Oliver Spencer x Solovair Factory Visit

Oliver Spencer x Solovair Factory Visit

One of our favourite collaborations to date has been our ongoing one with the Northamptonshire-based shoemaking icon Solovair, with whom we've created a variety of different shoe styles over the past few seasons, from Monkey boots and penny loafers to the brilliantly versatile Gibson. We took a trip to Wollaston recently, where the Solovair factory is based, to better understand the artisanal processes that are involved in the creation of each and every shoe, and we were blown away by the expertise and dedication of their team. Every process, from the selection of the leathers to the stitching of the soles is carried out with passion, and you can feel it when you slip on one of their shoes.

The Solovair Story

The Solovair story is one of heritage, commitment, and artisanship against all the odds. At the turn of the 20th century NPS, Solovair's parent company moved premises to a larger purpose-built factory in Wollaston such was their demand. It's the same premises they still occupy to this day. But nearly a century later, NPS hit trouble and were on the verge of collapse.

It took the enterprise and magnanimity of a local village resident by the name of Ivor Tilley, who took it upon himself to save the factory from developers and galvanise the company, ensuring it continued to support local villagers without whose shoe-making skills the brand would not be able to continue. That was 2006. Today, Solovair is back to former glories and we're very proud to be able to collaborate with them.

This Season's Collaboration

The penny loafer is a timeless smart casual shoe that works perfectly with relaxed summer tailoring. This Solovair version was crafted on a last that was developed just under 100 years ago and produced with a modern mindset. Solovair sourced some premium suede from their Italian tannery, and used a PVC Goodyear welt that was heat-sealed with their 'sole of air' sole using super hot knife. Sophistication and comfort in equal measure, the penny loafer comes in four versatile colours - three suede options in navy, green, and brown, as well as a black hi-shine version.


Another iconic shoe style, the Gibson is really just another name for the Derby, and as such is constructed with open lacing for more casual look than an Oxford. The Gibson's we've made with Solovair use their stitchdown construction, which dates back to the 17th century. As the name suggests it features an upper stitched down to the mid-sole. It's a variation of the Goodyear Welted construction method, however there is one main difference.

Unlike the Goodyear welt method where the upper leather turns inwards towards the insole, in the stitchdown method the upper leather turns outwards and is stitched directly to the mid-sole. The stitch is made using heavy thread using a lock stitch process. Even if one of the stitches should become damaged, the rest will remain in place. Just as with the loafers, we've gone with rich green suede and navy suede options for a textural finish, as well as a black hi-shine style, a lovely brown grain version, and an oxblood option.


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