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

Stepping Up The Sneaker Game

Emily John
 Balenciaga Triple S Sneakers

Balenciaga Triple S Sneakers

Since the uprising of athleisure, sneakers are gaining ground in and outside of the fashionscene. And according to a recent study, sneaker sales have increased while the sale of high heels tumbled – especially in the category 3inch and up. With even brands like Chanel embracing this trend it’s clear that fashion has given the sneaker its stamp of approval. Women are increasingly choosing comfort and with so many high end and fashionable alternatives on the market, who can blame them? At The Restory atelier, we see more and more sneakers passing by each day, so what makes sneakers so unique and why are we so obsessed with them?

There are many sneaker anecdotes, from Converse sponsoring basketball player Chuck Taylor during a game and solidifying the All-Star as the best selling shoe of all time to the tale of two brothers who went head to head on their quest to rule the sneaker world, namely Adidas and Puma. Adidas tennis shoes are arguably one of the most iconic shoes in the sneaker game and you can find all there is to know on how to keep your Stan Smiths clean on our case study here.  And did you know that Bill Bowerman from Nike used his wife’s waffle iron to create the ‘Waffle Tread’ sole of the first ever shoe designed by Nike? Talk about getting creative.

The discovery of vulcanized rubber by Charles Goodyear in 1880’s paved the way for the first ever rubber-soled shoe, called the Plimsoll. Due to this invention, the first ever mass-produced sneakers called Keds were introduced to the market in 1917. The name ‘sneakers’ was actually derived from the fact that the now silent soles made it possible to sneak up on someone.. It was not until 1950’s that people started to wear sneakers as fashion statements. By 1984 the sales of sneakers skyrocketed when Michael Jordan signed with Nike and launched his Air Jordans, which brought new techniques and innovations to how sneakers were made.

 Converse All Star

Converse All Star

 Nike X Offwhite Air Jordan 1

Nike X Offwhite Air Jordan 1

The two major steps in making a sneaker are design and production, with sometimes 18-month lead times to develop a new model. The design process consists out of making a pattern from the sketches and then creating specs and usually multiple samples, with a new prototype each time an alteration is made. Then in production, the material is prepared, the rubber gets pressed and the sneaker goes into the stitching and assembly phase before it’s shipped to its final destination.  The current model of manufacturing a sneaker is quite labour intensive.  And due to its many components as well as the brand specific characteristics the sneaker can only be created at a certain assembly factory employed by the brand. This is also the reason why, depending on the style, once the rubber soles of the sneaker wears down it’s usually very hard to replace.  

The Restory offers special cleaning services to keep your sneakers in tip top condition or even a bit of colour touch up for those very well loved pieces you just can’t stop wearing. And luckily for all you sneakerheads, we now offer a drop off service at the Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge store to refresh this season’s Balenciaga’s or drop your oldie but goodie while shopping for a new favourite. What better excuse do you need?

 Cleaning Chanel sneakers at The Restory atelier

Cleaning Chanel sneakers at The Restory atelier

Lifting The Veil On Christie's: Insights From Handbag Specialist Rachel Koffsky

Emily John
 
 The Himalaya  Hermès Birkin

The Himalaya  Hermès Birkin

 

In the world of true handbag coveters, such as the fashion elite, private collectors and even museums, Christie’s has been making waves since 1978; when they held their first ever handbag auction on Coco Chanel. Christie’s private handbag auctions carry the scarcest of Hermès bags and it’s where editors and collectors alike come together to snatch up that one of a kind piece. These events attract clients from all corners of the world and a very limited Himalaya Birkin, aka the Holy Grail among Hermès bags, was sold for a record amount during a Hong Kong auction in 2016. Christie’s handbag specialists go on a literal treasure hunt and scavenge the world for these one-off pieces to include in their catalogue - ‘did someone say dream job?’  So imagine our excitement when we were presented with the opportunity to interview Rachel Koffsky, their London based Handbags Specialist. She also offers expert advise on the best and worst ways to store your handbags right here on Christie's official website. Looking to thin out or more importantly expand your bag collection? Read on to get a peek behind the curtains of this legendary auction house.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

 Rachel Koffsky at Christie's with a Metallic Bronze Birkin that sold for €100.000 in Paris, 2017

Rachel Koffsky at Christie's with a Metallic Bronze Birkin that sold for €100.000 in Paris, 2017

Absolutely, I am a Specialist of Handbags & Accessories at Christie’s in London. As an expert in designer accessories from brands such as Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, I advise my clients on their collections, curate the handbag auctions in Europe, and authenticate, appraise and catalogue the pieces that come in to Christie’s. In addition to my professional life as a Handbag Specialist, I can frequently be found in museums and galleries, running through London parks, as well as red wine and octopus tasting along the European coastline.

 

You have a background in art history; how did you transition into becoming a Handbag & Accessories Specialist at Christies?

My educational background in Art History is perhaps surprisingly one of my biggest assets as a Handbag specialist. My critical, art-historical tactile skills are frequently applied to date and authenticate pieces, accurately identify Hermès colours and materials, and provide thorough condition reports. Additionally, I love the history of design and how the accessories that we carry as women (and men!) are informed by our societal roles at the time of their invention. Handbags are some of our most intimate possessions, and they say much more about us than might appear at first glance.

 

You come across the most exquisite luxury handbags on a daily basis, what are you always on the lookout for when selecting products for an upcoming auction?

I am so spoiled! I get the opportunity to see the most beautiful and rare pieces in the world. Like any other market, the handbag category is ruled by supply and demand. Most vintage pieces, as you would expect, are crafted of black calf leather. While black calf leather is timeless, elegant and durable, it is the extreme rarities that truly drive collectors wild. Precious materials, such as lizard, ostrich and crocodile - especially in vibrant hues, like pink or green are much more unusual and carry a higher premium on the secondary market. And of course – the item’s condition! Pieces that are 20 years old that look like new are the sorts of gems that drive collectors mad.

 

Have you found your Holy Grail bag and how does it complement your personal style?

I must be honest; my favourite bag in the world is the Hermès Constance. I love that a woman designed it over 50 years ago, and the iconic design has changed very little in the time since. It is elegant and chic but functional with a shoulder strap, and easily transitions from day to night. In a word, it’s perfect!

 

What are classically the most desirable pieces at an auction and how do you discover these?

The most desirable pieces at auction are the vintage pieces in unusual and exotic materials, rare colours and exceptional condition. I travel across Europe, meeting with clients and discussing the market for their pieces. When the time is right, we put the special gem in a sale and let the handbag collectors around the world vie for a chance to add it to their collection!

 

 
 The most valuable handbag in the world: The Mouawad 1001 Nights Diamond Purse, estimated at $3.8 million in 2010

The most valuable handbag in the world: The Mouawad 1001 Nights Diamond Purse, estimated at $3.8 million in 2010

 

In recent years, have you seen a rise in demand for luxury handbags in the resale industry and what do you attribute that to?

Absolutely, many more consumers are becoming comfortable with the secondary market, whether that is purchasing at auction, a vintage boutique or even on an e-commerce resale site. Celebrities have also championed vintage collecting, bringing what was once a niche category into the mainstream. Additionally, conversations about sustainability have begun to emphasise the importance of thoughtfully investing in pieces, whether they are preowned or new.

 

What advise would you give others who wish to follow a similar type of career path?

Say yes to everything! Internships are a great way to get experience. Show your love for vintage handbags and accessories on social media – it is a great way to connect with others who share your passion, whether it is networking or just making a new friend who will accompany you to vintage fairs.

 

Do you have a favourite accessory that you just can’t part with and what is its story?

In addition to handbags, one of my favourite accessories is the Hermès scarf. I always have one tucked in my pocket or handbag. It is the perfect way to dress up a white button down with jeans, to wrap around your neck if it’s a bit chilly, or use as a last-minute headband on a less than ideal hair day. Since Hermès began creating scarves in 1937, over 2000 have been produced. It is said that one is sold every 25 seconds!

 

You’ve recently had the chance to try out the services of The Restory and revive your Chanel bag, why is restoration important to you?

Condition is one of the most important indicators of value for handbags. It can affect the value of the product substantially. In addition to storing handbags and accessories properly, regular spa services and overall maintenance will ensure that your pieces are looking their best- whether it is because you want to wear your piece, resell it now or possibly later. If there is a condition issue to one of your pieces, it is best to have it fixed as soon as possible so that damage does not become permanent! And of course, the most important thing in my opinion is to enjoy your collection. Handbags are an extension of our personality, so show it off!

 Rachel Koffsky carrying a Hermès Kelly at Christie's 

Rachel Koffsky carrying a Hermès Kelly at Christie's 

 Rachel Koffsky with the Mouawad 1001 Nights Diamond Purse

Rachel Koffsky with the Mouawad 1001 Nights Diamond Purse

Manolo Blahnik: " The Shoe Must Go On"

Emily John
 Manolo Blahnik Men's Brogue Sketch  (Source: Manolo Blahnik Official )

Manolo Blahnik Men's Brogue Sketch  (Source: Manolo Blahnik Official )

If Manolo Blahnik is the Emperor of Shoes, he’s expanding his emporium. With the new opening of his first Men’s store on 34 Burlington Arcade –right next to the women’s, he’s finally complying to the ever increasing enthusiasm for his men’s designs. Manolo Blahnik may have been on top of the (women) shoe game for more than 40 years; it’s a little known fact that the ‘Manolo’ has been around since the 70’s. Throughout the years, he’s been crafting his own shoes to match the signature pastel hued suits and designing for close friends but his brand has never been prominently associated with men’s shoes. That’s about to change.

Thanks to his impeccable designs and of course Carrie’s Manolo obsession in Sex and the City, Blahnik has acquired sacrosanct status among shoe crazy women around the world and his popularity seems undying. In fact, we found ourselves so enamoured with a pair of soiled ivory Hangisi pumps, we decided to monitor their restoration journey and dedicate a whole case study to their revival!

 Manolo Blahnik Sketching

Manolo Blahnik Sketching

Born during the 50’s on the Canary Islands, Manolo enjoyed a privileged upbringing on the banana plantations of Santa Cruz, where he initially made shoes for the local lizards out of Cadbury’s chocolate bon bons at a very young age; an early indication of his inventive brain and shoe mastery. After attending boarding school in Geneva and working as an antiquarian in Paris, he ended up in London during the 70’s and fell head over heels for it’s dynamic fashion scene. His fate was sealed when he met Diana Vreeland in New York, who by glancing at his sketches, urged him to focus on shoes. And thus with Vreeland’s blessing, history was made.

Manolo presented his first shoe collection in 1971 and opened his first boutique the following year on Old Church Street in London.  His designs were adored and worn by the likes of Princess Diana and Bianca Jagger, who even rode a white horse into Studio 54 while wearing a pair of Manolo’s. But what’s really impressive in this day and age is that Manolo still designs every single shoe and even hand carves the samples all by himself, often working more than 12 hours a day. Forever chasing perfectionism, his creativity came into full bloom when he designed 23 pairs of macaroon coloured mules to match the lavish 17th century dresses in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette- dare we say one of the best shopping scenes in movie history!

 Marie Antoinette 2006 

Marie Antoinette 2006 

 Manolo Blahnik 2017

Manolo Blahnik 2017

And now you can fulfil your Manolo Blahnik desires all at once in the Burlington Arcade where men’s and women’s shoes, bags as well as limited editions will be available for sale. The men’s line will be hand- stitched, carry signature lining and one can also expect an abundance of colour and a variety of choice. And soon you’ll probably be able to enjoy your shopping experience with a rare whisky in your hand as plans are in motion to add a bar to the men’s top floor. Finally, it seems men will also get to experience shoe shopping as an indulgence rather than a chore.

As seasoned shoe fanatics, we will always have a soft spot for Manolo Blahnik at The Restory atelier. Special shoes deserve special care, and our artisans are able to provide you with the best advise and repairwork to revive a satin heel with a new colour or a men’s brogue with some military shine. Book your collection with The Restory here. 

 Men's Store Inside Burlington Arcade

Men's Store Inside Burlington Arcade

For our clients visiting or living in North America, we highly recommend The Art of Shoes exhibition on Manolo Blahnik at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. It is a retrospective covering the 45 years he spent dedicating to shoe design, with more than 200 shoes on display! Open until January 2019.

Exotic Leathers: The Ins And Outs

Emily John
 Oscar De La Renta Croc Bag '18

Oscar De La Renta Croc Bag '18

When we hear the term exotic leather we automatically think of snakeskin, crocodile or ostrich. But the spectrum of exotics is much larger than that; in fact, the definition of exotic leather comprises alligator to chicken legs and even elephant skin. Due to rising demand for exotics, luxury fashion houses are now trying to make their products even more exclusive by acquiring animal farms and tanneries. For instance, LVHM owns a crocodile farm while Kering invested in a tanning facility, specialising in crocodile skins. So why is exotic leather so covetable? Mainly because of the unique texture, colour and feel. And while bovine leather is flooding the market, only 1% of globally traded leather is exotic- adding to its value. Because of the great variety in exotics, here we will explore the precious skins that frequently pass through our atelier and also touch base on the tanning process of exotic leathers. Want to see exactly how we repair exotics? Take a look at our case studies Snakeskin Louboutin Pumps, Exotic Skin Clutch & The Miami Croc Bag.

ALLIGATOR

Alligator skin is soft, delicate and highly expensive. Despite its softness, alligator does not tend to stretch out, mostly due to the hard scales that can have a bony structure. However, the skin is more pliable than that of other reptiles. Therefore, alligator is usually easy to cut, stitch or fold. And how do you tell alligator and crocodile apart you wonder? Luckily, crocodile has dot-sized pores on the croc scales while the alligator remains smooth in texture. 

 Hermès Alligator & Lizard Kelly

Hermès Alligator & Lizard Kelly

CROCODILE

One of the most sought-after exotics, crocodile is very expensive and a somewhat durable but mostly a delicate material. The most expensive type of Hermès leather is for instance the Matte Porosus crocodile sourced from Australia. The Porosus can be distinguished by the small markings on the surface that are the remnants of the sensory pores to help the crocodile navigate in water. This type of crocodile skin, that’s taken from the belly of the animal, also has very fine, symmetrical scales- that makes the leather so expensive. Crocodile skin is available in a matt or shiny version, where the latter is buffed vigorously to achieve the desired affect. Ironically, both alligator and crocodile skins must be kept away from water to prevent spots that do not fade.

 Gabriella Hearst Croc Bag

Gabriella Hearst Croc Bag

SNAKESKIN

Generally produced from commercially farmed sea snakes, the leather is thin, flexible and delicate. Snakeskin has a very particular grain and scales that protect the snake from outside elements as it sheds off the dead skin. The size of the scales depends on the age of the snake and the area of the skin that was cut. Snakeskin can appear dry after the tanning process and natural colour pattern is normally bleached to achieve evenly coloured skin. Besides bags, snakeskin is mostly used to create footwear.

 

 Burberry Snakeskin

Burberry Snakeskin

OSTRICH

Out of all exotic leathers, ostrich is the most durable and has a thick, luxurious feel. The natural oils in the leather keep it soft and supple and prevent cracking despite extreme exposure to heat. Though it has water resistant qualities, it should be noted that the skin naturally darkens over time. Each follicle that contained a feather leaves a quill pattern –and an actual hole - behind and the area with the most feather socket markings is the most coveted and naturally also the most expensive piece of the leather.

 Gucci Bamboo Ostrich

Gucci Bamboo Ostrich

STINGRAY

Stingray is the Superman of exotic leathers as it’s almost immune to scuffs, scratches and sometimes, even punctures. Unlike any other material, the fibres present in the leather run inconsistently, which makes it difficult to tear. Additionally, stingray doesn’t stain and is naturally water resistant. On the other hand, the very rigid skin with small bone like scales is very difficult to cut or sew into and can break needles. And because of the limited size of the leather panels it takes much longer to manufacture.

 Marco de Vincenzo Stingray Heels

Marco de Vincenzo Stingray Heels

LIZARD

Even in the realm of exotics, lizard is a bit of a rarity. Made out of the hides of African water monitors, lizard is also a very delicate skin type that runs the risk of drying out if not regularly serviced. It’s what we would call high maintenance leather, as it requires special attention and should be kept at a comfortable temperature to avoid peeling or, as previously mentioned, drying.

 

 Hèmes Lizard Kelly

Hèmes Lizard Kelly

TANNING

There are two main processes in exotic leather tanning, namely vegetable tanning and chrome tanning. Vegetable tanning is a method whereby natural tannins, from tree bark and fruits and leaves, are used to give the leather a certain shade of brown. It’s an eco-friendly alternative to chrome tanning- a highly chemical process, which can damage the environment. However, the largest drawback of vegetable tanning is that it tends to discolour when damaged by water. Contrary, chrome tanning allows for more vibrant and opaque colours without the risk of discolouration due to the chromium sulfates and salts.

 

Whatever the skin and whatever the tanning method, exotic leathers require a bit of extra help to preserve longevity of a product. That’s why The Restory treats these as bespoke and individually tailored services so all you have to think of is passing it down to the next generation. Our Client Services Team  will answer all your exotic leather queries sent to service@the-restory.com