Grenson Shoes – Luxury British Footwear Since 1866
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An Introduction to the Grenson Footwear Brand
William Green, the founder of Grenson Shoes, gained experience in the shoe making business at an early age. After his father’s death in 1839, William and his mother moved from his birthplace to Rushden in Northamptonshire. Soon after the move his mother taught William how to make men’s boots, which they sold from their cottage-based business. He continued to work with his mother until 1860 when he moved out and created his own at-home shoemaking business. In 1866, William stopped making shoes himself and instead went out to solicit orders for footwear before finding the materials and craftsmen needed to fulfil the orders; William Green & Son was born.
Grenson’s Iconic Brogues
As time went on, William Green footwear became well known for their craftsmanship, quality and durability. As the reputation spread, the sales increased, allowing the first William Green & Son factory to be opened in 1874. The brand continued to expand and in 1895, William Green & Son moved to a larger factory on Rushden’s Queen Street, which as of 2011 remained the base of operations for the footwear brand. Sadly, William Green died in 1901, but this wasn’t to be the end of the brand. William had left behind a solid foundation on which the brand could continue to build. The name of the brand was changed to Grenson (see the following timeline for details why) and continued to go from strength to strength throughout the 20th century.
As of 2011, the Queen’s Road factory still creates the quality Grenson men’s footwear using much of the same methods that were used when the factory was founded in 1895. All Grenson shoes are Goodyear Welted, as they were in the beginning and are still made using the finest shoemaking materials.
However, not all things have stayed the same; the Grenson operation has grown from a small shoe-making company in Northamptonshire into a truly global footwear brand. Grenson footwear sells through its two UK stand alone stores in London as well as being sold in some of the world’s finest stores, including London’s Harvey Nichols and Harrods, America’s Saks and Bergdorf Goodman, and Tokyo’s Isetan and Beams. Grenson also has its own successful e-commerce store as well as being sold through several other online boutiques.
Grenson Shoes: A Timeline Snapshot
- 1860: William Green leaves home and uses the experience working with his mother for her cottage-based boot making business, to start his own at-home shoe making business.
- 1866: William Green & son was founded when William stopped producing shoes at home. Instead William went out soliciting for footwear orders before finding the materials and craftsmen needed to complete the orders.
- 1874: The first William Green & Son factory opens to meet the increasing demands for the brand’s footwear. The ‘Green Yard’ factory was the first in the world to use the Goodyear welt construction method for manufacturing shoes.
- 1895: To accommodate for the surge in demand for William Green & Son footwear, the brand moves to a larger factory on Rushden’s Queen Street.
- 1901: Sadly William Green dies, but he leaves the brand with a solid foundation on which to build. The brand continued to grow and a continued rise in demand led to further expansion of the Queen Street factory. It was acknowledged that the brands product would be more readily differentiated from those being sold by wholesalers. The brand was given a new identity with the name Grenson, a compression of Green & Son.
- 1913: Grenson was one of the first brand names to be registered in the UK. The brand decided to cut out the middle man and started dealing with retailers directly allowing swifter fulfilment of orders from both home and overseas markets.
- 1914-1919: During the First World War, Grenson’s commercial production all but stopped. However, the Queens Street factory remained busy making service footwear, including cavalry officers’ riding boots to infantry men’s marching boots.
- 1924/1925: The market crash of the Great Depression affected Grenson as much as it affected any other business. However, the brand still honoured all of their outstanding contracts even if it meant operating at a loss. To keep business going, the brand decided to produce more up-market footwear. The strategy proved successful as Grenson survived the Great Depression, whilst over half the shoe making businesses in Northamptonshire went bankrupt.
- 1930s: Grenson introduced a range of made-to-measure shoes, cheaper than those of the bespoke makers in London. The brand later introduced its own fully bespoke service to be sold through carefully selected retailers.
- 1939-1945: Grenson’s operation was once again halted by war. During the Second World War the Queens Road factory produced footwear for the naval and flying personnel.
- 1980s: Grenson continued to be owned and run by the Green family until the 1980s when JW Heyden Green, William’s great grandson sold it to the Purslow family.
- 2005: Christian Purslow becomes Chief Executive of the brand and hires footwear designer Tim Little – dubbed by the press the ‘god father of sole’ for his cool approach to revitalising the traditional English shoe industry (he is credited with the reinvigoration of Adidas in the 1990’s).
- 2010: Tim Little buys Grenson from Christian Purslow (who had become Managing Director of Liverpool Football Club in 2009) for an undisclosed sum.
Recent Collaborations of Grenson
Grenson is a brand well known for their high quality collaborations. Recent collaborations of Grenson include:
- Baartmans & Siegel:
Grenson teamed up with Masters Fashion Design students Wouter Baartmans and Amber Siegel to create a limited edition brogue for their separate 2010 graduate catwalk shows and for their brand Baartmans & Siegel. The brogue featured the classic Goodyear welted soles and a cream suede tip on a black leather upper. Grenson recently announced on their website further collaboration with Baartmans & Siegel was in the pipeline.
Brogues Created in Collaboration Between Grenson and Baartmans & Seigel in 2010
- Tenue de Nimes:
2011 marked the second collaboration with Amsterdam denim label Tenue de Nimes. The collaboration saw the creation of the ‘Denim Blue’ boot, which was inspired by an old infantry military boot from the late 1800’s. Expresso Cyclone leather is teamed with British Millerain canvas to create a juxtaposition of rugged meets sophisticated and symbolising the fundamental idea of the collaboration: old meets new. Each pair of boots is handmade within England by skilled craftsmen.
Grenson Collaboration withe Tenue de Nimes of 2011
The first collaboration came in March of 2010 when Grenson and Tenue de Nimes teamed up to create a limited edition Brogue boots. The high top boots feature a blue-tone leather sole and black leather upper. Again each pair of boots was made in England with traditional English craftsmanship.
- Number Six:
In November of 2010, Grenson announced that they had teamed up with Number Six, a top London menswear boutique, to create a co-branded boot. The calf lined apron-fronted Gibson boot is hand burnished (at least three times), has a white Vibram sole and finished off with brass eyelets and ski hook fastenings.
Grenson Collaboration with Number Six of 2010
- British Millerain:
In 2010, Grenson joined forces with modern textiles company British Millerain to create a limited edition Desert Boot. The boot consists of two-tone black and blue suede adding an unconventional and modern twist to the usually simple Desert Boot. As with all of Grenson shoes and boots, the British Millerain collaboration exhibits the best of English craftsmanship to create a boot that elevates the usual relaxed nature of the Desert boot to something more sophisticated.
Grenson Collaboration with British Millerain of 2009
In 2009, Grenson collaborated with New York boutique, ODIN, to create a limited edition capsule collection consisting of an Oxford Shoe and Chukka Boot. The classic Oxford shoe consists of a black canvas upper finished with contrasting brown laces and a fully wooden heel. The Chukka boot has an upper made from black full grain leather, finished with black laces and a black sole, creating the perfect formal boot.
Visit the official Grenson website here.