Shoe firm is putting sole into indie band

A SHOE manufacturer established in 1881 has come bang up to date by providing a chart-topping act with their footwear.

NPS Shoes at Wollaston, which still uses some of the original machinery, has seen its skilled craftsmen provide shoes for indie-rock group Hard-Fi.

The company is one of a handful of shoe manufacturing firms making entire shoes, from the sheet of leather to the finished article.

Although employing only 35 people, the company has created a market for its range of shoes, sold under its own brand Solovair, which are sold through agents in the UK and overseas.

Mark Henson, who works in sales and marketing, said: "We produce traditional welted shoes and I believe we are the only business in the UK still using the heat sealing process.

"We produce five ranges of our own shoes plus what we make for other people under their own brands.

"We specialise in short bespoke runs as we are small enough to be flexible in what we produce."

Mr Henson once worked for a Finedon shoemaker which supplied Showaddywaddy with some footwear, and his latest feat has been to supply pairs of black and white brogues for a photoshoot with indie-rock group Hard-Fi.

Mr Henson said: "Their agent had spotted a pair in a London shop and it went from there.

"I am now negotiating with him to supply the group with shoes for their December tour, and as the agent also works with other bands I am actively pursuing more orders from the music world."

Once a co-operative, NPS Shoes is now privately owned, after being bought 18 months ago by an investor who wanted the tradition of hand-made shoes to continue in Wollaston.

New ranges are now being introduced and Mr Henson is looking to recruit more skilled craftsmen, or younger people willing to learn the shoemaking trade, to keep up with demand.