CASE STUDY: Vintage Suitcase
Goodwood Revival has just completed its nineteenth year, a sold-out event celebrating classic car racing. It also asks guests to dress accordingly: vintage clothes and accessories, meaning some star blasts from the past are on show. There is a resurgence of vintage fever and we at The Restory have an innate appreciation for well-preserved leather goods - and those with provenance serve to indulge our desire for classics from the past even more. We simply get a buzz from knowing something’s got history!
This suitcase was the ultimate embodiment of a piece with history and most likely one with many stories. It also represented a little bit of how we used to treat our prized possessions: understanding they should provide a good life of usage, in return for taking good care of them. Generally, a suitcase is robust enough to stand being knocked around during the course of its travels. Despite this case appearing to be vintage luggage, maybe even antique - it also had a few nifty contemporary features, such as plastic wheels and an extendable handle. The case might have had a small identity crisis but one thing can be certain: it was quality.
Constructed in stainless steel, the case arrived bent and unable to fully close. The heavy woven canvas on the outer part of the suitcase was worn and faded, the leather hinges were torn and the leather in general was in disrepair. Leather can become dry and flaky if not regularly conditioned over a long period.
Our aim is to restore and return items to their owners, looking as close to new as possible and ready for them to fall in love with again. When approaching a piece in a period style, it becomes even more important to be sympathetic in the restoration process.
In this case, the client liked the worn look of the canvas body; to them, it preserved an element of history. So instead of re-dying the body, we opted for a thorough clean. First, the steel frame was restored to its former glory and the leather accents were conditioned to make the leather more malleable; ready to be glued down. Next, the leather was lightly sanded to remove the rough surface and further conditioned to restore its texture. Working with vegetable tanned leather meant we were successfully able to re-dye it with a product that both preserves and enhances the original characteristics of the leather. The leather hinges were fully replaced using the same vegetable tanned leather, and were dyed to match the original using natural tanning methods giving it a unique finish, which presents quality leather with a lifespan beyond that of chrome tanned leather.
The “carry” handles of the suitcase had weakened considerably. To remedy this, they were removed and reinforced before being hand-stitched back on. Vegetable tanned leather is naturally very thick, in this case 2mm, so the holes were pre-punched before stitching. This guarantees the stitching will be positioned perfectly to achieve a handsome finish. The top “pull” handle of the suitcase – which was made with molded leather around the plastic - was particularly well worn, and so the Head of the Atelier recommended leather fillers and paint to restore it. To protect the handle for the future, a second layer was added in a subtle goatskin leather and hand finished by cross-stitch – ergonomically more comfortable for the client to use, as well as stronger.
The last task was to replace the hardware on the base of the suitcase with brass feet (in keeping with the original design). The result was an accurately restored piece of luggage, which retains its true and original character.
The Restory works on a bespoke service. If you have an vintage item that needs restoring, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. Upkeep really depends on the material of the item, check out our blog "A Lesson In Leather" to get a better understanding.