As one of Northamptonshire’s oldest shoemakers, many aspects of Joseph Cheaney & Sons have remained consistent. Founded in 1886, it operates from the same red-brick Victorian factory that’s been home for the past 134 years. From the cutting of the high-grade calf footwear, to the intricate stitching and final polish, the entire process is still undertaken meticulously by hand, resulting in a product that is purely made in England.
Last year brought great change across the retail landscape. Cheaney’s retail focus temporarily shifted from its 11 award-winning stores to its e-commerce platform. Cheaney wanted its customers to go on experiencing the ‘theatre’ of an instore appointment, so used its social media platforms throughout lockdown to engage with its growing online customer base. This involved digitally broadcasting Q&As and polishing masterclasses, to engage organically with its expanding online following. Behind-the-scenes Cheaney & Sons posts were published across Instagram, showing the four-person team picking and packing online orders, including joint Cheaney MD, William Church.
Cheaney is best known for its handcrafted Goodyear welted footwear, specifically its highly decorative brogues and sleek Imperial line. However, to attract and engage with new customers, the company embarked on a series of collaborative projects. It expanded its classic line of formal and country footwear by releasing two separate dual-branded trainers, one developed in partnership with established British manufacturer Walsh and another with Sheffield-based makers Goral. Both sold out almost immediately. The trainers complemented and diversified the existing core lines and allowed Cheaney to expand into a sub-genre of footwear not previously explored by the brand.
In September 2020, Cheaney collaborated with Richard Biedul, established model and celebrated artistic and creative director, on three new eco-conscious, performance-driven silhouettes. ‘I wanted to develop a footwear collection that was simultaneously classic yet contemporary, elegant yet masculine, refined yet durable,’ says Richard. ‘Above all, I wanted footwear ethically, sustainably and responsibly manufactured here in Britain. From the moment I visited the factory, I knew that Cheaney was the right brand to help me realise my creative vision.’
The collection, all in Rub Off Hi Shine leather, was hugely successful, and comprised a Steadman tassel loafer, a Vietri T-bar sandal and an Isaac Derby with scarlet laces. It resonated with anyone seeking a sustainable shoe that compromised on neither style nor performance, and was featured in some of the most renowned menswear and lifestyle publications. Today, the notion of a quality, investment purchase continues to resonate strongly with Cheaney’s customers, both on British shores and globally. Cheaney’s inherent sustainability is evident in its use of natural raw materials, reputable suppliers and skilled workforce, which is 90 per cent local.
A pair of Cheaney shoes can be completely overhauled two or three times in a lifetime. Satisfied, loyal Cheaney owners know that their shoes just look better and better with age, as every crease tells a story. As a British brand with a distinguished heritage, Cheaney’s shoes are designed to have just as proud and interesting a journey as its makers.