Friday 17 July 2015

Stephen Etheridge

The University of Northampton is pleased to have awarded Stephen Etheridge, Group Chief Executive of Church & Co with an Honorary Fellowship at this year’s Summer Graduation Ceremonies.

Stephen has taken the high-end luxury footwear brand Church’s from strength to strength. Shoes from the Northampton based Church & Co spans centuries, with manufacturing starting in 1675 and, although now a wholly owned subsidiary of Prada, has succeeding in maintaining the strong English shoe tradition and heritage within its manufacturing process. The recent success of the brand has led to the purchase of the neighbouring bus depot thus enabling significant expansion of its manufacturing facilities.

In his commitment to the wider footwear industry, Stephen has served as a Non-Executive Director of the British Footwear Association (BFA) for many years, and is a Non-Executive Chairman of SATRA, the world renowned technology and testing organisation based in Kettering.

Stephen has also demonstrated a long and committed service to the University of Northampton. He has fully supported the development of the BA (Hons) Fashion, Textiles, and Footwear and Accessories – Footwear Pathway by offering valuable advice and support to both staff and students for course development and studies respectively. Each year third year footwear students are invited by Stephen to apply for the Church’s Scholarship. Stephen facilitates a competition brief, in-depth factory tour, presentation and work placements. The successful student receives support for their final major footwear collection. In fact, this year, Stephen was so impressed with the outcomes of the student submissions, two placements were offered fully supported by the Church’s brand.

Stephen has offered invaluable support and commitment to the footwear industry on both a local and national level. This, together with the long term service to the University, has all helped in maintaining Northampton’s footwear heritage, in particular Good Year Welted shoes.

He said: “The most important lesson I have learned in regards to the footwear industry is that things are always changing, whether that is the market, consumer, the products, the retail environment or the economic environment. The key factor is that you have to be flexible and adapt.

“University and work-based learning is vital in any industry, particularly the shoe and fashion industry. The most important values for graduates today is to be very clear of what you ultimately want to achieve, but at the same time be fairly flexible. The employment landscape is very different now and I think it’s very exciting as there are a lot of opportunities, whether they’re in retail, manufacturing or fashion.

“I was shocked when I found out about my honorary award and also very humbled. I am very lucky to be in the positon I am in, to be sitting in the chair at the head of the Church organisation. I accept the award on behalf of everyone in the industry, rather than just myself as it was a huge honour on both a personal and company basis.”

Professor Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor of the University of Northampton, commented: “In addition to celebrating the outstanding achievements of the graduating class of summer 2015, we are also recognising high profile individuals who have collectively impacted, directly or indirectly, many people worldwide through their work. These recipients of honorary awards will, no doubt, motivate our graduates as they go out into the world and transform lives and inspire change amongst all those who come into contact with them.”

Listen to Stephen Etheridge talk about his career.

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