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My trip to Northampton; factory shops, bespoke last measurement and a factory tour - Page 3

post #31 of 55
Thread Starter 
OK, I added some pictures on page 1. I did not take pictures at every shop. Still to come are pictures of the Jeffery West shop, at Spring Line and inside the Alfred Sargent factory.
post #32 of 55
5-star thread.
post #33 of 55
Thread Starter 
Added Jefferey West shop pictures on page 2. Now if my kids will give me some rest I'll try and do the bit on Spring Line next.
post #34 of 55
Thread Starter 
So, I had an appointment with Michael at Spring Line to get measured for bespoke lasts. Spring Line is the only remaining last manufacturer in Britain, which does mean they make lasts for many different shoe factories, both in Britain and abroad, for men's, women's and children's shoes, from dress shoes to sports shoes. They make both wooden lasts and plastic lasts. I mentioned going to Spring Line at several factory shops, and everyone said this was going to be good and that he (Michael) is one of the best.
Bespoke lasts cost GBP 230 to make, and might take somewhere between 1-2 months to finish.
Michael was a wonderful guy to talk to and he received me in his office, laden with bits of history: lasts, shoes and paraphernalia. Here's some pictures of the office:

He made traces of my feet and measured the circumference at several places. There were a few foot traces on the wall of famous people such as the late lady Diana's. We talked about shoes and different manufacturers for a while and it is safe to say Michael knows everyone very well and visits them regularly since they are all part of his clientêle. We then talked about my preffered last shape, which for me definitely is a classic round shape.

This is were my last will be made.

After the last will be finished, and the maker provides a sample shoe, it will be possible to take a first fitting at Spring Line's, with both Michael and the maker attending. In this way, the bespoke experience will be complete, and if needed final alterations can be discussed. I will be working with Cliff Roberts first, but there is no reason why I couldn't have my last sent to Alfred Sargents afterward to work with them. After all, it is my last and my investment.

Loads of lasts!

If needed, it is possible to create different lasts like chisseled or square toe, loafer last or Budapester. These next lasts would only be half price, since the main development for my feet will have been done. Bespoke shoe trees are also possible, with many choices of colour and options.

Trees in front, plastic lasts behind. In the back corner is a CNC last lathe.

Lasts being turned in a copying lathe.

All in all, it was a good experience coming here. Michael is a great guy. I have complete trust in the result.

After this, I will write about the AS factory tour.
post #35 of 55
Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
post #36 of 55
Amazing stuff. Thanks for sharing.
post #37 of 55
Thread Starter 
Here's some pictures of a Budapester type last at Spring Line that member Michael Ay329 wanted to see up close. Hi Michael, hope this is what you wanted.

post #38 of 55
Great pictures, thanks!
post #39 of 55
Borelli, thanks for thread...and especially the specific pics I had requested Just curious, what did you ask Michael at Springline in order for him to bring out the Budapester style last? Did he refer to it as a Budapester or Austrian style last? Based on Hungarian made Budapester style shoes and last pics posted on SF (from Vass, Dinkelacker & Koronya), did Springline's version look like a worthy competitor? I ask because since Springline has made me a considering making this other type of Budapester style last in order for Clifford Roberts to commission a Mittle-Europe design...sans Goyser stitching One final question, while being measured at Springline, was Clifford Roberts able to meet up with you?
post #40 of 55
Thread Starter 
Michael, I asked him for a Budapester last and said you had wanted to see more pictures of it. I am not sure if I can compare it with anything directly, I would need to find some pictures of others first. He did put some tape over the name on the last because it is a last for one of his clients. I do feel it is elegant while retaining traditional aspects of this Austro-Hungarian style, but maybe connoisseurs could chime in here.

What I can also say is that Alfred Sargent had quite some nice shoes on a Budapester last, which, without the Goyser stitching I found very handsome. I am not sure whether they market these under their own name. These looked very good and I believe they sell them in Germany and Austria. Since Spring Line make all the lasts for all the factories, I do believe they have experience with this type of last. Best thing to do however is to find enough examples of how you want it and ask him to make you something along those lines. I am sure Michael can pull it off.

Clifford did not meet me at Spring Line, and I had not asked him to. I'll wait until the last is ready and then go forward with the choices I want to make for my first bespoke shoes. I'll ask him to make me a trial fitting pair, then go back to Spring Line and meet with him and Michael to look at the fit. I am thinking also of emailing Michael at Spring Line some more examples of last shapes I like and maybe talk to him about any other choices I might have although I do feel it will turn out fine anyway. It's just more like I want to give a little more information on the direction I want to go, although I am not knowledgeable enough to put that in words, I'll use pictures.
post #41 of 55
[quote=Borrelli;3302256]Unfortunately the shoe museum was closed when I went there, they are now always closed on Mondays.

I hope you have had chance to visit Northampton again? For two years now the shoe museum has had a hidden shoe industry display which includes my Dad. Loads of former shoe industry workers were interviewed and all their work experiences are on a interactive video at the museum, in the 'Life and sole' section.Dad is really proud of his contribution. I have done my family history and put together an account of all my relatives and ancestors who worked in the shoe industry. There are probably lots more that I have discovered! A great aunt married into a family who ran a shoe factory, the building is still about but can't find out what happened to the shoe manufacturing company. The great aunt's father in law, lived very close to his factory and also James Crockett ( as in Crockett and Jones).These houses overlooked the former racecourse, now a large recreation area.

The shoe museum in Northampton was very poor, in my opinion, prior to this. Earls Barton, the home of Barkers shoes, did have a museum in their ground up until about 9 years ago but that moved to the top floor of the local chemist Jeyes. There is less room and doesn't seem as interesting now but has a lot of items relating to the chemist on display, in very little space!My friend in South Africa purchases his shoes from Barkers out there and would love to visit the origin al factory.
post #42 of 55
Originally Posted by Borrelli View Post


what's up with the trees with the toes?
post #43 of 55
Originally Posted by Kuro View Post
what's up with the trees with the toes?

Paul Smith sells those shoe trees with the toes (the toes are just a gimmick).
post #44 of 55
Reviving this thread with my experiences yesterday. My Lobb and Crockett & Jones experiences in particular were significantly different probably a result of the different time of year. Saturday was my day-trip from London to Northampton, where I visited the factory stores of John Lobb, Crockett & Jones, Church's and Barker. Tricker's and Edward Green were closed on the weekend, and Cheaney was a 20+ minute drive away, so I didn't make it to those places. For anyone looking to make the trip, here's an invaluable resource from The full pdf can be found on their website. My first stop was at John Lobb. Prices ranged from £200 - £300 ($300 - $475) for weird colors or house slippers; there were a lot of proper loafers (decent colors, a good amount of nice lasts) in the £330 to £400 range (including monks and double-monks), and lots of nice oxfords in the £325-£550 ($500 - $850) range. I don't remember anything being more expensive than that. Boots were around £500 ($775-$800), but I'm not 100% certain on that. All I know for sure is that they were beyond my 350 pound budget. Since most of these styles retail for approximately <a href="">twice</a> those prices (there's a pretty consistent 2:1 ratio for the styles I remember), I think it's a pretty fair deal. There was a great selection, but John Lobb was probably the most annoying to shop at since a) the lady there was very curt and b) everything was in the boxes, so if you don't know exactly what you're looking for, browsing can take quite a while. I think I was there for well over an hour, compared to 20 - 40 minutes at the other places. Here were some of my favorites styles: Philip II - this one is certainly unusual, but you can't deny it has character if paired with the right outfit. Not saying I could pull it off . Horsley Ashill Chester (the one I ended up purchasing) - these probably look the least impressive out of all the above in the box. But they're really something special when worn. I can't explain it. My next stop was Crockett & Jones. Apparently their sale just got over, so they had extremely limited stock in few sizes. Nothing worth capturing; however, the pricing was pretty good, and I imagine that someone who went a few weeks ago would have found something they liked. Edit: just came across this thread and found that this was true a couple of months ago. My third stop was Church's. No pics here either, sorry. Cramped store and harried staff, but they had decent selections. Virtually everything was their custom grade line, which I understand to be significantly better than their regular line. Discounting was pretty similar - around 50% off, with a handful of pairs on clearance with much better price breaks. I purchased a pair of custom grade patent leather loafers (admittedly with a significant flaw in the upper, although it would have been masked by the shine) to complete my black tie outfit for £45. I also got a pair of Church's for Jil Sander shoes (I've seen retail for comparable models anywhere from 400 to 700) at 50% or so off. I'd definitely recommend stopping here if you'd rather spend £100 - £150 rather than £300 on shoes. Question: when you guys say the quality has declined to 'below Prada,' do you include the Custom Grade line in that categorization? Finally, I ended up at Barker. The Barker Black line was £145 for oxfords/loafers and £195 for boots. This seems like a solid good discount... since most of their Barker Black shoes are typically in the $700 ballpark, this around 67% off. Their regular line wasn't nearly as heavily discounted. Even with imperfections, they rarely beat 40% off. Most shoes were in the £90 - £120 ballpark, discounted from £150 - £200. But I do think that a wider selection of styles and sizes made up for it a lot; I ended up liking a pair enough to get it even though it didn't meet my high percentage-off standards . Barker had by far the nicest store. These pics are just of their display cases... the actual seconds shoes would have been too large to capture. Barker Black shoes: certainly a much more limited selection. Sorry I couldn't get any closeups. This was right about the time that someone came bustling out and asking about my pictures. She didn't ask me not to take them. She just kind of asked me what I was doing. I said I just wanted pictures, was that a problem? She said no. But then she kind of stared at me, so I stopped.
post #45 of 55
Awesome thread.

Thanks guys. Guess Barker and C&J will definitely be worth a visit some time in future. Hopefully prices don't increase drastically by then.
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