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"Repair It Yourself" shoes make cobbling easy


January 3, 2012

Eugenia Morpurgo's Repair It Yourself (RIY) shoe concept is designed for disassembly and repair

Eugenia Morpurgo's Repair It Yourself (RIY) shoe concept is designed for disassembly and repair

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The Repair It Yourself (RIY) concept by Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Eugenia Morpurgo is a canvas shoe designed to be as repairable as possible. It's a design that not only addresses the shortcomings of traditional shoemaking, but also poses questions as to the sustainability of our consumer habits.

As Morpurgo points out, the soles and uppers of traditional shoes, be they handmade or mass produced, rely on glued or stitched "irreversible" (i.e. permanent) connections. RIY shoes have a "reversible" connection instead, with circular plugs on the underside of the insole passing through holes in the canvas upper to slot into the sole, expediting replacement and repair. Further, the idea is that the shoes would come with a repair kit so that wear and tear can be darned or patched, keeping the shoes in working order, and gradually personalizing the shoes' appearance as time passes.

"RIY focuses on the key role of the designer, and how design decisions can influence and suggest consumer behavior," Morpurgo told Gizmag. "RIY is meant to disrupt a less sustainable cycle of consume/discard, but the way I propose to achieve it is by taking advantage of the new consumer demands."

Morpurgo sees RIY as an opportunity for us to "re-appropriate control of the material world," for mere consumers to become educated users that understand, and take an active interest in maintaining their possessions. These "new consumer demands" are those of the prosumer, the hacker, and the thrifty crafter - for whom sharing information and ideas online is second nature. It's this mindset that Morpurgo seeks to tap into with RIY.

In the RIY research paper, Morpurgo looks at the ethos of "design for disassembly" in great detail, taking inspiration from Dutch design group Platform 21's Repair Manifesto. Morpurgo, however, distills the idea into concrete rules that can be followed by industrial designers. These call for, among other things, a minimal number of components, materials and connections; recyclable materials; impermanent connections using standard components where possible, and permanent labels to identify materials.

The RIY paper can be read at the bottom of the RIY project page, available on Eugenia Morpurgo's website.

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

Or you could just buy a pair of normal shoes/boots with replaceable soles and a durable leather upper. They will outlast those bobos, and look better too.

For a long time, I bought Red Wing shoes for just that reason. The stores can replace the soles for you as needed, and they come in wide sizes too.

Jon A.

I want these really badly - it\'s such a pain to get shoes my size (size 18 uk - 19 us).. then the cost of repairing the ones I have is too high.. need need need!

Paul Hutchinson

Yeah - it\'s not a workable idea, well it is - sort of - because there is what I call, \"A cascading chain of failure\"(c).

In that in the peak wear zones i.e. \"The Toes\" - all the little bits can be patched, but in the overall sense, as the peak wear areas, wear fast, but, in the overall all sense, the areas of medium wear - wear at half the rate of the peak area, which translates into for every 3 or 4 to patches you do - the rest of the shoe has worn and rotted away - and undergoes catastrophic failure....

Just like patching jeans - by the time you have done the knees 2 or 3 times, the crutch splits, the waist starts to separate from the legs, and the zipper has given up...

And it gets harder and harder to put new cloth onto worn and rotted cloth. The older the shoes get, the ,ore the fabric will have worn and rotted - over all.

And canvas shoes - indeed most shoes tend to fail in bits, with the rest of the shoe not far behind.

So granted that you can actually get a lot of mileage from decent shoes, and there is merrit in resoling GOOD quality leather shoes - I actually think if this idea is to get any practical traction, I\'d be going for replaceable uppers and soles, with repairable uppers.

That is practical.

Using the patching as the main selling point however - will be a cause of marketing failure.

Mr Stiffy

So it\'s a crap quality shoe that will cost a lot, but be simple to patch up for a while or for the very determined it will end up as more patch than original.

Whatever happened to just making high quality products designed to last forever and rarely if ever need repaired, and should they need repair they are simple to repair?

Look at home appliances made in the 1950\'s. Almost all of them were built to last. Cast iron, steel, chrome plating, thick Bakelite. My folks have a 50+ year old waffle iron that\'s still working perfectly. My grandparents had an Amana freezer in their basement that was old when they bought their house almost 70 years ago and was still working when they died and we sold the property. (Couldn\'t get it out after the basement stairways\' brick walls were covered with paneling.) It was never turned off except for power failures. It was built like a vault with all sides and the door at least 8\" thick. The outside was white painted steel. The inside was galvanized steel and thick slabs of Bakelite, all held together with lots of screws. I bet it didn\'t use any more electricity than a new freezer with the same interior volume.

I\'d like to see articles about new appliances built to last 100+ years, handed down from generation to generation. Build it once and it\'s greener than an appliance designed to fall apart and use nearly as much energy to recycle as it took to manufacture the first time.

A waffle iron has to use a certain amount of energy to cook a waffle, no way around it. Same with any cooking appliances, the laws of physics dictate how much energy it takes to heat a specific mass of food to the right temperature.

Gregg Eshelman

Oh Mr Stiffy, my shoes wear out bottom first, after four years, $69.00 USD Merrells acceptable time for me, the tops look good because I maintain them, no cloth, dead cow uppers, sigh, why patch 4 year old shoes, I have two pairs of Merrells that are eight years old, the tops are bitchin\' the soles are like walking on ice when wet

Bill Bennett

I love this line: \"gradually personalizing the shoes\' appearance as time passes.\"

That explains all the dents and scratches in my neighbor\'s car... it\'s been personalized!!


Great Idea,

I hate having to throw out a pair of shoes just after I get them to fit and smell the way I like. Now only if they cam in steel toes as well...


Seeing these shoes leaves me almost speachless, however they do look like a \"Tribute\" to Manolo Blahnik. Which brings to mind some other concepts.

1) Buy some shoes & throw them away, cut holes in the lid, tape the lid down, and wear the box.

2) Find two roadkill critters, soak their hides in some realy strong tea for a long time. Put your feet in some tar & then wrap the hides around them.

3) Macrame some shoes out of discarded rope or old underwear & weave strips of tin can through the bottoms for durability.

4) Do any of the above and apply for a grant: www nea gov Use the grant money to buy some shoes.

Dave B13

As others have mentioned, leather is virtualy indestructible, but only if you remember to use shoepolish or wax/grease once or twice a month. I have these Swedish army surpluse boots made in the seventies out of 3 mm thick bovine leather that look almost new compared to some one year old canvas or even leather shoes people wear today. I just have the soles changed by a proffesional every five years or so for a third of the price of a new pair of boots. I just cant find shoes today with that kind of thick quality leather anymore.

But I do like the idea of just changing the soles yourself as if it was a bit of Lego though...


Just buy Court Classic shoes at Costco for $15.00 a pair. They look good, wear great, clean up OK, and at that price are disposable to boot (no pun intended).

Facebook User

Actually, if it's JUST stitching, then the precise style of the shoe makes the difference between whether you can remove the stitches and restitch it or if you have to punch holes straight down and carve a shallow grove. Worst case scenario is that the heel is tacked onto the sole with small nails. which can be redone with stitching. In fact, you can redo the whole thing with ONE line of stitching. you just have to use a saddle stitch for it (you can find videos on how to do this style of stitching on youtube).

Also, I should mention that you can simply throw ideas at a problem and see what sticks, rather than making the assumption that it's impossible to do it just because you don't see an instantaneous solution to your issue. This guy, and his friends, are going to make a bleeding fortune on RIY items and RIY parts (soles, uppers, heck the individual parts to uppers) because folks are too lazy to simply ask "How can I do this myself?" and risk a failure or five in the process.

And George, the point of the Repair It Yourself idea is simply to remove stupidity like "and at that price, they're disposable". If I wanted disposable pricing, I could go to Dollar General and get nearly identical shoes to the ones you're talking about for $8 a pair. But I'm bloody well sick of sinking 15 or even 8 dollars every couple of months into a pair of shoes. I want something that will LAST FOR A FEW YEARS.

And I'd rather have something that I have to sink $10 every couple of months fixing than buy a new pile of crap every couple of months for that $10, because if I'm repairing them then I know what i need to do differently. I know what I'm screwing up and can figure out how to fix it properly. That same $10 that will last three months now will last six months in a patch job or two. Will last a year in another patch job or three. After a while, I won't be sinking $10 every couple of months to fix MY shoes, it will be $10 every six or nine months to fix my FAMILY'S shoes. I'll know when the shoes are wearing down and have fixes ready by the time I need to do the patch job. And if that isn't enough, it will be MINE. completely, totally, 100% mine. Because I'll have made them. I'll have fixed them. I'll have done it. Not some guy down the road. Not some guy in New Zealand or some toddler in China. Me.

Zarius Corten
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