Church’s historical involvement in the manufacture of handmade gentlemen’s shoes can be traced back to 1675, in Northamptonshire, England, a county which has been the centre of a flourishing leather and footwear industry since the Middle Ages.
But it was two centuries later, in 1873, that Thomas Church and his three sons – Alfred, William and Thomas Jr. – founded the ‘modern’ Church’s company and consolidated the production, that had traditionally been carried out in the workers own homes, into a modern factory, in Northampton, where the firm’s worldwide headquarters are still based today.
In the space of a few years, Church’s was transformed from a craft workshop into a benchmark firm for top-quality footwear, and it is interesting to note that Church’s was the first footwear manufacturer to introduce the concept of ‘left’ and ‘right’ shoes, since most of others companies’ at that time still sold ‘straights’.
This innovative style was called ‘Adaptable’ and it won the prestigious Gold Medal at the 1884 Crystal Palace Exhibition.
With the dawn of the 20th century Church’s began exporting to new markets such as the United States, Canada, China, and South America, and appointed distributors in many mainland European Countries.
The company opened its first UK retail stores in 1921, followed by others including New York in 1929. In 1957 a new factory was inaugurated, and in 1965 the prestigious Queen’s Award for Exports put the official seal of recognition on Church’s status as a leading international brand, and was presented by HM Queen Elizabeth II when she visited the Northampton factory and headquarters in the summer of that year.
In 1999 Church’s was taken over by the PRADA Group, the world’s leaders in the luxury industry, with new-store openings in international locations including Hong Kong, Geneva, Madrid, Singapore, Leeds, Edinburgh, Venice, Bologna, Turin and Paris. In July 2011 Church’s opened its first shop totally dedicated to ladies’ shoes and accessories collections in New Bond Street, London, as well as new boutiques in Shanghai, Chicago and Tokyo.
The manufacture of Church’s shoes is still inspired by its hand-crafted origins: all of Church’s men’s welted shoes are hand-made inside Northampton’s factory by specialised craftsmen. It takes up to eight weeks to produce a pair, since each undergoes over 250 detailed manual operations before it is completed.
Church’s shoes are beyond fashion. The great men’s styles such as Oxfords and Brogues never date, although colours and details may vary from season to season. Next to the traditional collection, Church’s offers a range of styles which are addressed to customers who look for a trendy twist. This continuous development demonstrates the brand’s ability to develop and innovate, which ensures its position as the world’s leader of top quality Goodyear Welted Footwear.