When it comes to the grand old tradition of English shoe making, few can compare to Grenson. With a long and illustrious history dating back 150 years, they certainly know their way around a last or two. But rather being stuck in the past, obsessing over heritage and reminiscing about bygone eras, they are a progressive company who are always looking to innovate with both material and design. One of the main reasons for this is the passion and enthusiasm of Grenson’s owner, Tim Little. Ahead of our hosting of the Grenson Trunk Show this week (you can RSVP here by the way), we thought it a great opportunity to sit down with the man to discuss footwear, fashion and the future…
Peggs: What attracted you to Grenson to begin with?
Tim: I knew Grenson from when I was I my 20s, they were always a classic brand with a bit of an edge. I was asked to join the business but I was worried that it would encroach on my own business, however 10 minutes in the factory and I was hooked.
How important is it to move forward with design whilst still staying true to the company’s heritage?
This is the balance that is at the heart of what we do. Without our heritage we are nothing, but without innovation design and relevance we would slowly die. The job is to mix the two with the right amount of each. Sometimes we get it wrong!
Collaboration with companies like New Balance are really interesting, do you plan to do any more of these in the future?
Yes, we do. We love collabs when they make sense. They need to add something. New Balance was wonderful because we made each shoe partly in our factory and partly in theirs. It was a celebration of English shoemaking between a Northampton shoemaker and a sneaker brand. It was hard to do but it was so much more than just sharing logos. With collabs you have to keep them quiet until launch so I can’t say much but watch this space!
How important is it to you to retain production in the UK?
Our factory is our heart; it is vital to the authenticity of the brand. It’s very hard these days to manage a factory as the labour isn’t available but it’s worth the hassle. We have been making shoes continuously for 150 years and that is not going to change.
What makes a great shoe?
For me it’s the combination of quality and design. Both are subjective but the consumer will tell us when we get something wrong. Design-wise I love simplicity, I always have. Simplicity is way harder than complicated design because it bare, you focus on every detail. Some people think design is about being different at all costs. Add as many things to the shoe as you can and people will say it’s original. I don’t buy that, I spend time on shape, proportion and lines. My favourite shoe is a wholecut which has no seams at all.
What’s your day to day like?
Random. I’m a bit all over the place. I tend to do things as they feel right not plan ahead. It’s also a combination of design, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, so every day is different.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Seeing our shoes being made and seeing them being worn.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The same as everyone; the lack of time. I always think if I had 20% more time everything would be OK. It wouldn’t of course, I’d just be 20% more tired.
What is your vision for Grenson in the future?
Keep it simple. Make good shoes. Work with great retailers. Hire good people. The rest is out of my hands.
Many thanks to Tim and Laura from Grenson for helping to put this interview together. To take a look at our Grenson collection in full, please head to the website by clicking here…