World Environment Day: Joseph Cheaney & Sons

Joseph Cheaney & Sons; designed with purpose, crafted consciously.

Joseph Cheaney & Sons’ ethos has always been to promote the ideology of buying less but demanding the best. As a heritage slow fashion brand, producing some of the finest footwear in the world, we are keen to share with you their dedication to British craftsmanship and their championing of quality footwear that challenges standard expectations of performance and longevity.

Joseph Cheaney & Sons aim to operate their brand in such a way that ensures they continually evaluate their business practices and hold themselves accountable for the manner in which they craft their products, always with the end consumer in mind. They keep the traditional shoemaking techniques that contribute to making a quintessentially English Goodyear welted shoe, yet simultaneously adopt new innovations and technologies. The brand is ever evolving to become more sustainable; here’s how they’re taking steps to ensure their final product is the best it can be.

Raw Materials 

Leather is a by-product of the food industry and a fantastic natural, raw material. It is essential to their craft and ages beautifully in footwear, with every crease and flex telling a story. They craft the majority of their footwear from UK-based and European suppliers, with the occasional inclusion of specialist leather being imported from overseas tanneries, such as Chromexcel. They believe in sourcing the finest raw materials which result in a truly exceptional end-product. 

Design

Joseph Cheaney & Sons’ team of designers plan the seasonal collections 6 months in advance from being released. All the collections go through a rigorous vetting process and must score highly on certain criteria in order to be physically produced in the factory. This includes; is the footwear repairable? Is it crafted to their meticulous high standards and as such, is it durable, wearable and robust enough for the daily demands of busy lives? Is it aesthetically pleasing and commercially viable and finally, is it functional? 

Once the collections are finalised, a sample pair of each style is produced and wear-tested. This means the style is worn as much as possible over a period of 8 weeks and then given back to the designers with a full written assessment on how the footwear performed and felt. The designers then analyse the resulting data, adjust the specification if needed before submission and the final work ticket is prepared to go into production. They also only make small batches of size-runs to ensure they are not mass-producing product, but rather creating footwear in an artisanal and conscious manner.

Production

The tickets enter the first stage of production which is Clicking, in the leather room, and this is where a team of highly-skilled clickers cut out the leather by hand. The experienced clickers assess the entire skin and map out the patterns to ensure minimal wastage of raw materials. Leather use efficiency is optimised by cutting 2 or 3 complementary footwear styles together to gain the best leather yield from the original raw material. This method is complemented by their Teseo machine, which does the same process only electronically to allow for technical precision. Finally, any natural defects or flaws in the skin are not automatically discarded but rather are fully assessed by the Clicker and where possible, incorporated into the hidden parts of the shoe.

The cut components then pass into the next stages of production – firstly closing where the leather sections are sewn together to form the ‘Upper’ and then through to Lasting where the upper is formed over a shaped last in preparation for the welt to be attached to which the sole is sewn. Once the final product has entered the shoe room, they are creamed and burnished by hand where necessary before being quality assessed for a final time before being boxed. If a pair is found to have a blemish or flaw, instead of discarding the shoe, they are sent to their factory shop to be sold at a fair, reduced price as a factory reject. Never wasted, never discarded.

The Goodyear Welt

With only a couple of exceptions, the vast majority of Cheaney shoes are Goodyear welted. It is this construction method, along with the quality of materials used, that add to the longevity and repairability of the shoes. 

The welt refers to a strip of leather that is sewn around the base perimeter of the shoe upper and becomes the integral link between the top of the shoe and its sole. The outer sole, which can be leather or rubber is then sewn to the welt, thereby creating a Goodyear welted construction that can easily be deconstructed when the time comes for repair. Nearly all shoes are cemented construction where the sole is effectively glued to the  upper meaning that repair is usually not viable, cost effective or reliable resulting in single life use only. A natural  cavity is created in the space between the welted insole and the outsole, which is filled with a cork compound providing insulation, protection, and comfort. In wear, this cork filler molds to the unique contours of the individual foot, ensuring unparalleled comfort and support when compared to cheaper forms of manufacturing.

Goodyear welted shoes are widely recognized to be one of the most durable constructions used in shoemaking and are made to last. It this construction that ensures all their Goodyear welted footwear can be fully refurbished, using the precise techniques and components utilized in the original making of the shoe.

Refurbishment Service

With proper care, Cheaney shoes will give comfort, value and service over a considerable time. However, for those who wish to extend the life of their shoes, customers can send them back to their factory to undergo a complete refurbishment. On arrival, the shoes are carefully assessed and placed on the original lasts. The soles and heels are removed, along with the welts and, if necessary, insoles. With skill and care, their craftsmen and women rebuild the shoe, using genuine components to reconstruct the footwear back to their original specifications.

The refurbishment service truly is one of the most unique areas of their business, and one that they continue to champion. In a world which is becoming more aware of the social, economic and environmental impact industrial sectors are having on their planet, it is their duty as a manufacturer to ensure they are as transparent as possible. To those consumers, Joseph Cheaney & Sons say, they are listening and they are learning. 

Packaging

The board used in their shoe boxes is a minimum of 70% recycled material, sourced from sustainable forests and the paper inside is produced from predominantly virgin fibres, again sourced from sustainable forests. 

"We now have a greater weight of man-made products on our planet than we do plants and animals. As I travel the world, I see such waste and I see our wild places being constricted more and more. I am also blessed to spend time with cultures who have so little and what they have they buy once and repair. The bushmen, the Inuit, the Masai and the Dorobo. An aboriginal gentleman once said to me, 'Spend your money on a bed and boots, because if you're not in one, you're in the other...' Buy little. Buy from craftsmen. Buy once and then repair. This is why I buy Cheaney shoes. I will buy once from an English company with local craftsmen using the finest products. In the years to come I know I will get them repaired and resoled, and, when the time is right, I will pass them on to my son. Cheaney personify what manufacturing should be now and in the future."

Toby Strong - multi Emmy and BAFTA award-winning cinematographer Blue Planet, Human Planet.

 
 

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