Dubai-based The Cobbler specialises in repairing luxury bags and shoes
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Dubai-based The Cobbler specialises in repairing luxury bags and shoes

Dubai-based The Cobbler specialises in repairing luxury bags and shoes

Sibylle Arnold-Shish, founder of The Cobbler, provides an overview of the business – including its bespoke shoe division

Gulf Business
Sibylle Arnold-Shish, The Cobbler

Why did you decide to start up this venture?
When moving to Dubai from London 13 years ago, my husband found it difficult to find decently priced formal shoes, as much as I was struggling to find a trustworthy place to repair my shoes and bags. Clearly, there was a gap in the market, and people would bring their bags and shoes back to their home country as they could not get them fixed the way they wanted here. This is how the concept of The Cobbler emerged.

Give us a business overview and scope of operations at The Cobbler.
The Cobbler is a destination for shoe lovers in quest for expertise, uniqueness and heritage. We offer entry luxury ranges of formal shoes, sneakers and accessories for men, as well as repair and restoration services for many brands, including women’s shoes, Arabic sandals, and even bags.

Today we operate four stores across the UAE and an e-commerce platform. We have enacted a digital transformation plan last year, to provide a seamless omnichannel experience to our customers. We offer free pickup and delivery that can be booked online or over the phone. We also provide B2B services to luxury brands.

Tell us about the The Cobbler’s workshops here in the UAE.
Our aim has always been to keep an ancestral savoir-faire alive, and to transmit our traditions, passion and skills to new generations. Our Master Cobbler, called “Compagnon du devoir” in French, is training our craftsmen accordingly. We are very proud to count craftsmen from various culture, but who all share a common thirst of excellence. Innovation is nevertheless a pillar of our workshop, which is constantly experimenting new methods that would seamlessly integrate with our fundamentals.

The Cobbler Dubai
The Cobbler in Dubai says that it can repair and restore almost every part of a shoe or bag

How does your repair and restoration service work?
We can basically repair and restore almost every part of a shoe or bag. We can change heels, soles and insoles, stretch or tighten [the products], revamp, restitch, clean, remove stains and also change colours. Our teams – in the shops or over the phone – are experts. They assess what can be done and commit on a date [on which the job will be completed]. One of our biggest achievements today is the level of trust that we have managed to build with our customers, gained through our desire to answer their needs with the upmost attention to detail.

Which are some of the most expensive and laborious restoration services that The Cobbler has successfully undertaken?
It was a Hermès briefcase that was fully torn after being used for 20 years. We had to dissemble it completely, and then reassemble it the same way as in their factory. Sourcing the right material, copying the grain, reproducing the stitching and thread was tough and demanding, but the result was impressive, and the customer wouldn’t stop thanking us.

Tell us about the bespoke shoe creation side of the business.
Producing bespoke shoes is an exclusive service that we provide to our most valuable customers. This is a process which take approximately 4-6 months. We start from a blank sheet with the customer, and we build it from there, creating the shape, defining the colour and stitching according to his desires. All together it involves 90 hours of work. It is, of course, entirely handmade.

The Cobbler Dubai
The Cobbler creates bespoke shoes in a process which take approximately 4-6 months

Which are the new businesses that The Cobbler will expand into? ?
With more and more people working from home and looking for smart casual footwear, we have just launched a sneakers range and we are very pleased with the welcome from our customers. Shoe care and accessories such as socks are also part of our range – we distribute Albert’s socks, brand of our sister company. We will soon launch a new Sneaker Cleaning service, that will clean efficiently and safely all kind of sneakers, leather or fabric, including their soles.

Are there any traditional leather crafts and practices that The Cobbler is trying to revive?
All of the repair techniques we use are based on a traditional savoir-faire, however the full resoling is probably the service that best encapsulates our ancestral knowhow. Entirely removing a sole and restitching a new one to give a pair a second life requires a set of skills that a craftsman will only gain through years of practice. The hand-stitching method is also very artistic.

How has The Cobbler approached customer service and managed to retain loyalty?
The customer’s experience is paramount to us. We want our customers to be able to engage with our experts wherever they are and whenever they want, which is why it was so important to us to be omnichannel. We are just a WhatsApp away from our audience. We aim to provide quick and precise answers. We don’t overpromise, we explain what we do and we commit.

What are the expansion plans for the business?
We are in the process of expanding our online and brick-and-mortar presence across the GCC.

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