The Birkin Fairy takes a closer look at the skilled hands of our friend and favorite leather advisor, Docride. Recently, we sat down with her to chat about her love for history and the passion she stitches into restoring Hermes handbags. We took note of some share worthy info.
Outside of the Hermes boutiques, your workshop has become the destination for Hermes leather items needing refurbishment. How did you get started in this craft?
I got started in restoration early on. I learned to stitch and care for leather in my early teens. I would be around the saddle and spur makers and watched them like a very willing apprentice. I learned to restore over the years as I went. As for the Hermes brand; I had been around Kelly bags because my grandmother had one. But that wasn’t what inspired me. It really came from the equestrian arena, coming from horses. I was a horse gal and I made my living on a horse for many years. I also ended up doing restoration of antique sidesaddles from the turn of the century and antique boots. I love craftsmanship. It just seemed like these things should be preserved, I love the history behind the objects. I started restoring Hermes bags because I was helping people on a popular online blog (The Purse Forum), where people that love Hermes go. I would see people with answers to questions from enthusiasts that to me would get them into trouble. I would pipe in and say “we actually do this and this, it will be better”. After a while, people started to ask me questions about their vintage Hermes bags. That spiraled into doing it every single day for free for five years online. During that time people started asking if I would restore their Hermes bags. I wasn’t doing leather restoration as a business at the time, but I said “sure” and I never charged anyone. It came from being altruistic and helping people part time to a full time business. It kind of just spiraled from there.
What inspires your craft?
I love being able to help someone get something that they would normally not be able to afford or make something left to them, by their grandmother or aunt in a horrible state, beautiful again. It makes me feel good knowing that Grandma’s good intention is now being passed on to her granddaughter. There’s something about the character of the handbag; where did it come from, what life did it have, where was it carried, and where did it rest? All of the things that we would romantically think about when we hold an antique or objects crafted by hand. In this day and age when people are disposing of things, isn’t it wonderful to have something with soul and to preserve it?
May favorite leathers are... Box Calf, (old ) Barenia, Vache Natural (unfinished)
What would we see in your workshop?
Bags lined up as they come in. I tend to work on bags of the same color on the same day. Beautiful linen threads of all different colors from France, the same kind that Hermes would use. Bars of bee’s wax, assorted sizes of needles, a stitching pony, great external light and strong overhead lights.
As a skilled craftsperson, can you explain the relationship between the object and its creator?
I am definitely a romanticist. I truly believe that when we do something with our hands to restore an object, we are stitching in the same fashion, with the same sort of linen thread, that we hand wax lovingly, that we join in, now in succession with all of those who have moved their hands across this object before. You’re making a stitch in time as much as you’re making a stich in the leather. You want to think good thoughts about the people that own the bag, the person that will carry the bag. I try to stitch good will into whatever I do. I never work on a bag when I’m angry or upset. I take time to think about things. You want to have a good mind and a good heart when you work.
Can you tell us about your most challenging but successful Hermes handbag transformation?
I have a lot of those! People have even sent bags painted with house paint. A crocodile handbag was sent to me where hair dye had been spilled across the front and it was trashed. Sometimes you get to a point where you have to transform a handbag and that’s what we do here.
Could you please share one way that you can preserve the beauty of a Hermes bag?
If you have a vintage box calf handbag, I think it’s a good idea every few years to take off the old polish, condition the skin and then start polishing it again.
I love Hermes products because... They come in orange boxes!
What suggestions would you give to someone who is new to Hermes and just starting their collection?
Only buy what you truly love and what will really fit you. A handbag is your tool, an extension of your own arm to serve you. It’s not about how much you’ve spent on a handbag. Do you feel happy with it? Do you enjoy looking at it? Do you find it beautiful? I think that if you consider that, you’re starting off pretty well. If you can pretty much wear it with everything, then you’ll realize your not reaching for other handbags and it’s worth every penny. These bags are pretty tough and you can actually use them. I am a firm believer in taking your bag out and using it every single day. If you use that bag everyday for three years and you divide that by how much you’ve paid for your bag, its pretty reasonable.
Why do you think that you have such a loyal following on the Purse Forum?
I’m nice to people and I actually care. Most of the time you ask a question and get beat up. I don’t think there’s ever a stupid question, they’re all good questions. Hopefully by me answering it, it helps some girl that was too afraid to ask. I do this because I enjoy helping people. It’s exciting to meet other people that enjoy the same things you enjoy.
How has the Hermes community changed since you became involved?
When I was first introduced to Hermes, it was about saddelry. It used to be that it was about one special item, one special bag but in the 80’s everything became excess. People started to want more than one of every bag. That’s an unusual thing, mass quantities of handmade items. It’s hard to do excess when you’re dealing with craftsmanship.
You are launching a new website, luxuryagain.com! What will we see on it?
I would like people to be able to see and enjoy very beautiful handmade couture things, learn about the craftsmanship, and what makes it so special.
If I could have any Hermes bag... 28cm (old) Barenia Kelly Retourne w/ my own hand engraved hardware