Balenciaga’s Triple S sneakers cost nearly R2,000.
- Shoe Lab started in January 2020 as a local cobbler cleaning Adidas Gazelles for £10.
- It’s now a UK-wide service that repairs hundreds of pairs of luxury shoes every week.
- The founders of Shoe Lab work on the premise that many top luxury shoe brands aren’t 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 their trainers, heels and flats repaired.
Shoe Lab, based in Boston, Lincolnshire, started in January 2020 as a local shoemaker cleaning Adidas Gazelles for £10. It’s now a UK-wide service that repairs hundreds of pairs of Gucci, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton shoes every week.
Shoe Lab’s success comes from its addictive and satisfying videos showing the process of repairing £5,000 Christian Dior trainers and £900 Christian Louboutin heels for its 50,000 Instagram followers.
Almost daily, the store brings to life worn Balenciaga logos and tattered Gucci tennis sneakers, garnering praise from celebrities like singer Kerry Katona, the 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 laborious. Paint manager Andreia Pacheco, who also directs Shoe Lab’s Instagram videos, says she can spend 20 minutes fixing a single Alexander McQueen logo.
The founders of Shoe Lab work on the premise that many major luxury shoe brands aren’t interested in making their shoes last, which created an opportunity for the repair shop. Co-founder Luke Goodyear, 32, says he will never buy a pair of sneakers from Axel Arigato or the Burberry group because of the ink that tends to run.
“The tips of Louboutin sneakers fall off all the time,” says co-founder Kye Overton. “Someone messaged the other week saying 25 spikes fell off,” all of a single pair. That’s about a quarter of the roughly 100 spikes that come on new shoes.
“Even if people pay £1,000 for shoes, like these Diors, the dye can run on them,” adds Darren Overton, 55, partner and Kye’s 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 return requests for comment.)
Shoe Lab owners have found that the best business activity comes from Louboutin owners. Customers wear them around town “once, and the red goes away,” says Kye. Others “will save all year to have them, so they will ask for a red protective film on the underside”, he adds. The distinctive sole is of utmost importance.
“You’ll never see a girl on social media wearing Louboutins standing still. They’ll do all that,” he says, lifting his leg to show the back of the shoe.
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Some customers send dozens of pairs of shoes at a time for repair. Much of the footwear is well-loved, well-worn and well-used – a pair of £5,000 Dior trainers were repaired after being damaged while skateboarding – but a lot of work comes from fixing quality repair work inferior to other companies or customer errors.
Owners of spiked sneakers often try to glue them back on with huge dabs of store-bought superglue, which inevitably stains and stains the finish. “It happens all the time,” Kye observes.
Putting shoes in a washing machine is another big no-no and an opportunity for Shoe Lab. “It totally ruins the suede,” Kye says, noting the mark of the material when it’s sound: “We’re going to brush it all out so you can see your fingers brush it again.”
Goodyear is particularly excited about the prospect of people wearing their sneakers at muddy music festivals and the subsequent demand for his services. But he knows that Shoe Lab customers mostly walk down King’s Road, not a Tough Mudder.
The team is baffled by how quickly the business has grown and by the total number of shoes they repair every day, over 50 pairs. Kye, a self-proclaimed ‘shoe addict’, says he owns £35,000 worth of shoes and has built shelves around his bed designed to show them off.
“The world has gone crazy. Today the kids want Alexander McQueens for Christmas,” he says. And when they get damaged, Shoe Lab will be there to fix them.