Updated: Sep 28
Here at The Suitstainable Man, one of the fundamental reasons for why buying quality is more sustainable is that the wearer tends to take better care of his/ her garments or accessories.
So far, I have mainly focused on writing about how and where to buy high-quality items, which is essentially a more advanced way to build a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe. (More on the 5 different ways in building an ethical wardrobe here)
That being said, in today's article, we will shift gears to look at the very foundational ― the process of maintaining them. Specifically, we will be looking at a recent shoe repair experience I had with Kokos, a shoe-repair specialist based in East Finchley in north London.
Let me start by stating Kokos is a name that any die-hard shoe enthusiast should have in their contacts.
Cobblers are difficult to come by, and good cobblers who have the skills to add fiddled waist to an old, ordinary pair of Goodyear-welted/ hand-welted shoes are even harder to come by. Yet, Kokos makes one fine example of the latter.
Sitting just under 5 minutes away from East Finchley tube station, the footwear repair specialist, owned by Maria and George Stavrou, has been providing repair-services to its London, other UK, and even international clients since 1976.
What made this family-owned business to reach this level of success and become internationally-renowned is a combination of factors.
Some may say it has to do with the fact that the East Finchley shopfront was formally known as “The East Finchley Boot and Shoe Repairing Company”, which ran for approximately 52 years before the young couple converted it into Kokos; especially since some of the first-rate equipment stocked at the shop could be traced as far back as the 1920s, when the footwear-repairing industry was at its peak.
Others, including myself, would say it is attributed to the then young cobbler George, who has been a master at footwear repairs since he was 18, having being taught by his father early in life for that matter.
From then onwards, with the craftsman's ever-improving repairing techniques and the business' foresight to be one of the earliest independent shoe retailers to stock exclusive designer leather goods from Italy, word of mouth soon spread; and Kokos would eventually become an authorized footwear repairer for a few leading brands, as well as a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen.
Hence, with such positive reviews, I decided to send in a well-worn pair of Anthony Cleverley for resoling, after almost having worn down the front of the shoes to its welt. There were also some severe scratch marks here and there at the toe cap, largely due to my own aggressive (and perhaps clumsy) way of walking. (picture below)
Overall speaking, the duration of the repair was short and the communication process was quick and excellent. Even under the current lockdown situation here in the UK, the whole process only took about a week, with an extra 2-3 days added for the delivery.
And if you can't live without your beloved shoes, you could also specify how soon you prefer them to be returned ― this is an option which Christopher Stavrou, the person I communicated with (and the son of the couple I believe) kindly offered.
Nevertheless, it was the quality of the craftsmanship that truly superseded my expectations.
Let me clarify ― I have encountered bad cobblers that effectively destroyed an old pair of loafers by penetrating the insole with a nail. I have also tried out some London-based artisans when I brought back a few of my Goodyear-welted shoes to the Northampton brands I've purchased from. However, none of these experiences came close to this one with Kokos.
As you could see from the picture below, the front of the outsole has first been treated with additional layers of leather fillings which even out the flatness of that area. After that is achieved, then metal toe plates (in this case they are from Lulu) were added to make the outsole less prone to damage from wear.
Finally, the outsole was also repainted to make it look as if it is original. (The small patches of discoloration below with the Lulu toe caps being visible here and there, by the way, was resulted from a scratch caused during the photoshoot.)
However, the story doesn't end just here.
If you recall from the 'before' picture above, you could see the black fillings that I used to cover the deep cut has disappeared and is now perfectly concealed, potentially by using the Saphir Renovating repair cream.
I have personally tried to cover that spot myself, either by adding many layers of shoe cream or even applying the renovating cream itself. However, I have never reached that level of evenness that is shown in the picture above, especially since it requires precise dexterity and patience.
Now, provided that I did not request Kokos to refurbish that part for me, I am even more impressed and pleased by their service.
All in all, I would say Kokos is a shoe repair service which I would recommend. I cannot emphasize more how the moment when I unboxed the shoes was like if I welcomed back an old friend who has previously been hospitalized for an incurable illness, whose health is now better than ever.
Apart from the resoling services I have mentioned above, the family-owned business also provides customization to the sole, which is something that the client (at least for me) would feel more comfortable to do with an independent cobbler, rather than the original shoemaker.
They also provide refurbishing services to international clients now, as previously mentioned. And with that being said, this marks the end of the review. Take care, and bye for now.
Disclaimer: This write-up is not sponsored, nor did I receive any discounts, payments, or benefits in any form, just like any of my previous articles. I wrote this simply because Kokos does a great job and they should be covered more in my opinion.
Photography: as specified, otherwise own.