LOAKE FACTORY VISIT
A TRIP TO THE 1894 KETTERING SHOE FACTORY
Photography by Craig Landale
If you’re wearing British made shoes from the likes of Clarks, Church’s, Grenson, Barker, Crockett & Jones, Sanders then they’re made in Northamptonshire just like those by Loake. It’s an area steeped in history with Goodyear welt shoemaking, an intricate process with origins going back over 300 years.
There was something very comforting about visiting the Loake factory. The family friendly/banter atmosphere, the temperature variation, the down-to-earth staff, the smells, the noises and the old machinery from the days before health & Safety went mental.
There’s other old traditions that are going strong too, the factory completely closing for lunch, the effective motivational ‘piece-rate’ manufacturing process in operation, and the fact that this great big factory is in the middle of lines of terraced housing, where back in the day not only did the staff live in them, the front yards were used as extra individual workshops.
In fact, Loake has been in operation since 1880 and we were invited along to see their operation which includes approx. 75 components, 200 different individual shoe making processes and 8 weeks to finish. Only the highest quality materials are used and it is estimated that Loake have made over 50 million pairs of Goodyear welted shoes since it began.
It is their attention to quality and “obsession with last shape and fit” which has brought them worldwide recognition, exporting to more than 50 countries. “Our aim is to uphold this tradition and continue making the most handsome, comfortable and durable shoes we can. My family has been making traditional English shoes for longer than anyone can remember.” Andrew E. Loake, Managing Director, Loake Shoemakers.