The importance of shoe repairers

The Redwood Blog
Published:  17 November, 2015
Michael Redwood

I was talking on the phone with a friend last week, and joking that the Church's shoes I was about to wear to a formal dinner had been resoled a few times, and I had originally bought them in the 1970s. "Ridiculous" my colleague said, but she implied a certain respect for a pair of shoes that can command such loyalty. Certainly, my shoes are old and the leather lining is no longer complete but, properly polished, they still work for certain occasions and I have no intention of giving them up any time soon.

I am clearly not the only one interested in keeping well loved footwear alive as while shopping in our local town on Saturday, we dropped into our shoe-mender and waited in a long queue. People where handing over well worn footwear and, after apologising for the poor condition, they were asking if it was possible to have them repaired. In every case the repairman said that he would have them ready in a few days’ time. He is working eighteen-hour days to complete the work and has never been so busy.

Reading what Andy Seaward has been writing fits this scenario as it seems increasingly likely that cheaper footwear is going away from leather towards textiles and plastics. Both of these are more suited to automation and reduced staff training. This pushes leather into higher priced, higher quality shoes. At the Lectra sponsored forum in Hong Kong at APLF 2014 it was suggested that, at a retail price of €100 or more, consumers will both care for their footwear and pay to have it repaired.

Generally speaking, items made of leather benefit from a minimum amount of care and attention, and can be repaired. They are not really suited for the ‘use once and throw away’ brigade. Even in countries where consumers like to keep changing instead of throwing out, articles like handbags are heading into a busy second hand market. In the outdoor sector, brands have known for some years that consumers want to be able to repair gear and not just use it a few times; particularly so with rucksacks. So the search went out to find saddlers and harness makers to help do this repair work. It is a growing area. Shortage of staff is not unusual in this sector as demand increases and many traditional skills have been slipping away. Even our man is looking for staff who he can train to work with him.

We do ask all designers to think of end of life of the items they use leather in. While this remains important, it is nice to know that unlike so much in our disposable society most items made of leather have many years of use, maintenance and, occasionally, repair ahead of them before end of life even needs to be considered.

 Listen to the podcast here: The importance of shoe repairers

Mike Redwood

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

Publication and Copyright of "The Redwood Blog" remains with the publishers of International Leather Maker. The articles cannot be reproduced in any way without the express permission of the publisher.

comments powered by Disqus