In these days of mass production there is still a demand for beautiful, handcrafted products - and people willing to pay a premium for them.
This is particularly true of footwear. Customers who invest in custom-made products want the reassurance that the shoes they are buying are well made, a good fit, look stylish and will last.
As we are only too well aware, footwear production in the UK has plummeted in the past 50 years - from around 200 million pairs in 1955 (or 90% of footwear sold) and employing more than 110,000 people, to only 5 million pairs and employing about 4,500 people. The remaining UK manufacturers, the premium grade menswear brands and the two biggest manufacturers, Hotter and New Balance, have maintained high technical standards and continue to train their staff in shoemaking.
Despite this, a growing number of small indie footwear manufacturers are finding demand for their products and for the coveted ‘Made in Britain’ label. These companies, a number of which will be showcased by the British Footwear Association (BFA) at trade show Moda in Birmingham from February 20-22, depend on their commitment to their craft to produce quality products.
While most footwear sold in the UK is imported, most import firms are ensuring their staff can impart their knowledge to suppliers. Many are taking part in the BFA Foundation Course in Technical Management - some of the most popular modules cover footwear construction.
While the glory days of UK footwear manufacturing are over, it is reassuring that the £7m worth of shoes
sold in the UK will have either been produced in local factories founded on craft values or in overseas operations where standards are guaranteed by experienced British staff, proud of their heritage.
Richard Kottler is chief executive of the British Footwear Association