The pattern room marks the inception of all Cheaney shoes and is a hub of creativity, design and innovation. For this weeks Factory Friday, I decided to pay a visit to the epicenter of our factory and catch up with Design and Technical Manager, Chris Munns.
As the designer of Cheaney’s collections, it must be pretty difficult for you to have a favourite, but is there a style that sticks out in particular that is a firm all-rounder for you?
If I had to choose one it would be the Jarrow country derby boot in black chromexcel leather. It’s a new colour option for the Autumn Winter ’18 collection as the English Tan and Chicago Tan versions of Jarrow have been very popular in previous seasons. The leather ages with wear and gives the boots a distressed, vintage look which I really like. The nature of chromexcel leather is that it creases and results in a tonal effect throughout the product and I really like this worn-in look.
What would a typical day look like for you?
I have to juggle my time around the factory so no two days are the same. I can be working on a new range, designing one day and then overseeing pattern cutting and checking on the progress of samples in the factory the next. I’m not usually sat at my desk for very long, I’m always moving around the factory.
What’s the best/most interesting thing about your job?
Coming to the end of a season is quite a satisfying part of my job as I get to see all the packs of shoes finished and physically in front of me. They’ve gone from being 2D interpretations and sketches to materializing in to the product which ends up online and in stores. I still get a buzz when I see a range of shoes that has come out ‘just right.’
What would your advice be to someone looking to pursue a similar career to yourself?
Where possible, visit a factory and spend time in the different departments, see how shoes are put together if you can. From a design perspective, it is important to see pattern cutting and just having an avid interest and drive will be a good starting point, but you really need to see it for yourself.
What is your career background prior to Cheaney?
I left school and went to Wellingborough footwear college and spent half a day a week at Cheaney getting experience in the industry. After college I became a staff trainee at Cheaney and then spent time in the closing room before pattern designing. I spent 7 years here before transitioning to Dr. Martens where I was a pattern cutter, progressing to a developer. I then came back to Cheaney to the job that I currently have now.
On a personal note, what do you think you would be doing if you weren’t working in footwear?
That’s a hard question to answer as I have always been in the footwear industry, as have most of my family including my grandfather who ran a shoe repair company in Kettering. I don’t think I could really imagine doing anything else! I really like what I do.
Given your lengthily experience and expertise within this industry, do you think there has been an increased demand for British made products in recent years?
Certainly I think that there has been more of a shift towards customers wanting to know where their products have come from. The origin of manufacture is important to consumers and I think that our customers enjoy the fact that we make Cheaney shoes in our Desborough factory, right here in the UK. We’ve seen a demand for our shoes grow overseas as British heritage has a widespread appeal, which goes beyond our own shores.