The five years I lived in New York, I regularly got favourite accessories – the classic, high-end purchases that carry from season to season – refurbished so that they always looked pristine: a jeweller would tend to my necklaces, and an excellent cobbler would revive my boots ahead of a Gotham winter, shining them to a standard that would make a US marine proud.
But back in London I found a dramatic difference. Shoes were re-heeled but it didn’t last, and were never polished to a standard that befitted their worth; and handbag restoration services were slow or completely unresponsive.
Then Vanessa Jacobs, a former investment banker, entered my life. She had the same experience when moving to London 11 years ago – but being a New Yorker, she decided to do something about it. When her shoe repairer kept ruining her favourite pairs, she decided to set up The Restory, her own restoration service (price on request; shoe restoration from around £60, bags from around £130) based in west London.
When I say “entered my life”, I mean it literally: Jacobs works with clients as suits them best – and will personally collect items if they prefer, and talk through what she and her expert team can do, as well as what they can’t. Or they are happy to accept images of an item online first, in order to provide a rough quote and guide to the work required. I produced a Tod’s handbag in a chic, creamy brown that somehow ended up next to a wet newspaper on a long journey, resulting in ink marks on the leather: only my ineptitude was to blame.
The Restory’s artisans cleaned it gently, so as not to compromise the feel of the soft leather, and prepared the surface, before hand-mixing a colour and applying it in extremely fine layers, then sealing it to lock in the colour and allowing it to settle. When it was brought back to me a few weeks later, I was thrilled: the leather is perfectly restored, and it’s like having a best friend back in my life.
This impressive operation is the work of a team that includes colour restorers, alteration specialists, fabric cleaners and very busy cobblers – all hand-picked because, in Jacobs’ words, “no one is going to hand me a £10,000 bag if they think I am going to farm it out.” Her determination to provide the best in the world meant bringing her head of atelier from Brazil, and the service caters for men and women, looking after everything from general cleaning and maintenance to replacing lining or heels; reinforcing straps; repairs of fine details like buckles, eyelets, zips and studs; and even a “breaking-in” service for new shoes.
Conducting consultations in your own home is a lovely touch, and The Restory provides invaluable care and storage advice at the same time. It’s impossible in their presence not find other things to be restored, but it means my wardrobe is looking better than ever.