Founder of The Restory, Vanessa Jacobs, joins us for the latest instalment of From The Desk Of...
The Restory – “an on-demand service providing modern aftercare for luxury fashion” – is the brainchild of Vanessa Jacobs. Founded in 2017, the high-end aftercare company restores luxury handbags, shoes, and clothes, enabling customers to “fall in love with your favourite pieces all over again”.
A former financial analyst and management consultant, since launching The Restory Jacobs has brokered partnerships with Farfetch, Selfridges, Harrods and, Manolo Blahnik. “The fashion industry has finally accepted that they will need to embrace and integrate circularity into their business models if they want to move into the future.”
How do you start your days?
I get a big glass of water, start the coffee, feed my two cats and a dog, and then start waking up my two sons and my husband. A few days a week I’ll do an online Les Mills Body Pump class from my garden.
What’s your go-to uniform?
Until recently, I would religiously wear my gold star embroidered Gucci Jordan loafers. But lately, my new Balenciaga Speedy trainers are the go-to. They are slightly platformed and narrow so they feel and look like something between a shoe and a trainer.
Describe your workspace/ workplace…
Our workspace is light and industrial so not glamorous at all. It’s filled with shelves of shoes and racks of clothing and handbags. You can literally see the business growing before your eyes! Beyond the physical, the team is great; we have some big personalities and really creative people, so it’s fun.
Identify something in your workspace that’s special to you (and why)…
We have several white boards but two of them always strike me. One is a list of who we wish were our clients (many have become true), another tends to get used for small parties that we host for birthdays and baby showers etc. Currently it has all of our baby pictures on it that were used for a “guess who this is” game.
What are your workplace essentials?
My Macbook Air, a Moleskine notebook, and a great pen. Life is too short for bad pens.
What time of day are you at your most creative?
Mornings or really late at night. But the latter then will ruin me for a week so I’ll stick with mornings.
What’s your go-to lunch order?
I don’t really like to eat lunch. I feel like it slows my energy. If I do, I’ll usually have a cup of fruit, or soup, or a salad. I usually blow through my calories allowance at dinner, unfortunately.
What is the most rewarding part of the job?
When we have a customer who is thrilled with the experience so much so that they take the time to tell us. That just puts energy back in everyone’s sails and reminds us why we are here.
[Also], taking a step back, watching this small idea I have developed and grown, and slowly start to need me less and less. I don’t think of it as my ‘baby’ per se but the growing up analogy is apt. We’ve recently expanded our executive ranks for the first time ever and that is so exciting.
And the most challenging?
The only thing you are allowed to focus on, on any given day, are the problems. Be it big strategic ones, plans that are harder to execute than once thought, small ones that distract on the day-to-day, and needing to not forget people along the way. I find keeping up communications with my growing body of stakeholders sometimes challenging too.
What did you study in school/university?
Business and finance – knowing I am a business person is the only thing I have been sure of professionally.
What was your first job?
When I was 13 I got a special permit that allowed me to get a job three hours a day after school. I was a cleaner at a ladies gym called Bally’s Fitness.
Where are you from originally?
Originally from New York but I have been in London for the last 16 years and recently became a British citizen.
What first sparked your interest in luxury fashion and aftercare?
I was annoyed at being trapped between out-of-date, untrustworthy, un-fashion-like mass-market options and brands and retailers who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, help me access the level of aftercare I wanted.
Do you have a mentor or inspirational figure that has guided or influenced you?
I don’t have a mentor but I have many people I take advice from and who inspire me. I sort of create mental moodboards of people and their characteristics to create the perfect person I need at any given time.
What were some hurdles you had to overcome in the early days of The Restory?
Doing something that’s never been done is always challenging. For us, thankfully we have always had more demand than we can handle but organising and optimising our operations and developing the technology to codify and automate those processes is a challenge. On top of that it changes so we are constantly re-doing things. We all have a dream of what perfection looks like. Crafting that vision is really fun, despite the pain.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
I should have brought tech in-house much earlier, I should have raised a lot more money from the start, and I should never have gotten involved in a multi-year contract with a CRM provider who is better suited to large enterprises. It has just been a really expensive headache.
The best advice you ever received…
José Neves (founder of Farfetch) told me not to be afraid of the complexity because once you’ve cracked it, it becomes your moat.
What are you working on right now?
Right now we are laying down the technology and infrastructure to 10x the business over the next two years.
What’s next for you/ The Restory?
The fashion industry has finally accepted that they will need to embrace and integrate circularity into their business models if they want to move into the future. Like companies such as ThreadUp and Farfetch, we are bringing the same technology and infrastructure that we’ve used to scale our consumer business available as B2B solutions too.