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In Conversation with Danielle Wathes of Percy Stride

Percy Stride is not another corporation or money-making machine, it's a family. A notable Northampton Brand, their handmade shoes are brought into life in a family run factory made up of a designer, photographer, copywriter, and friends. The brand is striving to become the best handmade English shoe brand around. After a 3-year footwear design degree at De Montfort University, Founder Danielle Wathes decided to put all the skills she had learnt to good use by starting her own footwear company, Percy Stride. There were only two main criteria she wanted to incorporate: English manufacturing and unique design aesthetic. Taking an active role in the business Danielle attended every show and met every client she could to help grow the brand to what it is today.

In a recent episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we sat down and spoke to Danielle Wathes, Founder of Percy Stride. Our host Peter Brooker interviewed Danielle about her graduate footwear design course at De Montfort University before starting her brand. She also worked with Virgin StartUp which offers business mentoring and help to entrepreneurs with the aim of accelerating their businesses. They also discuss Northamptonshire shoemaking, running a business during covid-19, the importance of social media and working with influencers.

Please introduce yourself and how you started Percy Stride 

“I’m a graduate footwear designer, I studied footwear design at university and the ultimate aim was always to start my own business. After I graduated, I did a few internships to get an idea of what I wanted to do. I quickly realised that I was in a position of flexibility by still living at home and had nothing tying me down. I went headstrong into setting up my own business without knowing what the outcome was going to be. Firstly, I just started drawing and designing. Once I had some ideas together I simply applied the same structure that I would have done at university. It was like a little project of what I wanted to create with mood boards and marketing etc. I then went to the British Footwear Association and met with them in a little café in London. I had brought my laptop and my sketches and basically just presented. They were able to help me to get more contacts and tell me where to go in regards to the industry, events and people I needed to be meeting. Then from there, it was a lot of hard work, introducing yourself and letting people know that you’re serious about the business. The hardest part was sourcing a UK manufacturer.”

“The industry is a lot smaller in the UK than what it used to be and there’s so many established businesses already in that area, and they don’t necessarily need to take on someone who is brand new and fresh faced. Trying to track down a factory that would help me, support me, encourage me and make my shoe designs was incredibly difficult. Most production is now overseas when it comes to retail, so I was very lucky to find the factory that I found. They’re located in a village just outside of Northampton, nearby other big shoe brands such as Dr Martens and Churches. It’s great and people know that Northampton is the home of footwear, but what people don’t realise is that it’s like stepping back in time a little. That’s what I adore about it, when I step into a factory it feels like I’ve gone back 100 years. The workers are incredible craftsmen and it’s great to work with people like that.”

This is a shortened transcribed edit of episode 54 of the MenswearStyle Podcast with Danielle Wathes, Founder of percystride.com You can listen to the full version below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast player.

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