Norwich shoe manufacturer celebrates 75 years of fashion

Vintage fashion is still very much en vogue so news that Norwich's last shoe manufacturer is celebrating its 75th anniversary has got the Life Matters team reminiscing about the past. Emma Harrowing looks back at the shoe fashions made and sold in your fine city from Van Dal and discovers that the shoe manufacturer has more designs to come.

Norwich used to be famous for making shoes for women and children, but unless you count the skilled craft of slipper making performed in the back of Bowhill and Elliot on London Street, Van Dal is now the only remaining major shoe manufacturer in Norwich.

In the past local firms such as Norvic, Edward and Holmes, Sextons, Bally, Start-Rite and Van Dal made shoes that were exported all over the world. Start-Rite was even awarded two Royal Warrants and supplied several generations of royal children with footwear.

The challenges following the Second World War disrupted shoe production in our fine city. Factories had been destroyed and overseas markets lost, then tough competition from the Far East who could produce shoes at a lower production cost marked the end for many manufacturers in the city's shoe industry.

Apart from one.

As Van Dal and its parent company the Florida Group celebrate its 75th anniversary in the manufacture of shoes in Norwich (15pc of manufacturing still takes place here on Dibden Road) the shoe manufacturer is still proving that it can move with the fashions of the time.

Since the Florida Group came to Norwich from London in the 1930s it has seen the launch of the Van Dal brand in 1946, has developed the wider fitting shoe in the 1950s, has become world renowned for women's and children's shoes in the 1960s and has been the innovators of comfort and water repellent technologies with the introduction of TLC and Ion Mask technology a couple of years ago. The recent launch of its Vintage Collection, which was developed in celebration of its 75th year, brings back some of the original patterns and styles from the past. The collection proved to be a trend at Norwich Fashion Week in February when the Corsica peep toe was showcased as part of vintage retailer Prim Vintage's collection.

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And Van Dal continues to produce classically stylish shoes. Life Matters has had a sneak peek at Van Dal's autumn and winter and spring and summer 2012 collections and we have fallen in love with the patent lace up shoe boot, a take on the 1922 design, which is part of the autumn and winter 2011 Vintage collection, and the Seymour II TLC a faux snake skin print loafer which will be launched as part of Van Dal's Spring 2012 VF collection.