The Classicist: A Bastion of British Style in the Burlington Arcade
Photo by Andrew Dunn
Classic English shoe brand Church's was founded in 1873, but its roots date back to the late 1600s when a Northampton cobbler named Church first set up shop. The traditional shoemaker is known for its elegant footwear, which has been the choice of well-dressed British gentlemen for over 130 years. In 1999 Church's was acquired by the Prada group, and while some traditionalists bemoaned the end of an era, little of the company's core values have changed. Its high-end models, which have names like the Consul, the Diplomat, the Chetwynd and the Gunthorpe, are still handmade in Northampton and cost in the neighborhood of £300 pounds, or about $600.
Prada has certainly set about modernizing the brand however, which is known for durable style. The company recently redesigned Church's historic shop in London's Burlington Arcade, Britain's first shopping arcade, which was built by Lord George Cavendish in 1819 and houses some of the world's finest boutiques. The revamped shop incorporates some modern design elements while retaining the important historical fixtures. In addition to shoes, the store also stocks neckties, gentlemen's accessories and leathergoods. Part of Prada's plan to boost the brand's presence internationally, new Church's shops were also recently opened in Venice and Bologna.
Gallery: Church's & the Burlington Arcade
The Bond connection was a beneficial one for the company. What Prada is looking to do is shed the stodginess associated with one of Britain's oldest shoemakers while reinforcing the aspects of timelessness and excellence of craftsmanship. Not an easy proposition by any means but we think they've achieved it with the Burlington Arcade refurbishment. And in today's economic climate, a pair of shoes that can be worn for 18 straight years is a precious sartorial commodity indeed.