Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of golden repair, which embraces the seams of broken pottery by fusing them in unmistakable gold. The underlying philosophy is that an artifact is more beautiful for having been broken and repaired, and this is the mindset that new Wingtip shoe-shiner Vasti Porter brings to her work.
“I like seeing the shoe messed up,” says Vasti, “like Michelangelo seeing something in rough marble that needs to be brought out. I see the shoes as they are, and I see what they can be.”
Vasti has been shining shoes professionally since 2005, apprenticing all over the country, spending time with “old shoe shine guys” from LA to Toronto, from rodeos to leather bars. But she recalls that her first foray into shining was as a teenager at boarding school. With a strict dress code that required perfectly-shined shoes, the other students noticed Vasti’s skill, and started bartering with her to get her quality shine on their own shoes.
Vasti offers three shines starting at $10/shine. Each starts with basic cleaning, conditioning, and careful welt and edge dressing. From there, the Neat Shine ($10) also includes your basic cream and wax polish. The Top-Shelf Shine ($15) includes the basic shine, plus color renewal. Finally, the Wingtip Shine ($20) includes all of the above, as well as color enhancement, with liberal cream and wax applications. Vasti will take into account exactly what your shoes need, and tailor the treatments on a shoe-by-shoe basis.
Vasti’s “passion for the polish” runs deeper than a few coats of wax, beneath the cream conditioner, and into the very pores of the leather. She intones another Japanese philosophy, wabi-sabi, in embracing not just the wear-and-tear of shoes, but the passage of time beneath your soles–the shoes you wear to an interview, to a business meeting, to your wedding. “What I do reveres the authenticity of the boot above all,” says Vasti. “It’s about honoring the intrinsic beauty and function of that boot, appreciating all of its imperfections, impermanence, and incompleteness.”
Vasti’s shoe shine stand is open Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm on the Ground floor at Wingtip.