On artisan sneakers and the repair and re-wear movement

Drake's Doek sneaker

While I was picking up Mr DRG’s birthday present from Drake’s last month (excellent service if I may say so), I was instantly attracted to these Doek canvas sneakers (above). In an array of primary colours, these Japanese beauties (particularly the blue) have the elegant almond toe and easy demeanour of a 60s Vans, but with a slightly chunkier sole and a cork footbed.

They’re £145 but my understanding is that the vulcanised sole means they’re much more durable than a glued-sole Converse All Star (my usual low-key sneaker of choice). According to various websites and Reddits, the rubber of the Doek shoe is heated with sulphur to produce a polymer, which is a more robust form of rubber. It’s then moulded around the shoe and baked in a kiln – like pottery! – irreversibly melding the sole to the canvas upper. This helps justify the price somewhat (along with the fact that the canvas itself takes three months to weave, from indigo dyed thread), compared to an £80 Converse.

Trunk Doek Oxford Indigo canvas sneaker.jpg

It got me thinking about the whole repair and re-wear movement, in which brands like Golden Goose now offer in-store aftercare services. This not only helps your shoes last longer but keeps you coming back to the store.

In Milan, the Golden Goose flagship now accommodates workshops for cobblers and embroiderers to carry out bespoke repairs on the $500 artisan sneakers. (Their sneakers actually have the same individually sewn uppers and hand-hammered soles as formal shoes.) But as well as repairs, they offer all manner of customisation such as embroidery. As Golden Goose CEO Silvio Campara explains to the New York Times, “someone who feels taken care of will always return, and repairs help keep my products in your life and in your memory.” According to Campara, customers tell their friends about the experience and often buy more sneakers when they come to the store for collection.

While an on-premises repair facility is quicker and cheaper than sending Japanese-made shoes back to the kiln for resoling, I quite like the concept of repairing even ‘throwaway’ items like £80 Converse. And maybe in future, the way sneakers are made could have the long-term repair philosophy baked in, so they’re cheaper and easier to repair in the long run.

For now, as Colin Nagy says in his recent newsletter, “the most interesting part of luxury…is the things that go on behind the scenes, and the promises that are kept for consumers when things go wrong. The true test of luxury is what happens on the back end. And the best brands do service, repairs, and customer service impeccably.”

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl; Trunk
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

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