Freed of London
Freed of London Ltd, often referred to simply as Freed, is a designer and manufacturer of pointe shoes and other dance shoes. The company additionally manufactures dance apparel, bridal, and fashion collections. Freed of London shoes are handcrafted in the UK and today the brand is available in over 50 countries. While Freed began in a basement in Covent Garden, it now comprises nine retail stores, seven offices, five warehouses, and three manufacturing sites.[better source needed]
Freed of London was established in 1929 by cobbler Frederick Freed, his wife and an assistant. Freed and his wife had both been previously employed by Gamba, a London-based dance shoe maker. After several years of work at Gamba, they decided to open workshop in the basement of a shop in Covent Garden. In 1934, production became too large for the store basement in Covent Garden, and manufacturing was moved to a small factory in Endell street. In 1947, manufacturing was once again moved due to the increasing scale of production. Freed of London transitioned its headquarters to a larger factory on Mercer Street. It was during this time that Freed started to become the prestigious and well-known company that it continues to be today. Frederick Freed retired in 1968 and the company was acquired by D H Sam Thomson Limited and Magdalan Shoes of Norwich. The three companies joined together and continued to operate as Freed of London. It was not until 1985 that Freed began manufacturing dance apparel. In 1993, the company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Japanese apparel company Onward Kashiyama. The Freed corporate headquarters and manufacturing facilities were retained after the acquisition and continue to operate at their original location in London.
Freed of London has continued to grow and expand in the past few decades. In 2012, Freed launched its first collection of Bridal shoes and opened a retail store in New York in collaboration with Chacott. A year later, in 2013, Freed released a line of ballet flats, the first instance in which the company created shoes not intended for dance purposes. In 2016, Freed of London became the first dancewear manufacturer to attain ISO accreditation. In October 2018, Freed of London became the first UK Company to create Pointe shoes for black, Asian and mixed race dancers, releasing two new Pointe shoe colours to their core collection: Ballet Brown & Ballet Bronze. These were developed for over a year with Ballet Black, a London-based Ballet company for dancers of black and Asian descent.
Freed pointe shoes are made using the traditional turn shoe method, with a "signature" peach-colored satin. The toe box is constructed by gluing together hand-layered triangles of hessian and paper, using a proprietary, water-based glue. After the box is formed, pleats are formed in the satin that covers the shoe and secured with metal pincers. The shoe is then stitched and the sole is joined to the upper with wax thread. Next, the pointe shoe is turned right-side-out and the insole is inserted. Finally, the box, which is not yet dried, is hammered into its final shape.
Freed of London currently employs 26 cobblers. Freed cobblers typically devote decades of their lives to handcrafting pointe shoes. Each cobbler makes about 50 shoes a day, most of which are custom made for individual dancers who order 20 pairs at a time from a specific, preferred cobbler. A letter or symbol is stamped on the sole of custom-ordered shoes to indicate the cobbler who made them.
Freed supplies pointe shoes to most ballet companies in the world. These include The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Miami City Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet among others. Freed of London pointe shoes are worn by principal dancers worldwide including Sylvie Guillem, Tamara Rojo, Leanne Benjamin, Nina Ananiashvili, and Alessandra Ferri. The brand has also been featured on national UK television in both The X Factor and Dancing on Ice. Freed's items have appeared in the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean films in addition to Snow White and the Huntsman.