There’s a certain allure in alternative clothing materials. Just ask the watch enthusiasts who buckle up straps made from crocodile, ostrich — or even stingray leather. Or the knitwear fanatics who pull-on pullovers woven from the wool of alpacas or Angora rabbits. Or ask heritage shoemaker Cheaney; the latest brand to prove this alternative allure — by crafting its new collection from antelope leather.
The use of sustainably-sourced ‘Kudu’ leather is a first for the Desborough-based brand. The hides are procured from South Africa and Namibia, where the local governments regulate the population levels of the animals on large game reserves. But no animals are killed for their hide. In fact, by putting this exotic leather to good use, the shoemaker is saving a byproduct that may otherwise have gone to waste.
“It adds to the ‘heavy’ characteristics of the boots..."
Cheaney’s Head Designer, David Benbow, knew he had to find a use for this rare, characterful leather as soon as he learnt about it. “We love the natural finish,” says Benbow. “It adds to the ‘heavy’ characteristics of the boots. And, while you will find ‘Kudu’ leather in the footwear industry, you won’t find it so much with the natural scars”.
Cheaney’s Autumn Winter 21 collection makes full use of this interesting, idiosyncratic material. Rarely used by British shoemakers, it’s a tried-and-tested, rough-and-ready material that’s as tough as old boots. Or these new boots, for that matter. That’s why, below, we’ve picked out the key new Cheaney creations crafted from antelope leather — and asked David Benbow why you should be investing in this unique material…
The styles, such as these ‘Tiger Moth’ boots, are all incredibly tough
The first pair of new boots that caught our eye offers a twist on a traditional style. The ‘Tiger Moth’ style was originally released in 2015, and inspired by a classic shoe from Cheaney’s archives. Now, this high-ankled boot has been reinvented once again with ‘Kudu’ leather.
And the highly-textured, pebbled and glossy finish gives the fur-lined design a truly unique look. But, while it may talk the talk, it also walks the sturdy-soled walk — with designer David Benbow revealing just how hard-wearing this antelope hide really is.
“A 2.0 to 2.2 millimetre ‘Kudu’ leather typically has a higher tensile strength when compared to a bovine equivalent,” says Benbow. “But it’s also lighter, less dense and more supple, which means that it’s ideally suited to footwear — and especially boots that require flexibility around the ankle”.
Tiger Moth Boot
With styles such as the ‘Hurricane’ boots, your footwear will be unique
“This is the first time that Cheaney have used ‘Kudu’ leather,” says Benbow, “in my 13 years of experience, at least. I already had knowledge of the leather, and it was of key interest, but I wasn’t aware of the natural-finish Kudu which was brought to my attention at a meeting with our supplier, Steads”.
Natural-finish ‘Kudu’, Benbow explains, is the real selling point for this exotic leather. Ensuring that every pair of ‘Kudu’ shoes is unique and irreplaceable, the hides feature natural scuffs and scrapes — due to the grazing patterns of the antelope among thorny bushes and brush. It’s a ‘distressed’ look that the brand wanted to create an authentically sturdy range.
“These styles, these heavy military boots, were originally designed for our Aviator collection,” says Benbow. “And, while they were popular styles, they needed refreshing. ‘Kudu’ was ideal for this image and, with the addition of the heavy Commando soles, they make one hell of a boot!”
Hurricane Derby Boot
Kudu leather offers a different, distinctive aesthetic, as seen with the ‘Stinson’ boots
But that’s not all. Cheaney is also offering this new, hardwearing leather in a selection of different, natural colours — including black, ‘whiskey brown’ and ‘mole’ (an almost khaki-tinged colour). “It’s a nice wide spread of colours,” says Benbow, “that suits the current market, as well as falling in line with the current offerings within our key range”.
And, coupling the colours with the texture, these shoes — from the ‘Tiger Moth’ design above to these military-style ‘Stinson’ Balmoral boots — truly combine everything you could want from a hardy shoe. They’re soft, supple, strong — and have a distinctive grain pattern you won’t get with any other leather.
“The real benefits of ‘Kudu’ leather, therefore,” Benbow adds, “are that because they’re so buttery soft straight out the box, there’s no breaking in required. But also, they’re very strong and durable, with that higher tensile strength and lower weight than a conventional leather of the same thickness.
“So, overall,” he says, “it’s about comfort married to inherent durability”. And what more could you want from a boot?
Stinson Balmoral Boot