The Hand Stitch Collection - How It Came To Be & What Makes It So Special?

Posted by Crown Northampton on

You may have heard of the Hand Stitch Collection before, or this may be your first introduction. Either way, it's a collection that proudly sits at the very top of the tree within our footwear offering and epitomises the high level of detail and construction that Crown Northampton stands for as a brand - So we're always happy to explain the background and how the collection came about further.

 

Concept 

As is generally the case when planning bold and exciting new product additions at Crown Northampton. The initial idea is conceived over a casual chat on the factory floor. Then, not much more is said, and most of the time, not much more is done as it's just an idea at that point that we decide to go with or shelve for the time being. However, on those rare special occasions where a genuine creative spark is formed and the embers slowly start to burn, that's when it all starts to get real, and we know we could be on to something. 

The starting point for the Hand Stitch Collection came straight from the top when our founder, Chris Woodford, drew inspiration from our recent inclusion on the Rose Anvil YouTube channel, where our Overstone Classic Derby Sneaker was chopped in half, put through various tests, then compared against several other premium minimal white sneakers currently available on the market. 

crown northampton overstone derby sneaker all white calf

The Overstone Derby Sneaker In All White Box Calf Leather

The run down by Rose Anvil was a bit like Top Gear (a long-running car programme in the UK for those of you who are unaware), but for minimal white sneakers, where each sneaker faced off against all others in versus battles, and there could only be one that was victorious! Not quite as tense and hyped up as has just been explained, but it was quite exciting. 

Our Overstone in All White Box Calf went on do the business over the rest of the competitors, and came out on top as the 'Best Overall White Sneaker'. So we basked in our glory for a few seconds, then set to work planning how we could raise the bar even further and take our sneakers to the next level. 

crown northampton harlestone hand stitch sneaker

The Harlestone Derby Sneaker In Off White Veg Tan Calf

As nice as it was being recognised for our top-tier craftsmanship, the Rose Anvil project gave Chris an idea. That idea was to design and create the best sneaker on the market, with the best materials possible, the best construction, at an honest and fair price to the end consumer - All wrapped up in local tradition and time-honoured construction. 

The as yet, unnamed new sneaker collection then had some solid foundations to build on and could start to take shape.

 

Development

And that's right where we started, with the shape and last. Chris knew he wanted to use a Lactae Hevea sole unit, as he'd heard good things and had taken a fancy to it, so in order to use this sole, we had to start from the sole up. This meant working with a last that would fit to the Lactae Hevea sole unit, which we then adjusted and trialled until we were happy with the overall fit and balance of the sneaker. 

The way in which the above developmental stage was explained sounds quick and straightforward, but in reality, it was pretty long and involved several stages of back and forth with the last, last makers in England - Spring Line. Specifically their master last maker - Michael James. 

Now saying that this process took a long time is not a criticism of Spring Line or Michael - Far from it. It actually highlights the design and development time required when starting a shoe from scratch and the necessary level of skill and detail. It's worth noting that this would have taken far longer had it not been for our location in the heart of the shoemaking town of Northampton, with Spring Line just a ten minute journey away. 

crown northampton springline

Famous Spring Line Yellow Lasts & Last Made Hand Stitch Shoe Trees

Every time we needed an adjustment to the last, we took it directly to Michael, who expertly shaved and filed down the areas we asked him to, and then the last was returned to us so we could last it and test the new shape. It was only after multiple trips to Spring Line and numerous shaving sessions by Michael, that we were happy to sign off the overall shape and we could go on to have our master last created. 

 

Details And Design 

With the last part taken care of first, as it should be, we then moved on to developing and perfecting the upper. We already knew that we wanted to lead with a traditional derby silhouette, as it's generally the most accessible and popular style due to the pattern's open-faced, adjustable lacing. 

As we were aiming for the very top with this collection, we consciously decided to incorporate as many deep Northampton roots as possible, so we leaned into Northampton-made welted dress shoes for the overall direction and design cues. This meant high-quality construction, traditional, time-honoured details, top-level finishing and, of course, resoleable capabilities when required. From this moment on, we funnelled all of our thoughts into creating, what has been described as the 'Highest Quality Dress Sneaker In The World' - Weston Kay from Rose Anvil's words, not ours. 

crown northampton harlestone hand stitch sneaker

Cork Filled Harlestones Prepped & Drying Ready for Lactae Hevea Soles

We added cork filler to the sole to offer comfort and stability, we used oak bark stiffeners and counters for solid structure, we french bound the edges of the entire upper to highlight traditional details, we specifically designed a sleek low profile silhouette in line with dress shoes, we applied discreet branding so the quality did the talking, and we signed off with a hand-stitched double stitch to the vamp and dog tailed heel, that is applied to the upper individually by hand with a chunky needle and thread. 

These carefully curated details were our tribute to the fine Northampton welted dress shoes that followed before us. The end result was a uniquely Crown Northampton iteration of casual dress shoe elegance - The Harlestone Hand Stitch Derby - The Ultimate Dress Sneaker.

The entire process from inception to completion, took around two years of design, trialling, testing and perfecting.

crown northampton harlestone hand stitch shell cordovan sneaker

The Ultimate Dress Sneaker In Bourbon Horween Shell Cordovan

 

Collection Continuation 

The Harlestone, named after the finest forest in Northampton, Harlestone Firs, went on to receive its own accolades and has rightfully been recognised within the industry and by customers alike for setting the benchmark when it comes to hand made minimal sneakers and the more recent dress shoe category. 

This is a true testament to retaining traditional processes within shoemaking, whilst working to a set of ideals and core beliefs that were set centuries before when shoemakers always strived for the highest, long-lasting quality that money could buy. 

Like a fine wine, we gave the Harlestone Derby time to breathe once it was out in the open. Reserving the very best materials for the Hand Stitch Collection, we opened the range with a selection of the finest veg tan calf, Scottish Deer Suede and an offering of Horween's highly revered Shell Cordovan. Further additions to the range have included Buffalo Leather from Horween which displays a uniquely natural grain, and limited edition numbered drops of rare Shell Cordovan colours that are notoriously hard to source. 

But we couldn't leave the Harlestone on its own forever, as it needed at least one partner to be considered a proper collection. That process started after an impromptu lunch break experiment in the factory carried out by long-standing Crown Northampton team members Lee and Kerry. 

The blueprint for the newest addition to the Hand Stitch Collection was conceived, and design and development for the Everdon Wholecut Mid Boot could begin. 

crown northampton everdon hand stitch wholecut sneaker

Hand Stitch Details Applied With Needle & Thread

The Everdon followed the same design detail and direction as the Harlestone that came before it, with all of the same internal and external materials and workings, as well as being fitted to the same last for collection continuity. 

With a Derby and now a Wholecut added to the collection, traditional style and dress shoe lineage was retained. The main difference between the Harlestone and the Everdon was to the upper, which for the Everdon, is cut in a single piece to create a wholecut design, which is a notoriously difficult pattern to cut and fit. Although, with the Hand Stitch concept and template already established, the Everdon design time and final sample sign-off was significantly reduced compared to the Harlestone, and the new style addition organically flowed towards completion. 

crown northampton everdon wholecut hand stitch sneaker

The Everdon Wholecut Mid Boot In A Selection Of World Class Materials

What will the next addition to the Hand Stitch Collection look like? Only time, and fateful factory moments, will tell.

You can shop the full Crown Northampton Hand Stitch Collection here

For a more detailed, and literal, look inside the Everdon Wholecut Boot. Watch the comprehensive Rose Anvil dissection below. 

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