The Balenciaga Triple S sneakers cost almost 2,000 Rand.
- Shoe Lab started in January 2020 as a local cobbler polishing an Adidas Gazelle for £10.
- It is now a UK-wide service, repairing hundreds of pairs of luxury shoes every week.
- The founders of Shoe Lab work with the belief that many major luxury shoe brands are not interested in making their shoes last.
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A small shoe repair shop in the east of England has become a favorite among British celebrities and sports stars who need repairs to their trendy sneakers, heels and ballet flats.
The Shoe Lab in Boston, Lincolnshire started in January 2020 as a local cobbler polishing Adidas Gazelles for £10. It is now a UK-wide service that repairs hundreds of pairs of Gucci, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton shoes every week.
The Shoe Lab’s success is due to its captivating videos showing the process of repairing £5,000 Christian Dior sneakers and £900 Christian Louboutin heels for its 50,000 Instagram followers.
Almost every day, the store revives worn Balenciaga logos and scuffed Gucci tennis shoes, earning praise from celebrities such as singer Carey Katona, Island of love star Joe Garratt and England cricket captain Ben Stokes, as well as style and fitness influencers with millions of followers.
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The work is highly skilled and painstaking. Head of drawing Andreia Pacheco, who also makes Shoe Lab videos on Instagram, says she can spend 20 minutes fixing one Alexander McQueen logo.
Shoe Lab’s founders believe that many major high-end shoe brands are not interested in making their shoes last, which created an opportunity for the repair shop. Co-founder Luke Goodyear, 32, says he would never buy a pair of sneakers from Axel Arigato or the Burberry Group because the ink runs off.
“The spikes on Louboutin sneakers come off all the time,” says co-founder Kai Overton. “Last week someone posted that 25 spikes fell off,” all from one pair. That’s about a quarter of the 100 or so spikes that come on a new shoe.
“Even though people are paying £1,000 for shoes like these Diors, the paint on them can bleed,” adds Darren Overton, 55, Kai’s business partner and father.
“You’d think if you paid £1,000 the ink wouldn’t flow.” (Representatives for Burberry, Christian Dior, Christian Louboutin and Axel Arigato did not respond to requests for comment.)
Shoe Lab owners have found that the best repeat business comes from Louboutin owners. Customers wear them out on the town “once and the red is gone,” Kai says. Others will “save for a whole year to get them, so they’ll ask for the red protective film on the bottom,” he adds. A distinctive sole is of great importance.
“You’ll never see a girl in Louboutins standing still on social media. They’re all going to do it,” he says, lifting his foot to show the back of the shoe.
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Some customers send dozens of pairs of shoes for repair at the same time. Much of the footwear is loved, well-worn and used – a £5,000 pair of Dior sneakers was repaired after being damaged while skateboarding – but a lot of the work goes into correcting shoddy repairs by other companies or customer mistakes.
Owners of spiked sneakers often try to stick them on with huge dabs of store-bought superglue, which inevitably smudges and smudges the finish. “It happens all the time,” observes Kai.
Putting shoes in the washing machine is another big opportunity for Shoe Lab. “It completely ruins the suede,” Kai says, noting the mark on the material when it’s healthy: “We’ll brush it all back so you can see your fingers brushing it again.”
Goodyear is particularly excited about the prospect of people wearing sneakers to dirty music festivals and the subsequent demand for his services. But he knows that Shoe Lab’s customers mostly roam the Kings Road rather than charging through Tough Mudder.
The team is amazed at how quickly the company has grown and the total number of shoes they repair each day is around 50-plus pairs. Kai, a self-described “shoe junkie,” says he has £35,000 worth of shoes and custom-made shelves around his bed to display them.
“The world has gone mad. Kids today want Alexander McQueens for Christmas,” he says. And if they get damaged, Shoe Lab will be there to fix them.