This week we caught up with Lorena Agolli, the owner and head cobbler of Sole Survivor shoe repair. Since starting the business in 2013 Lorena has been transforming the shop into a go-to establishment for those with footwear dilemmas.

Hi Lorena! Can you share a bit of your background and Sole Survivor for those out there who may not know you?

My name is Lorena Agolli. I grew up in various parts of Europe before settling down in Toronto. Becoming a cobbler started off more as a hobby, which then grew into a passion and now I have made a career out of it. Sole Survivor is currently a shoe repair shop but we are slowly venturing out into creating more custom goods (such as wallets, belts, bags, etc.) for our customers and soon we are hoping to offer bespoke custom shoes.

You recently did a DIY vegan leather care tutorial on Hot for Food. Coming from such a traditional trade, what would you say the biggest challenges are of working on contemporary footwear?

It can be a struggle to work with certain manufactured materials out there, certain rubbers and plastic especially. Those materials are so unpredictable and can make the repair very difficult – some of them can not even be repaired by hand, not all glues will work on them, and it’s often hard to match materials.

Cobbling, as a craft, disrupts the typical North American production/consumption cycle, and yet Sole Survivor is thriving. Why do you think that is?

I think we are all becoming more conscious of how our actions can impact our environment so it only makes sense to try to preserve the items we own rather than accumulate more stuff that ends up in the landfills.

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What’s your favourite part about what you do?

Hands down it would be working with my hands. It’s so satisfying to know that my two hands have created something or (in the repair world) saved something. I take pride in my hands, without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I do for my customers, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m truly grateful for the community that has developed around Sole Survivor.

We noticed you fixed a beaver fur coat recently. Do you have plans to take on more leather based or furrier repairs and/or commissions?

I am always eager to learn more. I think you have to be for your own sanity. It makes my day when someone brings me a challenging repair. It’s that kind of stuff that allows me and Sole Survivor to grow. So yes I will continue to take on more furrier repairs. In fact, we are currently repairing a beaver hat at the shop! As for commissions, we are always happy to take those on as long as time permits it, since we are so busy these days.

What influences and inspires you, in both life and career?

My friends and family play a huge role in my life. I am surrounded by so many amazing, talented people. We always thrive and push each other as a community proving that we are always better as a group than alone. I would say that is my major inspiration in my life, my surroundings and the community of people I am with.

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What are your goals and aspirations for the company in the future?

I am excited to grow with my Sole team. We are slowly growing, so this means we can take on more custom projects as well as make products under our own brand. But for now it’s one day at a time, it’s been an insane ride so far & I feel confident enough to say that I think it’s only going to get better!

Find out more about Sole Survivor on their website and follow them on Twitter and Instagram!