In a world that has trained us to think that everything is disposable, we find ourselves in a cycle of constantly buying more instead of caring for our belongings. This kind of unsustainable behaviour, perpetuated by a fast fashion empire leads to irreversible damage to our environment. With a more minimalist approach to my wardrobe and a focus on mending and salvaging, it is amazing what a bit of thread and a needle, or some polishing cream can achieve, reducing consumption levels and improving the life of my garments.
With that in mind, I recently found that I was no longer getting the same level of use out of my Mansur Gavriel Leather Tote as I used to. After using it to death for a couple of years, it had gathered quite a few scuffs and scratches and with the lack of sparkle came a lack of wear. The thing with leather is that with proper care and attention, it can last a lifetime. Naughty me has never cared for my leather goods and I figured this would be a great time to start, bringing my beloved tote back to life.
As you can see, the tote was suffering. Scuffs all over the front and bottom, with the leather looking quite dry and lacklustre. I figured a bit of cleaning and conditioning was in order, however I wanted it to be quick and easy, with products that were already in my household. What I landed on using were a couple of microfibre cloths and the Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam. There are many other products out there that are better for vegetable tanned leather, such as the Chamberlains Leather Milk which came out as a winner after a little research, however I was in a getting it done mindset, so I got it done with what I had on hand. If you’re dealing with a lighter coloured leather I would strongly suggest investing in the Chamberlains, as it is less likely to alter the colouring of your beloved leather goods.
The Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam features a mix of coconut oil, lanolin and beeswax. It is a multipurpose care product that works at cleaning and protecting leathers with natural ingredients. The tin includes the product as well as a handy sponge applicator.
I started with a damp microfibre cloth (water only) and gently wiped down the bag. After allowing it to dry for a few minutes, I started applying the Wonder Balsam all over the leather (leaving out the interior) in no particular motion, massaging it in and making sure to get into all the seams and crevices. I allowed the balsam to soak in for 30 minutes after which I polished the bag with a second, dry microfibre cloth. I applied a second coat of the Balsam and repeated the process, polishing the bag and VOILA!!
While the bag is not immaculate, it’s pretty close to it. Most scuffs and scratches have gone away with a simple conditioning treatment. The leather appears smoother and a shine has returned to its surface. (And as you can tell my kitty loves it too!) Leather is ultimately skin and while our skin has natural oils that keep it nourished, processed leathers do not. They need our help to restore some moisture and keep them living for longer. Conditioning leather will help maintain vibrant colouring as well as helping reduce the likelihood of further damage and future scratching or cracking.
While this process has helped restore my tote, it has also encouraged me to consider buying pre-loved leather goods. After seeing what a huge difference such a simple process made to my Mansur Gavriel Tote, it made me realise that many of the bags and shoes that are being let go of could be brought back to life. So, I want to challenge you to consider buying sustainably, offering pre-loved goods a chance at a second life, helping out the planet and the environment in the process!