How To Care For Vintage Leather

My relationship with leather flourished at a young age when my mother would pass me her hand-me-downs, such as vintage leather handbags. However, caring for leather can be tricky when they are subjected to humid conditions in Singapore, often resulting in mould, cracking and damage – total heartbreak. With that said, over the years, I have gathered a few tricks up my sleeves. I'm partnering up with The ShoeTree Project to show you how I care for my favourite vintage leather.

One man's rust is another man's patina.

It's important to understand that leather is organic matter and reacts to its environment. Like our own skin, it 'lives and breathes' and will respond positively if we treat it with care. Believe it or not, leather is better used, so make it a point to wear it often because a little touch goes a long way. Good quality leather develops a patina over time which adds to its character. 

As moisture is the main culprit for mould, always remove excess moisture before storing any leather products away. The newspaper is super handy for damp shoes after the rain. I like to keep small leather items in a dry cabinet with controlled humidity level and house larger items alongside chemical dehumidifiers. If you're someone who isn't too fickle with a strong scent, I find moth balls very effective in keeping away small insects during the wet months.

Vintage leather age just like we do. Sometimes it needs a just a little help to regain its strength and lustre. One way is with a restoring moisturiser that cleans and conditions. The Saphir renovateur is an essential for my vintage burgundy loafers I purchased from Tokyo last year. What makes Saphir special is its base ingredient, mink oil, which has a similar chemical structure to the oil in our skin. Think of leather conditioner as an anti-aging product. Setting a regime for your vintage leather will definitely pay off in a long run.

To illustrate, here are my three basic steps to my leather conditioning routine;

Step 1
Using a shoe brush, brush away any surface dirt. Always remove laces. Use a minimum amount of water and a wash cloth where necessary to remove any grime buildup.

Step 2
With an old rag (I cut up an old tank top), dab a tiny amount of the Saphir renovateur. 

Step 3
Spread the product evenly on leather in small, circular motions, paying extra attention of cracks and wrinkles. Leave the leather to air dry and you're done!

It's totally up to you but I personally repeat this routine every three months or when I feel my leather needs a lift. Is the Saphir renovateur necessary? No. Does it make a difference? Absolutely. A light round of polishing already makes a visible difference to my loafers. Despite its age, the left of its pair looks just that little more 'alive'.

Just as we use hangers for our clothing, shoe trees are the equivalent for shoes. When I was younger, I used to wonder why men's footwear always had those strange looking wooden fixtures in them. There's no need to stock a pair for every pair of shoes you own, but I can't help to feel that they belong together, reviving my vintage loafers its former glory. These fragrant cedar wood shoe trees smell incredible and help to wick any moisture trapped within. They help keep the leather taught, stretching out any wrinkles that have caved in during wear, reducing the possibilities of cracking. Invest in a pair of shoe trees for your most cherished footwear, you will not regret it.

My latest vintage accessory addition is this 1960s handbag I discovered at a countryside antique market in Daylesford, Victoria. It was in decent shape with some wear and tear when I brought her home, and with a little polishing, I was able to bring back a piano-like shine. A trick of mine is to then stuff its interior with paper to retain its shape.

I love vintage bags and shoes and I make it my responsibility to preserve them the best way I can. Living in Singapore doesn't make it any easier, but with discipline and a routine, I have seen the biggest difference in my own wardrobe. Instead of buying brand new clothing, give vintage a chance. Treasure and love them, and they will do the same for you. 

I feel so happy to work with the friendly folks of The ShoeTree Project in sharing these tips with you. Do check out their website for its line of Saphir shoe conditioners and polishes and other shoe care accessories. Hope you enjoyed this post!