The factory is very still when I arrive today, pen in hand. Usually a bustling epicenter, there is one sole machine whirring with Aaron bent, head down, concentrating on finishing a derby boot. The whole Cheaney factory finishes early on a Friday and by afternoon time, the rooms are usually empty and the skeleton of the factory is exposed. But not today. Aaron is busy finishing shoes alongside two others, long after the majority have gone home.
As the Shoe Room Utility and Export QC, I see Aaron on a regular basis as he inspects and fine tunes the majority of our web orders before they go out to our customers. He is always casting a proficient eye over something, assessing if the shoes are pristine enough to be sent to wholesalers and customers and working the various machines in the shoe room. He works with skill and finesse and today, with the factory as quiet as it is, I try not to bother him too much whilst I ask my questions for this weeks Factory Friday.
What challenges do you find in your role, and how do you overcome them?
Meeting deadlines can be quite difficult at times. 300 pairs of shoes on average are finished in this room every day with new racks coming in all the time – it can be a stretch to make sure they are all processed quickly but properly but we all pull together as a team to make sure everything goes out on time.
With such a varied role, what do you find most interesting about working at Cheaney?
There are a few things that come to mind, primarily that I love the atmosphere in the Shoe room and the people I work with.
I also really enjoy problem solving so when I get a shoe that doesn’t look 100% how it should, there’s a scuff or a small nick that needs taking care of, I start thinking about what best way to fix that problem without it affecting the whole look of the shoe. Don’t get me wrong, if the shoe has major problems, it doesn’t leave the factory, but working their way around the different rooms, the shoes can sometimes pick up small aesthetic issues along the way and if I can fix them, I will. I also love polishing shoes so I can spend twenty minutes or so just polishing a shoe [laughs] I probably spend too much time polishing them up but I can’t help it.
At 24 years old, I ask Aaron if he has any advice to young people looking to learn a trade?
There’s a lot to learn but you have to be willing to put the effort in – it’s not the kind of job where you can expect to get by on the minimum, there’s too much to it and so there has to be that willingness to take all the information in and do a good job. We work as a team so if someone does a bad job, someone else further down the line will notice.
You see so many shoes being made and the styles change year on year – but what’s your favorite Cheaney shoe?
Tough one but it has to be the Warwick capped oxford in espresso – I don’t know I just love the color, that broken brown finish and the square toe cap, it’s just a really smart shoe.
How many Cheaney shoes do you own?
Not as many as you’d think, about 5 or 6. I have some conker Overstone oxfords, some walnut grain aviators, all quite classic styles really.
I ask Aaron what made him come to Cheaney 4 years ago and what he feels he still has to learn
I thought it would be beneficial for me to learn a trade and I found that I really liked it. I’m quite an analytical person anyway so the fact that that part of my personality is also a part of my job just goes hand in hand. I always feel like I’m learning, I work alongside a lot of experienced people and even after four years, I still learn new things all the time.