: “When I came to Northampton, my love for making shoes was reawakened. There is something special about this town and footwear that still inspires you.”
Mr Dyas has started a new bespoke shoe business based in The Mounts after originally giving up on his lifelong passion while living in London.
The 48-year-old, from Eastfield, said he was amazed at the infrastructure and experience that still exists in Northamptonshire to support new firms, in an industry many believed could not grow again in the county.
His experience was mirrored in the growth of The British Flat Shoe Company, based in Flore. The expansion of the Church’s shoe factory into the now closed First Group bus depot, in St James, has also proved that big traditional companies are also doing enough business to expand.
Mr Dyas’ story began in Nigeria when, aged five, he made his first shoe out of papier mache.
As an adult, he moved to England and studied on a cordwainer course as well as taking a combined degree in pattern cutting and business.
However, faced with a lack of specialist material, machinery and, crucially, expertise in Wimbledon where he lived, he gave up on his dream of working as a shoemaker.
Moving by chance to Northampton in 2011, he was unaware of the town’s deep association with footwear. However, once he found out about the town’s heritage, he discovered to his surprise that the town still retained the optimum conditions for shoemaking.
He said: “The breadth of knowledge and the willingness to give business tips is phenomenal. He wouldn’t want his name mentioned, but one factory worker at a large Northampton firm even took me under his wing and gave me guidance. He told me where to go to find the machinery and learn the techniques I needed, he has been my mentor.
“The fact such people exist is fantastic.”
Mr Dyas makes bespoke shoes based on consultations with clients, in the basement of APS Promotions in Kettering Road, from materials such as high-quality hand-stitched velvet.
The finished hand-made products sell for between £250 and £2,000 a pair, and the latest are on their way to Nigeria as a birthday present for the king of a Nigerian tribe. Mr Dyas said: “There’s no way I could have started my business in any other place than Northampton, it’s a unique atmosphere for shoemakers. It’s a place where the history and heritage is still helping people today.
“I don’t know if this is a resurgence of the old industry of past days, but it feels like shoe businesses are not part of the past anymore, it feels like it can be the future in Northampton too.”