Rest assured I haven't blown you guys off. I wouldn't let the feelings of a few ruin it for all of you guys. Work keeps me busy, particularly on the weekends so I probably won't have the EG installment ready until next week as it is a photo-heavy one. However, until then, I can offer you a small installment regarding my visits to C&J and G&G.CROCKETT & JONES
As with Lobb, I thought it might be best to e-mail C&J to let them know about the possibility of my visit. This was the information they e-mailed me the day prior:Thank you for your recent e-mail. We do have a Factory Shop at our premises in Perry Street, Northampton. It is open on Friday afternoons from 2.00 p.m. until 5.30 p.m. and Saturday mornings from 9.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.
Tel:- 01604 631 515
Crockett & Jones Ltd.
With that knowledge, I arrived just before 2 PM. Going up to the second floor to reception, the lady informed me that the shop was about to open and that it was downstairs just to the right of the main entrance behind a fairly non-descript door. Inside, they had quite a selection. Of all my visits, the factory shop at C&J felt most like a regular shoe store. It was also the busiest--with two other groups of 3-4 people waiting for the store to open. In terms of prices, I only noted down that C&J Handgrades were being sold for 220 GBP.
I, unfortunately, don't have any pictures of C&J. With chances to purchase shoes from JL, EG, and G&G, I didn't have a heck of a lot of a budget left and I really didn't want to spend a lot of time keeping Tony Gaziano waiting. I browsed briefly with Tony who seemed chiefly interested in the handgrades. I asked what he was looking for in particular when he inspected other shoemakers' work. He said that he was primarily interested in the quality of construction--how they handle the rolling and beveling of the waist, for example--as opposed to the vagaries of styling. While we were looking them over, an older gentleman came out and greeted Tony. I'm not sure what his function was (I don't think it had anything to do with the store as the receptionist indicated that the person who ran the store was a woman), but they seemed on good terms--Northampton, particularly the shoe sub-culture in Northampton seems a small one.GAZIANO & GIRLING
We talked about a few things while in the car. He had just returned from Japan and was amazed at the level of service stores offer their customers: that the entire staff greet a customer at the door; that they read a customer very well and are attentive without being smothering. He talked a little about where he felt the company was headed. He did say that currently the bespoke operations of G&G are what is keeping the company afloat. He didn't think nor did he seem to want the company to become particularly large. Once they've made enough RTW stock, they'd like to liaise with a company or two to sell some of their shoes abroad while possibly establishing a small boutique in London. Tony was most passionate about his bespoke shoes and clientele: he envisions the day that demand increases such that the bespoke process becomes by invitation only. He'd like to create a bespoke brochure should Dean (who seems to handle most of the financial side of the business) give him the green light featuring the many options available to a customer. I asked him about his time at Edward Green of which he had only positive things to say. He did mention that he feels that it was only after he moved to Cleverley's that he felt like he truly learned the art of shoe-making. However, he is grateful for his time at EG, especially as it has done him a great service in lending him credibility and repute to his company.
We spent most of our time in Tony's workroom. There, he showed me the lasts he's made for his bespoke customers. The ones you see in the pictures below represent about 1/3 to a 1/2 of his current bespoke clientele. The ridged last that you see on the table is essentially the blank canvas he begins with before shaping it to a customer's foot.
Some shoes in progress
The man himself
Tony asked what size I was fitted for under the 888 last at EG and he said that I would probably be the same size as his current MTO lasts are modeled after the 888. In terms of the fit between different last styles that G&G offers, he said that they were all fairly comparable as the major differences were in the toe shape. He then drew an outline of my feet and measured both the length as well as the circumference around my arch.
I ended up ordering the Carlyle in vintage cedar on the TG73 (Mitchell) last. With no VAT, the price for MTO was 445 GBP and 74 GBP for the shoe trees (I opted for the very sleek-looking mahogany). They will be ready in 5 months or by the first of August; the production process is taking a little longer than initially expected.
The shoes that I did see were really quite beautiful and I think it's awesome that many of us are supporting a smaller, more independent company.