My Miu Miu has seen better days. The bright pink silk in which my wallet, phone and keys nestle is a darker shade of dirty, one of the hinges on the side of the bag has broken, it doesn’t fasten properly and the leather is peeling away from itself. Bought 4 years ago it is safe to say I have used it to death.
So when I was doing some research for a client who wanted her Jimmy Choo bag fixing I came across Handbag Makeover. Started by George and Alan in 2009 the business has grown out of 20 years of hands-on experience working with leather furniture and car interiors. It’s safe to say both men are leather specialists: Alan is a tanner by trade so his leather specialism runs deep.
Regularly accosted at parties by ladies (not what you think) who wanted their leather bags fixing, Handbag Makeover was officially born. And fix bags they do, dealing with: general wear & tear, food spills, biro and pen marks, make-up, denim transfer…the list is seemingly endless. Thinking beyond handbags as a fashion items they know their product inside out, and, as George pointed out to me, “Handbags have a practical function – to carry a load – but if the design is too dainty to work then it will break easily. The selection of the leather, the craftsmanship, the pre-testing of the chosen leather swatches for colour transfer – all these elements combine to make a working, functional item. If these elements aren’t given proper consideration you will get what you pay for.”
So which brands do they see a lot of?
“All brands come to us. The problem isn’t usually one brand or one particular style; it is how each individual customer has used her bag and the wear and tear resulting from that.”
Why do you think women send their bags to you rather than buy a new one?
“If you have spent £100s on a designer bag you want it to look good and to serve its purpose. It’s cheaper to have it fixed than buy a new one. Plus women have an attachment to their handbags. They can use their handbag every day. Why get rid of something you love?”
It’s true – my Miu Miu is my go-to bag. I have tried others – satchels, slouch bags, envelope clutches – but I always go back to the Miu Miu. Alan has a regular customer, who is in the same boat as me,
“An International Journalist sends me her bag every 4 months without fail. It has been used as hand luggage, handbag and travel companion all rolled in to one. Handbag Makeover is an essential service to her and instead of buying a new bag she wants to keep and re-use the bag she has.”
Wise girl. And retailers have cottoned-on to the amazing service which George and Alan offer,
“We work with Selfridges, Radley and Next. They want to provide the best customer service possible and that’s where we come in – supplying leather cleaning products and expert help when a customer needs their bag fixing.”
Do you receive bags from male customers as well?
“This sector is definitely growing. We receive briefcases, travel bags, Ipad and phone protectors, and leather jackets. The damage can be anything from a seam splitting to a scratch or a burn
The website is user friendly and gives the customer as much room as possible to describe the condition of the bag and the damage incurred. George and Alan then price the repairs, give you a quote and you can decide whether or not to go ahead with the repair. They intend to return "normal" servicing bags within 10 days of receipt, the more complex and detailed work can take longer, but the courteous blokes they are, they try and warn customers of this prior to the start. If they have to source parts then it can be longer as they are dependent on getting the supplier to get their part done first.
I send off my Miu Miu (Parcel Force and fully insured for the princely sum of £9 – it may be knackered but that is 500 quids worth of leather I want to arrive safely!) to the UK based company with mixed feelings – overjoyed my favourite bag is about to be restored to its former glory but bereft – what the hell am I going to use to kart my stuff around in now???