Bradford has a tradition when it comes to the shoe trade based around Stylo which was founded in 1935.
The Stylo business grew in the 1960’s by buying Barratts and in the 1990’s when they bought Priceless. Unfortunately that record is badly tarnished by receiverships, administrations, redundancies and liquidations. Barratts shoes, Priceless, Stylo, Shutopia and Dolcis have been ‘rationalised out of existence’.
Three times the same executive management of Michael Ziff and family have tried the shoe trade on for size. Let us hope that they are more successful this time around having just bought the latest, much reduced, business from the liquidators.
With this as a background I found it interesting to see Bradfordian J B Priestley was being used in the Bata-ville shoe context by the folk at No Way To Make A Living. In ‘Bata in Essex and the Decline of the Third England’ they record
‘When J. B. Priestley wrote English Journey he was exercised by some troublesome 1930s women: lipsticked, dressed up to the nines to ape Hollywood glamour on light industry wages. These were the women of the third England.
“the England of arterial and by-pass roads, of filling stations and factories that look like exhibition buildings, of giant cinemas and dance-halls and cafes, bungalows with tiny garages, cocktail bars, Woolworths, motor-coaches, wireless, hiking, factory girls looking like actresses, greyhound racing and dirt tracks, swimming pools, and everything given away for cigarette coupons.”
Priestley, J. B. (1984) English Journey, Penguin Books.’
These factory girls were an object of concern and scrutiny, troubling the established categories of class with their outspoken, performed femininity. A new, light, industrial labour force destabilised the established understandings of gender and class. The Bata factory in East Tilbury was staffed, in part, by this kind of woman: making shoes in order to pay for new shoes and handbags and lipsticks. And to keep their families: women’s work is not all about pin money and frivolity, J. B.’
Read the full ‘Bata in Essex and the Decline of the Third England’
J B Priestley and English Journey from Amazon
What Would J B Priestley Make of This
- Stylo Shoes is now a sound business based in Pakistan becoming the largest selling ladies’ shoes brand in Pakistan and the largest ladies shoes retail network in the country with 57 outlets in 30 cities.
- Bradford’s Shoe business could be three time losers with the Ziff family.
- The ‘English Journey’ is being used in academic texts about the decline of the third England.