Fashion

An Interview with Tim Little of Grenson

Grenson is one of our most loved footwear brands, the heritage, quality and craftsmanship that goes into every shoe has entangled us in a long term love affair with the brand.

We caught up with Creative Director and owner, Tim Little, to find out about the little details, the history and future of Grenson.

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Tim Little of Grenson.

Tim Little of Grenson.

Question: Tell us a little about Grenson and the story behind the brand?
Answer:

Born in 1866 in Rushden Northamptonshire, Grenson was started by a shoemaker called William Green. The business built its reputation on quality and grew rapidly through the 20th century, making huge contributions to both World Wars. The factory that has been our home since 1895 was till our home up until this year, when we moved to a state of the art new factory in order to guarantee the continued development of the company. Grenson was revitalised from 2005 and is now sold in the best shops all over the world.

Question: Grenson is all about the detail, what is it about detail that captures you?
Answer:

People say, how can you find anything new to do on a shoe as its so small and it’s all been done, but there are so many tiny details and its these where you can make a difference. To some people our Stanley is just a brogue, but we think that combination of the perfect shaped last and the shape of the patterns, size of the punching, colour of the leather and so on make it work in a way that some copies just don’t. I guess we would say that though, we are a little biased.

Question: When did you decide to start your own business?
Answer:

In the early 90’s I was in advertising and I always fell in love with my clients brands. If you visit the Porsche factory in Stuttgart and see the women hand stitching the hood on a convertible 911, or you visit the development lab of Adidas in Herzogenaurach, you get hooked. I decided that I wanted to have control of my own brand and be able to cut out the corporate processes that often stifles them.

Question: Tell us a little about the traditional way you manufacture Grenson shoes?
Answer:

Our shoes are made pretty much the same way that they have been made for well over 100 years. We use a process called Goodyear Welting that is time consuming but makes for a sturdy, long lasting shoe. Whilst we do have machines, all of the processes require a high level of skill and hand/eye coordination. There aren’t many products that haven’t been bettered for 100 years or more, but this is one of them.

Question: Which is your favourite ever pair of shoes you've created?
Answer:

There are two. I have to say Stanley because he has helped to revive this lovely brand and his heritage comes from the very heart of the company, but I also love the ‘Little Red Rooster’ that I designed for my own ‘Tim Little’ collection as its made from a single piece of leather and I just love the simplicity.

Question: How long does it take and what is the process of going from idea to final product?
Answer:

I guess from idea to delivery is normally about 6 to 8 months. The idea can be a description, a drawing, a last with tape on it and scribbles or literally anything.  It then gets drawn up and briefed to the pattern cutter who makes a prototype to fit the last. Once the prototype is made the work begins as that’s when we make lots of changes. Sometimes the prototype is perfect first time, and sometimes it takes 5 or 6 goes. Once pattern looks OK on the last, then we choose leathers and start making samples.

Question: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Answer:

We are now in a groove of using more interesting materials, colours and soles, so you can expect to see some more colourful shoes. I’m also into colour blocked shoes and printed leather so they will also be coming through. Who knows, I might see something in an old magazine tomorrow and start making espadrilles!

Images courtesy of Tim Little



Angharad Jones

Angharad Jones

Writer and expert