Chris Woodford is a bit of a madman. And he’s pretty much thrilled about that.

The fifth-generation shoemaker founded Crown Northampton—maker of some of the world’s best-made sneakers—as a reaction to watching his father’s business unravel, along with so much else of the iconic Northampton, England shoemaking trade.

While needed stalwarts like Crockett & Jones, Tricker’s, and Edward Green blessedly continue to persist in Northampton, Chris watched factory after factory shutter while growing up—and knew he needed to create a different kind of business. Early wholesale success in Japan provided the buoy for Chris to design a sneaker made with only the finest possible materials available—including J&FJ Baker oak bark leather, and Horween’s renowned shell cordovan—sell made-to-order models direct, and see if it caught. (Oh it caught.)

Now, Chris is on the verge of launching E. Woodford, an extremely high-end, full-custom handwelt line powered by Chris’s own bespoke shoemaking knowledge, and his desire to create “careers, not jobs” for shoemakers in Northampton.

In a fascinating, engaging chat, Chris talks us through the Woodford family shoemaking history that stretches back to 1908, how wars have always powered the Northampton shoe trade (and what happens when they end), why he’s obsessed with using only the best materials and preserving nearly vanished techniques, and why creating an environment in which shoemakers can learn and grow and be excited about their work every single day is the key to Northampton’s future success.

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This episode was sponsored by Grant Stone

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