The repair shop

A lady who works wonders with leathers


This article is taken from the April 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

I was planning on writing about The Restory this month. You know, the haute repair operation with a base in Selfridges, generally considered The Future of Fashion. Only the day I started on this it was declared no more, its founders falling on their needles.

The Restory was extremely good at what it did, however its costs were exorbitant even by Planet Fashion standards. When I sampled it, I took in three items: a couture confection that is basically an entire bird’s wing sported across the skull to signal my resentment at weddings; a £300 (thus “mid-market”) Little Liffner leather reticule desperate for a spruce; and a treasured 30 quid pleather Zara clutch in need of an overhaul.

The Restory was extremely good at what it did, however its costs were exorbitant

We sallied forth with the titfer — generously subbed by Selfridges — a beautiful job involving endless inquiries as to the angle of jauntiness, degree of stability, and breed of raptor required. However, to proceed with the Little Liff would have cost a prohibitive £855, the Zara — wait for it — £1,045, and that was with a press discount. Even pals having £5k Chanel “investment pieces” replenished balked at such sums.

Well, pending some deus ex machina, The Restory is no more. Selfridges looks likely to take over its clientele, with its Reselfridges target of 45 per cent of transactions issuing from circular products and services by 2030.

In 2021, the store handled more than 28,000 customer renovations. Its trainer rehab, Sneakers ER, has proved such a success in London that it will be rolled out to Manchester and Birmingham. Meanwhile, its Repairs Concierge is available at Oxford Street and online.

I will continue to seek out Westminster’s Jackie Rogers, the capital’s top cobbler. This is not to say that she charges Restory-type fees.

Despite knowing the estimate that I had received, she billed me £40 (rather than £855) for the Little Liffner refurb, £140 (instead of £1,045) for colour-matching, then completely recreating the Zara. Women’s heels start at 15 quid a pair.

Fashion mavens apart, her clientele also features local families and institutions which I must not name, yet are even more demanding of their footwear than I am. My late mother would have disputed this, the phrase: “You’re hard on shoes” never being far from her lips. What can I say? I get into fights.

And, yet, as my niece once observed: “Hannah wears princess shoes every day.” The enabler of this paradox is Ms Rogers. Jackie’s father, Roy, was a larger-than-life individual who always sported a suit and tie even when at his machines. A third-generation cobbler, she inherited the business at 27, teaching herself on the job. For 21 years, she operated out of a tiny shop above Victoria tube station, besieged by commuters and Telegraph hacks.

In 2021, she upped sticks to Horseferry Road, where she is frequented by politicos and Channel 4 execs. She also provides a postal repair and renovation service, receiving packages from all over the globe.

For, once one has sampled her skills, it is impossible to go anywhere else. Her love of the thing and her perfectionism are a joy to behold, be it fixing shoes and bags; tailoring the calves on boots; machining in zips and patches; attaching the scarlet mirror soles to Louboutins; mending for Jones the Bootmaker; cutting the cathedral’s keys; or adding heels to flats for those, like me, medically unable to have their feet on the ground.

Her love of the thing and her perfectionism are a joy to behold

Women may be said to fetishise shoes, but it is men who devote funds to caring for them (£120 for a “full leather”, or resole), just as it is chaps who will always purchase the more costly umbrella. JR being as beautiful as she is capable, her customers routinely fall in love with her and ask her out. I’m a straight woman and even I fell in love with her and asked her out.

Rogers’s message to the world is: “Spray your shoes to save your shoes” — one senses she would like to insert the word “sodding” here. Her recommendation is Nanex Leather & Textile Protector, which she sells for £19 a can, and, indeed, it is phenomenal.

Interestingly, despite the sustainability kudos and colossal prices paid at auction, she warns against vintage purchases. “Leather has a lifespan, left untreated, even if never used. Even Vuitton will crack after 30 years.” The King had better not sport his 50-year-old Lobbs for the Coronation. Or, if he does, he’ll have to take a jaunt to Jackie first.

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