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Visit to e green in northampton, england

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I had an opportunity while in London to go visit Edward Green in Northampton. Tony Gaziano, who is in charge of their bespoke offering, was very gracious in letting me spend some time with him and in giving me a nice tour of their facility. Tony is also in charge of designing new lasts and developing new models for the Green RTW range. I thought that some things I learned while there might be of interest to readers of this forum. As fans of Green shoes know, their shoes have beautiful, patinated finishes, particularly in the various brown shades they offer. Unlike most (virtually all?) other shoemakers, many of the leathers Green uses are purchased directly from the tanneries in a "crust" stage, i.e. they have been tanned/dyed (often using vegetable tanning, not aniline), but they have not been glazed, so they look nothing like the finished product; glazed leather already has been treated to essentially look like the finished product, whereas the "crust" product is quite pale and shows only a limited resemblance to the color of the finished product. After the shoe has been constructed, the folks in the finishing area of Green add and buff the appropriate stains and waxes to bring the product up to its final appearance. READY TO WEAR The ready-to-wear production process is, in many ways, similar to the making of a bespoke product, in that many things are done by hand that in most shoe factories would be done by machine. These include: all clicking done by hand; gimping of leather and closing of upper done one at a time by a sewing machine operator; building of the heel by using layers of rough cut sole leather, rather than ready-made heels; staining and burnishing of sole edges by hand; finishing of shoes one by one, by hand (assisted by buffing machines). Also, Green uses a leather heel counter, unlike many shoe manufacturers. Green is also famous for their "skin-stitched" aprons and toe seams; this work is done by hand by two gentlemen who do it full-time, using very fine boars-hair bristles as their sewing needles. Having discussed the difficulty of this skin-stitching with a bespoke "closer," as well as admiring it on many completed Green shoes, my guess is that these two gentlemen are the best in the world at this task. While the lasting, welting, and out-soling are done with the assistance of machines, production is still one shoe at a time, with the machine operator always guiding the machine. I imagine this is very similar to the way it was done 100 years ago. There is nothing in the way of hands-off automation or computer controlled production. BESPOKE Tony has developed a nice range of sample shoes for the bespoke line. They feature a variety of different toe shapes, leathers, and styles. I found many of them to be quite handsome. For those of you in NYC or SF who see them, note that most of the samples are made from aniline leathers, rather than the "crust" finished leathers that I describe above. Aniline leather generally takes a higher shine, which many prefer in bespoke shoes; however, Tony has a huge range of leathers available for his bespoke offerings, so if you like the traditional Green finish, that is of course available. Tony performs the measuring, last making, pattern making, and clicking for the bespoke shoes. The lasts are made from a "blank" last that is roughly the size and shape of the foot, from which Tony files/rasps wood to bring the last to its final shape. The clicked uppers are sent out with the finished lasts for closing and making; Green is using some of the finest outworkers in the business. For example, one of their makers is perhaps the best maker in England (based on independent information I received from a couple of highly respected and knowledgeable industry insiders). Tony gets the made shoes back from the makers, removes them from the lasts, and does the final polishing and shoe-tree production. Green offers a fitting of the welted upper prior to the final making. I think Green has a bright future in the bespoke business. While I cannot comment on his lastmaking/fitting skills, Tony's attitudes toward customer service and quality, and his obvious enthusiasm and love of shoes will be great assets in building the business. I contrast these to the lack of the same from some of the traditional London shops. Also, Tony's responsibilities for Green's RTW line allow him to travel to tanneries across Europe to source interesting and unique skins; in contrast, the other bespoke makers mainly buy from leather distributors such as A&A Crack of Northampton. Adding these characteristics to the name recognition and quality reputation that Green has, I conclude that Green will likely take some business from the London bespoke makers as well as, I hope, generating new business for the bespoke trade. A final note. If anyone is going to London, Northampton is only one hour away from London's Euston train station, with very frequent service. I got a "cheap day return" train ticket, which cost me about $30; the Green plant is a $8 taxi ride from the train station. The Lobb factory store is nearby, as is the C&J factory store (which I was told may only be open on Fridays -- I didn't visit it). If you want to visit Green, you should call Tony and see if he can accomodate your request; Green does not formally offer factory visits, so their availability will be at Tony's discretion. Also, Green will be moving to a new facility in this autumn.
post #2 of 9
shoefan, thanks for taking the time to share the notes from your great tour experience. /richard
post #3 of 9
Here are some pictures of the factory, on a separate visit...thought it will make sense to put these together. One error I will correct is that the picture I described as stiching on the outsole is incorrect. The gentleman is "skin stitching" the apron and toe seams. http://people.timezone.com/pchong/Northampton.htm
post #4 of 9
Quote:
Green is also famous for their "skin-stitched" aprons and toe seams; this work is done by hand by two gentlemen who do it full-time, using very fine boars-hair bristles as their sewing needles. Having discussed the difficulty of this skin-stitching with a bespoke "closer," as well as admiring it on many completed Green shoes, my guess is that these two gentlemen are the best in the world at this task.
Well, I'm certain that I don't have the experience with skin-stitching that you do, but this wouldn't surprise me at all. A few makers like Alden and Gravati do a good job with this and John Lobb Paris does a very good job; but none that I've seen can hold a candle to EG. This pair of bespoke Cleverleys from Jun Kuwana's website has skin-stitching that isn't as nice as what you find on RTW EGs: Do you know if EG uses their in-house skin-stitchers on their bespoke shoes or farms that out to bespoke closers? It seems to me that if you have the best in the world doing a particular task in-house, why would you send your top-of-the-line product out?
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I think Green has a bright future in the bespoke business. While I cannot comment on his lastmaking/fitting skills, Tony's attitudes toward customer service and quality, and his obvious enthusiasm and love of shoes will be great assets in building the business.
My only interaction with him was via e-mail when I had a question about how bullfrog leather looked and performed. He certainly was very helpful to me even though there was no prospect of an immediate sale. I appreciate that. If I had unlimited funds, I would try EG bespoke out. As it is, I'll have to regroup after my Cleverleys are done.
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A final note. If anyone is going to London, Northampton is only one hour away from London's Euston train station, with very frequent service. I got a "cheap day return" train ticket, which cost me about $30; the Green plant is a $8 taxi ride from the train station.
I've already scoped it out. How was the train? I've heard horror stories about the disarray of the British train system after privitization. Thanks for your extended note. I would be interested in visiting the EG factory in any case, but you've made it clear that there are many interesting things to be seen.
post #5 of 9
Quote:
Here are some pictures of the factory, on a separate visit...thought it will make sense to put these together.
I loved your pictures and your text. If I ever needed any encouragement, you and shoefan have convinced me that the EG factory is a must-see when I visit the UK.
post #6 of 9
Quote:
This pair of bespoke Cleverleys from Jun Kuwana's website has skin-stitching that isn't as nice as what you find on RTW EGs
It's a well-known fact, there is more than one way to skin a cat and there is also more than one way to skin-stitch a pair of shoes. The Cleverley shoes shown here are "butt-stitched"; apron (lake) as well as sidewalls have the seams raised (and chamfered) to form a ridge. In EG shoes the lake goes over the sides, while other manufacturer's shoes have the sides go over the lake. (I think they call it a raised and a recessed lake, but it is also possible that the Cleverley way is a "raised lake".) In Alden shoes and in most Italian designs the stitched seams are just decorative. The vamp is a single piece, there is no structural need for the stitching; unlike in EG designs where the primary purpose is to hold three pieces together.
post #7 of 9
Quote:
In Alden shoes and in most Italian designs the stitched seams are just decorative. The vamp is a single piece, there is no structural need for the stitching; unlike in EG designs where the primary purpose is to hold three pieces together.
I am sorry bengal-stripe, that is not accurate. There is only one definition of skin-stitch and that is when the stitch is decorative - it does not join pieces of leather together. Allen Edmonds also offers a couple of styles with skin-stitched vamps.
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Do you know if EG uses their in-house skin-stitchers on their bespoke shoes or farms that out to bespoke closers? It seems to me that if you have the best in the world doing a particular task in-house, why would you send your top-of-the-line product out?
I assume that, in general, the skin-stitching on a pair of Green bespokes would be done by the outworker. To have a Green stitcher do this would create alot of hassle in terms of sending a partially closed upper from the closer back to Green, then from Green back to the closer. However, Tony Gaziano can do some closing himself, so I guess you could ask him to do the pair himself and have the in-house employees do the skin stitching.
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I've already scoped it out. How was the train? I've heard horror stories about the disarray of the British train system after privitization.
The train was fine, on schedule, clean, and perfectly comfortable. While the rail system may have some problems, I didn't experience any problems whatsoever. It appeared to me that the line I rode may be a commuter line, so the train to Northampton was uncrowded (I was going against the crowds), and, as I mentioned earlier, service was very frequent. O wouldn't be put off at all by concerns about the rail system.
post #9 of 9
Quote:
There is only one definition of skin-stitch and that is when the stitch is decorative - it does not join pieces of leather together.  
You might be right: I've taken the term "skin-stitching" over from previous postings and from Japanese shoe sites. The hand stitching Edward Green uses is definitely structural, joining two pieces of leather together. How would that be called?
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