Northamptonshire-based footwear manufacturer NPS Shoes, was established as a cooperative in 1881 and nicknamed ‘The Duffers’.
At the turn of the 20th century NPS had grown to 80 employees, and as a result of the cooperatives growth moved to a larger purpose-built factory on South Street, Wollaston which although modified and expanded, they still occupy to this day.
NPS Shoes have collaborated with a number of shoe companies and brands using different construction methods over the years, the most recent being Goodyear Welted Footwear which is now used in all Solovair footwear production. For 35 years NPS Shoes produced Solovair (Sole-of-Air) boots and shoes under licence, which were sold under the name ‘Dr Martens by Solovair’. They trademarked the name Solovair in 1995 and now manufacture their own soft sole suspension boots and shoes, using the original machinery and tooling including lasts and leather knives.
However, at the turn of the 21st century, NPS was on the verge of collapse and was propositioned by a property developer who planned on demolishing the factory to develop the land.
In 2006, village resident Ivor Tilley, decided to save the factory therefore asked the co-operative if he could purchase NPS Shoes with the hope of both continuing its life as a shoe factory, while also preserving both the employment of local villagers and the skills and knowledge which had been accumulated during the long history of the company; the workers voted in his favour.
To this day, all NPS footwear is still 100% made in the same factory since 1899 and not a single process is outsourced. All shoes are cut, closed, last and finished in Wollaston, Northamptonshire.
As part of our latest collaboration with Solovair, we wanted to help tell the stories of some of the Craftspeople at NPS Shoes. They are the cornerstones of a British Industry that unfortunately is on the decline and we believe the tradition deserves to be kept alive.
We have created a series of short films to not only share the narratives of the great people who play a role in Shoemaking in Northamptonshire but also try and give you a taste of what we felt when entering the NPS Factory for the first time.
Our collaboration with Solovair marks our first venture into footwear.
The Type 0-1 Buckle Shoe & Type 0-2 Walking Boot are available Online Now.
Directed & Produced: Rayon Vert
DOP: Joe Ripley
Editor: Oscar Carter
Grade: Jack Kibbey Newman