Northampton's first new shoe factory to open in decades will bring Hollywood glamour to industrial estate

CEO Matthew Allen says Foster and Son is aiming to become a worldwide brand, with shoes produced at its new factory in Northampton.
CEO Matthew Allen says Foster and Son is aiming to become a worldwide brand, with shoes produced at its new factory in Northampton.

With Prime Ministers, Hollywood A-listers and national treasures on its client roster -  the first new shoe factory to open in Northampton for decades will bring a touch of glamour to a town industrial estate.

Foster and Son has been providing those of a discerning taste with some of the finest hand-crafted footwear from its workshop near St James Palace since 1840.

Foster and Son is set to start producing shoes for the wholesale market from October 26. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Foster and Son is set to start producing shoes for the wholesale market from October 26. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

But the firm has never produced its own ready-to-wear brand - until now.

Next week the bosses of Foster and Son will watch their first batch of bespoke brogues roll off the production line right here in Northampton after opting to set up its first factory in St James Mill Road.

“We are aiming to produce the finest shoes to come out of Northamptonshire,” said CEO Matthew Allen, of Rushden, who has recruited eight of the county’s top craftsmen to launch the venture.

“There will be a lot of hand detail. Though it’s machine-made, they will still feature a lot of artisan craftsmanship that has been developed over Foster and Son’s 178-year history.

The firm has a longstanding connection with Northampton, having stocked well-known town brands in its London store.

The firm has a longstanding connection with Northampton, having stocked well-known town brands in its London store.

“We want to incorporate all of that detailing.

“It’s the last, the fitting and the hand finishing of the products that will set them apart.

“We are using only the finest materials we can source.”

Foster and Sons has been crafting made-to-measure boots, shoes, wallets and suitcases at its Jermyn Street store since the Victorian era - gathering an impressive client list over its 178-year history.

The factory will produce shoes from Foster and Sons' large archive of designs - retailing at 1,000 a pair.

The factory will produce shoes from Foster and Sons' large archive of designs - retailing at 1,000 a pair.

Winston Churchill and the man whose portrayal of the Prime Minister in 2017 was awarded an Oscar, Gary Oldman, join a long list of notable customers including Steve McQueen, Clarke Gable and dancer Fred Astaire.

Actor, writer, broadcaster and Foster and Son appreciator Stephen Fry is among those invited to the ribbon cutting at the St James factory on Monday, October 25.

The company’s London shop has a longstanding connection with Northamptonshire dating back the 1950s, when it started to stock county produced footwear from the likes of Crockett and Jones and Cheaney.

But it was only when the current owner, Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson, took over the underperforming firm in 2006 that he considered branching out into the wholesale market.

The shoes will be made using some of the finest leather available.

The shoes will be made using some of the finest leather available.

Northampton, with its history of bespoke cobblers, was the natural choice for its first factory, according to Mr Allen.

“The home of shoemaking is in Northampton,” he said. “The skills are still here.

“Our plan will be to launch a number of apprenticeships as well and these people will be trained to carry out all the jobs in the area.

“The shoe trade needs to have young people involved.”

The team of eight will produce footwear from Foster and Son’s bulging archive of designs amassed over its history - with the finished product set to retail around £1,000 a pair.

“The aim is to make this a worldwide new brand,” added Mr Allen, who says the company will soon be opening stores in the fashion capitals of New York and Paris.

“We’ve got massive plans for marketing - that’s really important.

“You can’t just create a catalogue and send it out anymore.”

Foster and Son will officially begin producing shoes at its new Northampton factory on Tuesday, October 26.