Cheaney’s shoes are a rare thing; wholly made in England from start to finish. It’s a traditional manufacturing industry of which there are very few left, and many of its team of 140 craftspeople have long held family connections with the business. But while so many heritage brands play on the old-world feel of craftsmanship and dusty Dickensian workshops, Cheaney enlisted contemporary design consultants Checkland Kindleysides to take a more honest approach in their concept for the store.
The interior doesn’t romanticise the shoemaking process with fake nostalgia, instead it mimics the real-life factory of today. From the corian pegboard to the 1:100 scale model of the factory, the entire store is an exploded and layered display of how Cheaney & Sons make their shoes in a true-to-life, polished up, modern and contemporary setting.
Perhaps I’ve just been peddled the dark and dusty workshop look and feel too many times before, because the design of the new store feels fresh and energising. It tells a fascinating story of how the shoes are made without being patronising. The intelligent (never gimmicky) use of materials and a lightness of touch in the design speaks to a more youthful, maverick clientele without alienating Cheaney’s traditional and longstanding customers.
When Cheaney approached the designers, they talked proudly about the company’s history. “But more than this, it was evident that the shoes and boots they make have a broad appeal across all age groups and tastes, appealing to people who love quality and craft but also individual expression and enduring style,” says Checkland Kindleysides co-founder Jeff Kindleysides.
The store is divided into two distinct areas. The front half – with its white painted brickwork, panelled ceiling and metal framed screens with reeded glass – echoes the factory itself. The rear is designed to feel like the boardroom area, with portraits of the founders Joseph Cheaney and his son Arthur removed from their gilded frames and hung in Perspex boxes, for a touch of Tate Modern cool.
This is where customers are served and fitted with their shoes, and the back wall provides additional displays of shoes and tools, leather sample finishes and details. Next to this, Joseph Cheaney’s most premium range of shoes is presented in a glazed cabinet behind locked sliding walnut-framed doors.
Describing the wall of old wooden shoe lasts right at the back of the store, Kindleysides says they wanted to celebrate this iconic symbol of the shoe maker's trade. “It immediately strips the story back to the starting point. From the outset we wanted to feature the lasts, each pair is an original from Cheaney's archive and each has a story to tell. They're all date stamped and they say a lot about the company's lineage as do the portraits of the company's founders.”
They say that to really know someone you have to walk a mile in their shoes. Checkland Kindelysides have done that for us with Joseph Cheaney & Sons, but their efforts are so successful they’ve created a store that makes you want to do the journey for yourself.
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