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Cobbler Bushwick: Upcycling Meets Artisanal Shoe Craftsmanship

In the vibrant enclave of Bushwick, Brooklyn, a quiet revolution in the world of footwear is being led by Sungwoo Roh, the founder of Cobbler Bushwick. Sungwoo’s multifaceted expertise spans across various footwear categories, from casual to athletic, and outdoor to high fashion. Her educational background includes an undergraduate degree in fashion from her native Korea and accessory design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. With over twenty years in the shoe industry, she has developed a global fashion sense and a knack for trendsetting in the footwear domain. Sungwoo’s approach to design is to build a long-lasting shoe that is sustainable not only in quality but also in style.

Introducing Re:wert: The Upcycled Signature Line by Cobbler Bushwick

In 2016, Sungwoo Roh and her brother Hyeonseok Roh launched Re:wert in Seoul, South Korea, with a mission to transform the culture of shoemaking. Re:wert, meaning “Reformation of Wear and Tear,” embodies their passion for handmade craftsmanship and dedication to creating long-lasting footwear. With over 9,700 pairs of shoes saved from landfills as of November 2023, Re:wert by Cobbler Bushwick is not just a line of upcycled shoes; it’s a statement of sustainable value and unique detail, a testament to the brand’s commitment to saving shoes for a better life.

The Psychology of Upcycling: A Step Towards Sustainable Choices

The launch of Re:wert has not only introduced a line of upcycled shoes but has also sparked a conversation about the psychology behind why people are drawn to upcycling and its environmental benefits. For too long, society has been swept up in the pursuit of the latest and greatest, especially in the world of footwear. This relentless chase for the newest sneakers has been fueled by hype and a desire to stay on trend, leading to an over-accumulation of shoes and, paradoxically, a decrease in overall quality to keep up with consumer demand.  This is because legitimate material resources are limited and are being replaced with lesser quality ones to keep the same price point.

Cobbler Bushwick’s first upcycled pair was a Reebok Club C

However, there’s a growing awareness that this cycle is unsustainable—not just for personal closets but for the planet. Upcycling presents a creative and environmentally sound alternative. High-quality shoes from the past, whether already owned or discovered through thrifting, don’t have to be discarded when they fall out of fashion or show signs of wear. Instead, they can be reimagined and restored. Upcycling taps into the potential of existing resources, reducing waste and the need for new materials. It’s a choice that aligns with a more thoughtful and deliberate approach to consumption, where the quality and character of footwear are valued over fleeting trends.

The Distinctive Process of Cobbler Bushwick

Embracing Eco-Friendly Practices

The last is a unique component to restructuring the shoe.

Sungwoo’s commitment to the environment is deeply ingrained in Cobbler Bushwick’s ethos. Her realization of the harmful effects of traditional shoe manufacturing led her to leave the mass production industry and forge a path of eco-consciousness. This path is paved with the use of recycled materials, which Sungwoo has adeptly incorporated into both the uppers and outsoles of her shoes. Her successful launch of an eco-friendly line is a testament to her belief that sustainability can be synonymous with commercial viability.

Cultivating a Culture of Upcycling and Restoration

Sungwoo is not just creating shoes; she’s advocating for a paradigm shift in how we treat our footwear. She envisions a culture where shoe care and repair are not just necessary services but integral aspects of a sustainable lifestyle. At Cobbler Bushwick, the aim is to not only restore shoes but to elevate them through upcycling, infusing each pair with added value and longevity. This vision stands in stark contrast to the throwaway culture prevalent in the fashion industry, promoting a more thoughtful and sustainable approach to consumption.

Reverence for the Classics

By starting with timeless sneaker models, she taps into a shared cultural memory, allowing customers to immediately appreciate the blend of quality and innovation that her brand represents. Sungwoo particularly reveres models such as the Adidas Gazelle, Nike Cortez, and Chuck Taylors, which are not only emblematic of enduring style but also constructed from durable materials like leather and canvas. These classics serve as an ideal foundation for Cobbler Bushwick’s sustainable and creative upcycling efforts.

By focusing on these well-loved silhouettes, Sungwoo ensures that the shoes retain a sense of nostalgia while being transformed into something fresh and contemporary. It’s this thoughtful approach to upcycling that allows Cobbler Bushwick to stand out, providing customers with footwear that is both familiar and new.

The Signature Aesthetic of Cobbler Bushwick

The brand’s preference for robust materials like vegetable-tanned leather is a nod to their commitment to quality. The signature strap that adorns the upper of the shoe is not merely decorative but serves to reinforce the structure of the upcycled footwear, cleverly concealing any imperfections from the shoe’s past life and enhancing its overall durability. Sungwoo’s philosophy is that design should not only hide but also celebrate the life of the materials used. Each pair of upcycled shoes thus becomes a narrative piece, carrying with it a story of renewal and a testament to the brand’s innovative spirit and dedication to upcycling.

Upcycling Classes at Brooklyn Shoe Space

Sungwoo has tapped into a profound sentiment shared by many: the reluctance to discard shoes that have become almost a part of one’s extended self. This insight has shaped the mission of Cobbler Bushwick’s upcycling classes currently offered at the Brooklyn Shoe Space

Sungwoo encourages individuals to bring their cherished but worn-out shoes to her workshops, offering them a chance to breathe new life into their beloved pairs. The classes have sparked a passion among participants, drawing people from as far as Chicago, eager to learn and engage in the sustainable practice of upcycling. The goal of these classes is not just to create and sell upcycled shoes but to foster a community of mindful consumers who see the value in reviving their own footwear.

Crafting a Sustainable Future

Cobbler Bushwick stands at the intersection of artisanal shoe craftsmanship and sustainable fashion, championing the art of upcycling. By valuing timeless designs and durable materials, the brand breathes new life into classic footwear, blending nostalgia with innovation. Ultimately, Cobbler Bushwick is more than a shoe brand; it’s a movement towards mindful consumption, teaching, and inspiring a community to see the worth in worn wear.

Follow Cobbler Bushwick on Instagram to stay updated on their next product launches and upcoming classes.

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