We get inside the mind of Paul Kaniuk, the visionary behind the ShoeSpa and the BagSpa discovering how the business is going from strength to strength one step at a time.
Those of us who have a closet full of beautiful shoes are probably far more emotionally attached to them than we would dare to admit. These shoes are at some point, going to wear out; broken heels, scuffed suede, worn out soles, it happens to the best of them and then what? Do you leave them to gather dust on a shelf or do you throw them away?
We live in an age of fast, throwaway fashion which might be good for business but it’s also helping to destroy the environment. Billions of pairs of shoes are thrown away every year. In the UK alone, 2 million pairs of shoes are thrown in to landfill each week. This creates an enormous amount of post-consumer shoe waste and is filling landfill sites around the world.
Serial entrepreneur Paul Kaniuk, (who incidentally loves his shoes,) spent many years replacing his own shoes, worn out from walking between business meetings in London city centre.
He decided to take matters into his own hands and founded what can only be described as the poshest cobblers in town – ShoeSpa London.
Paul has completely re-invented the traditional cobblers, from customer journey through to operations and technology, with a very clear goal to disrupt the aftercare fashion market both in the UK and across Europe.
ShoeSpa London is growing 20% month on month through both new and repeat business and is deemed one of London’s ‘hidden gems. It has recently expanded into the restoration of designer handbags through the launch of a new sister brand, ‘BagSpa’.
Customers can drop into the state-of-the-art London Store at Kings Cross for free consultation and advice while customers from all over the UK and Europe can easily send in their shoes and have them delivered back as good as new.
In this interview, we catch up with Paul Kaniuk to talk about ShoeSpa and his applaudable determination to make a difference in the luxury fashion market:
LM: The restoration you do is exquisite. Do you have an army of elves in the background making this happen?
PK: No, not quite! But I choose my staff very carefully as we need to find the finest craftsmen and artists who can turn a pair of shoes from a mess into a piece of art and breathe life back into them. We look for those experienced with leather and stitching, but we also teach what we do as we train them. But it’s not all about the skills they have.
We are big on mindset at ShoeSpa, and it is vital to ensure that the staff genuinely believe in what they do and why. I want them to feel good about coming to work and that they believe they stand for something. They are dedicated, enthusiastic, and the team bonds over wanting to help the environment through what they are doing daily. Feeling they have a purpose manifests in them working hard to help to grow what they are a part of. Without a highly motivated and happy team, there is no business.
LM: Do you think that people are genuinely attached to their shoes?
PK: Yes, definitely.
People get emotional about their shoes, and this is why more and more are coming to us so that we can restore and upcycle some of their favourites that they can’t bear to part with. Because we are aware of this, we make the restoration service very personal. We put in hours of focus and attention to detail and do the best job we can. We add a little tag to the restored shoes which will say, for example, ‘restored by Michael’, and then the customer feels as if the shoes have been well treated!
LM: Do you feel that there is a move to being more sustainable in the luxury fashion market?
PK: Absolutely! There have been huge changes in the fashion industry, but there is still so much more we could do. Fashion is a huge waste stream in the UK and statistics show that the average garment is thrown away after just eight wears. This ‘fast-fashion’ trend which is currently rife in the UK needs to slow down. It might be good for business, but it’s so damaging to the environment. ShoeSpa can help to give much-loved shoes and bags a second life!
Huge progress is being made in the UK in terms of awareness, and best practices and MPs are urging the UK government to end the era of throwaway clothes, shoes and bags in the fashion supply chain as this has such devastating effects on the environment.
LM: Why do you think ShoeSpa/BagSpa can help to ring the changes?
PK: We are a rich nation, but I feel we are really behind in our environmental awareness compared to other countries. We need to show how we can catch up, and businesses need to offer more solutions, but it’s tricky to find solutions which are good for the environment as well as being convenient. At ShoeSpa, we can show customers that even at the luxury end of the fashion market, there are options available to be more sustainable.
We can offer ‘slow-fashion’! By having your shoes restored with us, customers can extend their life cycle by 20-30 years. The majority of shoes at this end of the market are so well made and designed, they don’t really go out of fashion, and some can even become heirlooms for children to inherit.