The Thomas Bird story started in the 1800s, and the last few years have seen some exciting changes. Let's look at what's behind the brand.
Who are Thomas Bird?
The team behind Thomas Bird have worked behind the scenes for some big shoe brands over the years. This included traditional British brands based nearby in Northampton, and designer labels manufacturing in Italy. Some of these relationships with factories in Italy went back over 40 years.
So we'd worked with the design, production and marketing of some very well known names. It was ok but we were always working to someone else's brief.
Then one day we just said. 'Why not start the brand that we want?'. The sort of shoes that we wanted to see but seemed to either not exist or were too expensive for most people to buy.
So we started work on our first collection. We then looked at manufacturing options and finally settled on some small, family run artisan factories we'd worked with previously in Italy. Their quality and hand finishing was better than anything else we'd seen.
We didn't have high expectations. It was a bit of a gamble, but from a standing start, the first collection sold well. It gave us the confidence to add more styles and colours. We doubled from an initial 20 options to over 40 in the second production run.
Why the name Thomas Bird?
Although we decided to manufacture in Italy, we are proud of the shoe making traditions in Northamptonshire, our local area. Some fantastic shoes have been designed here over the years. Oxfords, brogues, chelsea boots - many styles that went worldwide all started off in Britain. Thomas Bird and his factory manufactured shoes in Northamptonshire back in the 1800s. The factory still exists a few miles away from us. We liked the idea of bringing back and breathing new life into a fine old name.
So would you manufacture again in England?
It's possible yes. At the moment we think our designs and the type of finishing are best done in Italy. But if we wanted to add a more traditional British styling or construction, that could be an option. We have started to work with English accessories factories. Our new range of belts uses Italian leather but are all hand made in England. We've also started working with a patina specialist in London.
What makes Thomas Bird different?
Style, colour and finishing are all key. But the quality of the leathers, construction, stitched soles has to be there too. Shoes need to look good long after you open the box. When you put all that together with our prices, that's a great offer. There are some designer/luxury brands that are make lovely shoes, but their prices are often 2 or 3 times ours. So do you want a famous name, or the things that should really make a brand - style, quality and value? We think that message is starting to get out.
Do you have any retail shops?
Not yet. Of course we would love to have a flagship store in Jermyn St, London. But in reality our customers are worldwide. Even if we had shops in London, New York, Paris, we would still have 90% of our customers that live too far away to visit. And we would end up increasing prices which we don't want to do. So for now, we sell over the web only, and concentrate on making this as simple and efficient as possible for our customers.
What's next for Thomas Bird?
We listen to feedback from customers who tell us what they would like, and of course we have own ideas in development. We'll carry on developing and improving the collection. There's so much we want to do. And we still haven't found the perfect shoe.