Surprisingly, ‘investment’ is a concept that rarely crops up in my line of work as a fashion editor. Sure, things are often expensive to the point that you might have to sell an organ to afford them, but the seasonal (and inter-seasonal) nature of the fashion industry means that there will be something else you need to buy in just a few months.
The idea of buying something with the view to wearing it over and over again for years, maybe decades to come is frequently alien to those in the fashion pack. And it’s that which sets Crockett & Jones apart. The company simply doesn’t adhere to the same ethos as most luxury brands – they want you to buy less, but buy better.
I got a tour of the Northampton factory recently, and the level of care put into each pair of shoes is astonishing. The morning was spent walking the aged gangways and potholing between packed work-spaces, racks of unfinished footwear and great Dickensian machines that perform a single task with oily, pneumatic conviction. The thing that stayed with me – long after the deafening whirr had died down and the smell of hot leather had left my nostrils – was the compassion of the staff toward the shoes. Each pair is special, with its own foibles and quirks, and some even prove to be problem children. But where other companies might weed out the flaws and simply get rid, Crockett & Jones offer a touch more TLC.
Even at a factory that thunders with industry, you can find pockets of peace. In an airy room on the top floor, a small, crack team works at an easy pace, doing what it can to bring problem shoes back to life. For whatever reason, they didn’t make it through the stringent quality control. Maybe there’s a near invisible scratch on the upper, or a patch of uneven polish. Whatever the defect, the salvation squad will do what it takes to get these shoes back in shape and onto the feet of someone who will love them.
Down in the basement, that compassion continues in the repairs department, where more dedicated souls work on the shoes that have been loved almost to death. Some are battered beyond almost all recognition; soles bent double, suede worn to the nub, broguing beaten within an inch of its life. But the attitude is that almost no shoe is beyond saving. In fact, Crockett & Jones shoes are designed and built to be sent back to the factory for repairs. That’s the point of a Goodyear Welt, and the very thrust of the company. You wouldn’t buy a car that was sent to the scrap heap at the first flat tire, so why do the same with shoes?
I think it’s easier than ever to feel disconnected to the brands we spend big money on, so it’s heartening to know that in an old building in a nondescript corner of England, hundreds of people are working together to make something special, and something that will last.
Worth investing in, I think.