Shoe Repair London, Handbag Repairs London - The Restory, London

STYLE SERIES FEATURING PORTIA SHAW

Style Seriesvanessa jacobs

On a mild Thursday afternoon The Restory managed to tear Boss Lady Portia Shaw away from her busy schedule to grab a coffee and learn a little bit more about Portia, POP PR and PR Life. 

Portia Shaw 1

Hello Portia would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?

I started POP PR nearly 6 years ago, I like to think of myself as a full time Patron St of lightbulb moments in the office however I think my team (a.k.a the Popettes) deserve a lot of credit. We are a fashion, beauty and events agency in the heart of Oxford Circus known for hosting awesome runway shoes during London, Milan and Paris Fashion Week.

I have a Chihuahua called Rocky and live with my partner Brian who has 2 Labradors called Wellington and Watson in Kensington. I have a deliciously unhealthy habit for purchasing shoes and bags even when I really shouldn’t, simply because I love the craftsmanship and appreciate the time effort that have been put into the process of their creation.

2. How did you break out into the PR world?

PR happened totally by chance, I always wanted to be a fashion designer however I scraped through my GCSE’s and A Levels just were not an option. I have always worked in fashion and beauty however PR was a chance internship which happened many years ago. PR is a difficult industry that has a very high turnover of staff as people enter it thinking it is something it really isn’t. I’ve done everything in order to get what I have built today and still nowhere near finished - I launched my own business thanks to the support of some amazing industry insiders and POP has escalated into what you see today. Personal dedication from the get go has played a massive part, an honesty policy is essential and just being a nice person to people in fashion and beauty has paid dividends in loyalty and exposure for our clients.

Portia Shaw 2

3. You have defined yourself as a total Girl Boss, what has been key to achieving this title? And what advise would you give others looking to follow in your footsteps?

I’m probably too old to be defined as a girl boss but I’ll take that title and wear it with ripped denims and a smile. Ultimately don’t be a shit, I met assistants when I was interning, we are now all at a totally different level within our work and still support each other. I believe that the only way you get what you want is by keeping your head down, never compare what you are doing to other people, otherwise are sheep copying each other, be a black swan and do something different, disrupt and make people talk. Also always make sure you have good shoes on, in this work force people make shoe contact before they eye contact.

4. Starting your own company is such an incredible achievement, what have you learnt from opening your own business?

I guess it is and to be honest we are so busy in the office I don’t really have time to think about that. The best bit of advice I was given was to invest in a good accountant which I did, he has been amazing. On a personal note you should always look after yourself, you might think you are Wonder Woman (I probably have the outfit somewhere) but we are all only human. In the early days I used to work 18-20 hour days which just wasn’t sustainable. Eat, sleep, slay repeat.

5. We love your style at Restory HQ – what is your wardrobe go to for when you are in the office?

I spend a vast amount of time in ripped jeans and t-shirts, always teamed with a banging heel, the only porn in my life is shoe porn and its explicit. My favourites are my Isabel Marant “Blackson Boots”, I have a few pairs in different colours that I circulate with almost everything. Logo’s don’t do it for me, I tend to buy pieces that are quality but not obviously branded, if you don’t have the money to do this buy Zara or TopShop but nothing that resembles a “Now Bag”. Fakes are my pet hate, they are always obvious and are a bit of an insult to fashion houses that created them.

Portia Shaw 4

6. Your social media has shown us that you have been in a Fashion Month flurry… How does Milan differ from London and how does your style change when you hit the continent?

Milan has 2 very distinctive styles. . . rock chick vs high maintenance. I learnt quickly on one of my first PR trips to Paris that copying their style is never hot, Brits will never do Milanese or Parisian chic the way the woman (and men!) do. What we do well is masculine tailoring, we do a good messy blow dry, a short polished nail and we know how to throw out a some fuck off footwear. I actually have nick names for some of my looks, these vary from “Armless Bear” (referencing a fur gilet) to “Escaped Hospital Patient” (last summer’s poplin maxi dress, fluffy trainers with a biker jacket). Ultimately have a bit of fun with your look and be prepared to laugh at yourself. But for goodness sake avoid flesh coloured trousers, nobody looks good in this.

7. Do you have a favourite Fashion Week anecdote?

I occasionally host the front door for shows during the various Fashion Weeks, effectively your managing anything between 200-600 journalists with security. Your job at that moment is to make sure guests are in the right queue and rushing celebrities in quickly and efficiently. We work from guest lists, we have a tight system however I know most the people either by site or name. A couple of seasons ago someone came up to me and said they were “Best friends with Portia and went to university with her” . . .  apparently I had told them they could go straight in on the front row. I’d never met this person in my life and had to sadly break it to them that they were indeed looking at Portia.

Portia Shaw 5

8.Tell us about something you really love and that you would love to see carefully restored, and why is restoration important to you?

To be fair The Restory has salvaged a good chunk of my shoes and bags, the most amazing restoration was to a pair of Zanotti spike heels which I took to Berlin and went clubbing in, I thought they were beyond repair but SJ and Vanessa returned them to me in the same condition I first bought them in. I believe in restoration as longevity in investment pieces is key. I also believe in supporting all female business’s, “Team Restory” for me is a service by woman for (not exclusively!) woman who understand fashion because they live, eat and breath it like their consumer. I have had many cobblers utterly butcher shoes and have been on waiting lists to have bags restored with companies which have waiting lists longer than some peoples marriages. I have never thrown away a pair of shoes since discovering these ladies.

Photography: Stacy-Jayne Archer 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING PRE-LOVED

vanessa jacobs

Admit it. You’ve been tempted. How could you not be? When £2K seems to the going rate for an everyday work tote or the school-run cross body, it’s no wonder companies like Vestiaire Collective are so popular. Even the sellers on eBay have upped their game significantly in recent years.

But how do you know what condition its really in, if the seller has been transparent about the wear and tear and what’s fixable versus hopeless? Unless, you’re eating and breathing this everyday like us, why would ever know these things?

We thought it might be helpful to give you a few short tips to help take out some of the guess work.

Top three tips:

1.     At the risk of sounding boring, go for black leather. It can be dyed or painted, smoothed or re-grained, holes can be filled and scratches buffed. It’s the most restorable material and colour there is.

2.     Pay attention to shape. Let’s face it, many designer bags aren’t meant to stand up to the myriad of things you’ll put that bag through and one the key things we put our bags through is excess weight. Tempted to load the large Givenchy Antigona? Think again. We have a few techniques but they are limited in efficacy. Generally, a bag bent, collapsed or stretched from improper storage or carrying too much will struggle to regain their shape. Look closely for small signs (e.g. collapsing corners, strange folds) that inevitably indicate larger damage.

3.     Always ask the seller questions and for more pictures. They will naturally put up the best photos and obfuscate damage but the more you ask for, the truer state of the item will emerge. In particular, ask for up-close photos of the corners, the bottom, the handles (discolouration for hand oils, make up etc) and the lining. Also ask the seller what the “story” is behind the bags. “What was it used for and for how long” is a good all-encompassing question. “What am I going to be surprised about when this bag arrives” is another. 

 

While there are many more pointers we could coach you through - like why to avoid patent leather - we hope this is a good starter-for-ten.  If you are considering a pre-loved purchase, feel free to get in touch and we’ll give you our thoughts.

STYLE SERIES FEATURING LAURA CAULKIN

Style Seriesvanessa jacobs
Laura 1

R: Hello Laura, would you like to tell us a bit about yourself? 

LC: A pleasure to meet you and your followers!  I'm a mum of two who's spent the last 9 years working in digital retail, specialising in luxury fashion.  And I'm a keen Restory advocate!  Leather goods are an investment and it's fantastic to find a service which can enhance the life time of cherished pieces. You've even looked after shoes that will pass from one daughter to another.

R:  Your career history has been very impressive - How did you break out into the retail e-commerce world? 

Laura 2

LC: I started my career in legal regulation which was fascinating but I wanted to move to London to be with my then boyfriend, now husband.  I landed a great job at Tesco.com, joining a small team specialising in improving the customer offer and profitability of the grocery delivery service.  That was my first commercial role and really ignited my passion for retail, e-commerce and the customer experience.  

R: What advice would you give others who wish to follow your lead? 

LC: Become an expert.  Talk to everyone and anyone you can, read avidly, network, go to industry events, pay it forwards and be passionate.  You'll differentiate yourself by focusing on an area that really excites you.  The more senior you get, the smaller the world becomes and the more you realise that the people you started out with are also now, or will be senior, so build your network from the beginning. Also I think it's important to recognise that you'll only ever have a few great teachers or mentors you'll meet in the journey of your career, embrace them and nurture your relationship with them.  I recently attended a talk which described building a personal board of directors: think of yourself as a company with a particular objective.  "Appoint" members to your board who can help you achieve your objective and who offer you different perspectives. This is a great tool to structure your approach to developing yourself.  

Laura 3

R: What has been a defining career moment for you? 

LC: I guess the biggest step change is my career was moving into the private sector. Tesco.com was a baptism of fire as I immersed myself into the commercial sector, but it taught me so much about retail; it used an early omnichannel model and I worked with teams of very smart and motivated people.  The most accomplished I've felt at work was the day we opened the third warehouse for Net-a-Porter in Hong Kong.  It was a huge programme spanning the entire company and being a part of making it happen felt incredible.  

R:  Do you see any important digital changes coming in the next few years? 

LC: After a slow start the luxury sector has embraced the digital world in the last few years, with most luxury brands and retailers now having some sort of e-commerce offering and digital marketing strategy. As brands continue to develop their understanding of the way their customers interact with their touch points (ranging from stores, digital marketing, social, websites, apps, advertising, customer service etc),  we'll see fewer instances of a disjointed approach like seeing Facebook ads for products we've already bought.  Retail will also adapt to become a much more integrated digital/physical experience allowing brands to augment their services and ranges using digital platforms.  It's easy to forget how little retailers and brands knew about their overall interaction with customers until this century.  Another key change will be the size of brands' digital businesses.  Typically e-commerce will represent 5-10% of net revenues, with a few exceptions like Tory Burch who receive around a quarter of their revenue online.  The increased visibility of things like pricing across the world that websites provide has already forced some changes in the way brands behave globally; Chanel lead the luxury space by announcing last year that they would standardise pricing globally.  

Laura 4

R: How do you balance being a career woman as well as having children, what advice would you give to other mothers?

LC: Don't try and have it all!! I'm definitely no expert at this and it's hard, but having had a few months off it's definitely given me a new perspective. I have to be ruthless about what's important and focus solely on those few things. Everything else has to wait. There's so much pressure to be the perfect mum, colleague, boss, school rep, wife, hostess etc and you really can't do all of it. I think that we also need to start a shift towards this question also being asked of men; the burden of childcare still falls to women, society calculates the cost of childcare against the woman's wage.

 

R: When you are not working or with your children, how do you like to spend your time?

LC: I've been able to get involved with my daughter's new school; learning phonics and new ways of adding and subtracting! I've also been mentoring for SheSays since I finished my last job and I have a very motivated young mentee. It's amazing how fulfilling sharing your knowledge and experience is. For myself, I've spent more time focusing on dressage, something that's taken a back seat until recently. It's a detail-orientated discipline, a great work out and gives an incredible sense of achievement when you master a new component.

R: I think you have amazing style - What influences you? How would you describe your personal style?

LC: Thank you, you should've seen my school uniform!  (It was purple).  My style was definitely influenced by spending time in the Net-a-Porter offices.  The day I resigned, I was on the phone to my boss and someone walked past in fabulous pink fluffy platforms and I thought how much I'd miss the office; I loved Net-a-Porter for the sheer variety and creative of how people dressed.  You'd get wedding worthy and slumber party outfits all in the same day.  My style has definitely become more relaxed as I've got older, but I do love an excuse to dress up! 

R: I know that you have been renovating a house in the Cotswold - Can you tell me more about this?

LC: I grew up in a very old black and white cottage that my parents renovated themselves over a 30 year period. This has had a huge impact on how I view the places I want to live and restoration in general.  I'm a sucker for character. I remember the first time my husband and I were house hunting and being so grateful that he was taken in by character too.  We bought a Victorian property that we brought up to date, retaining the old bedroom fireplaces and glorious coving. We both grew up in Stratford upon Avon which is on the edge of the Cotswolds and after getting bad food poisoning when I was pregnant with our second daughter I suggested that as we'd always held a dream of buying somewhere in the Cotswolds perhaps we should just have a look....  That weekend we found the house online and after several months of conveyancing, it was ours.  I don't think we really understood how much work it would take to make it the house what it is today, but we've had an amazing experience with a local builder and after two years we head up here as often as we can.  The rest of the time it's available as a holiday let.


R: So tell us about something you really love and that you would love to see carefully restored, and why is restoration important to you?

LC: I've walked past the same building every day for 7 years, Blythe House opposite Olympia. It had a starring role in the recent Tinker Tailor, Solider Spy movie and is currently home to the V&A, Science museum and other stores. It's the most incredible large Victorian building that is crying out to be modernised, hopefully sympathetically; acknowledging the modern way of living but keeping original features. So many houses in the local area have been renovated and lost their character; they can sometimes feel a bit sterile as a result. By contrast, I love the Norman Foster roof across a rear courtyard at the Asprey and Co store on Bond St for juxtaposing the old and new and creating an intimate characterful atmosphere inside. Everything old and new tells a story so the restoration of buildings in need of a bit of love is an opportunity to retell its story.

HOW TO KNOW WHEN ITS TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

vanessa jacobs

It’s almost the end of detox season. 

You’ve cleaned your system with a Plenish Cleanse Level 1 Pack, kicked up your exercise routine with a six-month unlimited pass at Core Collective and vowed to reclaim your personal space with Tim Ferris’ 4-hour work week

Now onto all the “stuff’ in your life. You’ve donated the clothes that are no longer working to Smart Works, the slightly less smart stuff to Oxfam and you’ve booked in with the VIP team at Vestiaire Collective to help monetise the valuables. 

But there’s an odd little in-between pile of shoes and bags left.

Screen Shot 2017-01-28 at 11.27.55.png

You loved them once but they’ve seen better days. You think you could love them again, but aren't sure how. Do you reinvest or let them go?  

Let’s start by saying that at The Restory, we don’t believe you ever NEED to let go; A new bag strap, a leather flower brocade, some fringe where the dog chewed. Refashioning is only limited by your imagination.  

But if a reimagine isn’t in the cards, there are some situations that are…not impossible…but maybe more trouble than their worth.

 

Cracked Or Very Stained Patent

Patent is a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because it wipes down easily but a curse because it’s nearly impossible to fully restore.

Patent is made by applying a clear layer of petroleum or vinyl to a tanned and coloured skin and it takes some precise machinery to ensure its super smooth with no bumps, creases or debris.

While we can strip back a top layer of coating to get out some superficial stains and scrapes, we can only go so far before we risk not being able to reapply a layer of coating that is as even and smooth as the original.  If your patent cracks, especially on a part of the shoe or bag that is subject to repeat bending, it’s also very difficult to get that area back to a near new finish. 

 

Sharpie / Marker Stains

Pen can be stripped back and coloured over in many cases but markers are a whole different thing. Especially on soft or “open” leathers, they penetrate the layers of the skin so deeply that when it reaches the middle layer, it starts to spread sideways.

Often the only solution is to cut away the affected area like a tumour. But if you go that far, you’re back in refashioning land, which for the purposes of this post, we said we wouldn’t talk about.

It is worth checking with us as first but a rule of thumb is, if it's small there is generally something we can do but if it's large, you sort of have to be willing to put your creativity hat on and collaborate with us. 

 

Severely Stained Veg Tanned Leathers

Veg tanned leathers are tanned and coloured using natural tannins. These elements create beautiful patinas but unlike leathers that are dyed using other methods, they fail to seal, or create any sort of barrier, between the stain instigator (probably your jeans) and the leather. When stains get in there they often penetrate very deeply which makes them hard to extract.

Further because veg tanned leathers are the result of a natural process it’s very hard to mix dyes to match and cover any sizable stain in a way that doesn’t compromise the integrity piece.

 

Of course, check with us first but if you are seeing any of these scenarios in your “maybe” pile, it’s worth considering just how much you are willing to reinvest. If the answer isn’t that much, then it might be time to look back nostalgically at the good times but otherwise look forward to new friends in your future.