This spring the British brand Church’s launched a new premium range, supposedly to compete with Edward Green, John Lobb Paris and Gaziano & Girling. Here is a closer look at the Crown Collection.
The famous shoe company Church’s has been a controversial subject among shoe nerds ever since the Italian luxury company Prada bought the brand a number of years ago. Everything from the fact that the brand now just makes shit to that it’s just as good as before has been proclaimed. My view is that the brand’s Northampton produced Custom Grade footwear is basically what they have always been, but that the problem was partly that for some ranges they’ve chosen shortcuts (moved production from England, changed construction methods, etc) without telling about it and also that they’ve put all development focus on more fashion-oriented models and left the classic side a bit neglected. One exception was the Heritage Line, an attempt at a new premium range that was launched a few years ago which was a real disappointment, it was small, very difficult to access and was not considered to be particularly affordable. Selling shoes at over €1 000 without a closed channel sole for example is a clear failure one might think.
Now the brand makes a new approach on the premium front with the Crown Collection. From the start, it is now a larger number of models included, several interpretations of classics such as the mandatory plain cap toe oxford, a full brogue and double monk shoe, but also a few more special models. For example, a wingtip double monk and my favorite which is a wholecut oxford with a decoration stich made on the inside of the leather where one hand sew a so called skin-stich, midway through the skin, which otherwise mostly Italians are up to. Most come in several different shades, the colors have a nice depth, clearly a more elaborate finish than the usual Custom Grade shoes. The level of craftsmanship of the Crown Collection is high, with relatively narrow bevelled waists and a tight fitting heel, and this time with closed channel soles. The sole stitch is also hidden in a channel on top of the welt here. Leather quality seem really good.
Crown Collection models are made in two different lasts, 148 and 149. Both with a rounder toe shape where 149 is slightly narrower almond-shaped, and both are longer and neater in shape than Church’s standard lasts. I experienced the fit when I tried them to be fairly standard in size, perhaps with a slightly lower instep.
Prices for Crown Collection models are at £1 000, a bit more for the model with hand-sewn decoration stitch. Price wise, thus on a par with or above its British premium competitors. If Crown Collection will stand up well against them remains to be seen, it’s certainly nice to see that Church’s now seem to make a proper go for it at least.