LIZ JONES FASHION THERAPY Can the handbag hospital save my old battered bags



10:02 GMT, 19 November 2012


A Mulberry traveller with a broken zip, scuffs and missing logo. A cream Prada envelope clutch with a grubby bottom and ink stain.

A vintage cream suede case with broken stitching. Prada suitcase with a broken zip. All of the above were either sent to the dump, or taken to my local Oxfam shop.

While I love my handbags, I cannot countenance them if they develop a smudge. Even my black patent Tod’s tote, which was handmade, and polished and sealed many times, and had studs on its bottom, developed scuffs.

Liz and her bags

Good as new: Liz with, from left, her Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and Versace bags

Price is no protection when it comes to bags showing signs of wear and tear, but as each one is discarded, I can’t help thinking what a waste of money, what a waste of precious resources, what a shame.

If only I had known of a brilliant new service called The Handbag Spa, I would have hung on to my bags and their memories.

The moment I knew I was going to be sending my four remaining poorly bags to have a facelift, I phoned my local charity store in Dulverton in Somerset, where I had just deposited the ink-stained cream Prada, and begged to get my bag back. ‘Oh, but we’ve just sold it,’ the woman said.

Ah well. Maybe ink stains don’t bother some women.

The Bag Spa is the brainchild of Ben Staerck and his father, who ran a Newcastle-based family business selling cleaning products for leather furniture, and leather car interiors (Ben tells me they have the dye to match every colour of car interior made by Rolls- Royce since 1965).

Now, since their father retired, Ben and his brother Adam have expanded the business to become the world’s leading restoration company for handbags, taking in sick bags from a Saudi princess and a Jimmy Choo addict in New York, as well as women the length and breadth of the UK.

Makeover: Liz' Anya Hindmarch bag before its facelift

Makeover: Liz' Anya Hindmarch bag after its facelift

Makeover: Liz' Anya Hindmarch bag before, left, and after, right, its facelift


Buying bags gives women the biggest shopping 'buzz' according to a recent poll

The firm employs 28 people at its head office, with 13 branches nationwide, and will collect and deliver bags anywhere in the world. They restore up to 100 bags a week.

I send Ben my four very tired bags: a stained purple Mulberry slouchy tote, an Anya Hindmarch tote that has lost its silver sheen, a dirty silver Louis Vuitton, and a silver Versace that has lost a stud and all its silver from its handles and bottom. All have worn edges and handles that have lost their lustre. Not one fazes Ben.

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I ask him whether there is a particular brand that succumbs to wear and tear fastest, but he says that even a Hermes, handled badly, will soon look tired and old.

Anything silver, gold or mirrored can also be quicker to deteriorate. My Anya Hindmarch has cracked so badly it leaves silver residue on my hands.

Handles are often the first to show signs of distress. ‘Women used to wear gloves to hold them, and now they use bare hands which are covered in grease and creams,’ says Ben.

To clean handles, he uses a special paste that is painted on, left to dry, and draws out all the toxins, which are then Hoovered off.

To get rid of the stain on my Mulberry, it’s cleaned in this way, and then a ‘spectrophotometer’ is used to determine the exact shade of dye. The information is fed into a computer, which mixes the colour.

‘If a colour is just one per cent off, the bag won’t look like new,’ says Ben.

The scuffed handle on the Mulberry is removed, unplaited, painted, and plaited and re-stitched by hand. If ink or make-up (the second most common bag-interior assailant) cannot be removed, new, matching lining is stitched inside.

The result My Mulberry looks as good as new, and I love it as if I have just bought it. The same can be said for my silver Anya Hindmarch bag. And the Vuitton’s scuffs have gone and the inside is spotless.

Of course, the best solution would be to avoid damage in the first place. Ben says never place your bag on the floor or a sticky bar, and ideally seal the leather the day you buy it with his bag protection kit.

I would add that you should never carry a pen in your bag, or overfill it, as this stretches the shape. Always store the bag in its dust cover, and fill the bag with tissue paper.

Ben also says you should ask the sales assistant, when buying an expensive bag, for a care kit, and instructions on how to look after it.

Future clients: Will best friends Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton use the service to restore their designer bags

Future clients: Will best friends Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton use the service to restore their designer bags

Will best friends Holly Willoughby (left) and Fearne Cotton (right) use the service to restore their designer bags

I wager, though, that if you were to ask an assistant in Mulberry or Prada for advice on aftercare, they would merely look at you as though you were mad, although I have noticed that LK Bennett always offers advice.

‘We have started to be sent shoes to be repaired, too,’ adds Ben, which again will be a lifeline for me. Can Ben resurrect a slingback that has gone saggy ‘Try me,’ he says, ever keen for a challenge.

For bags, a clean of leather and fabric costs 35. A stain removal service costs from 75 to 100. A full restoration with repairs costs up to 200.

The Bag Spa can also change the colour of a bag to match an outfit, and even change the stitching on a Hermes or a Victoria Beckham.

My repairs took a week. A bag care kit costs 14.95. Restoration of my four bags totalled 370, a fraction of the 4,000 it would have cost to buy four new bags.

A veritable bargain, and eco friendly, too . . .

For The Handbag Spa at the Furniture Clinic, visit, or phone 0844 879 3691 or 01207 279963.

Below, her Anya Hindmarch bag before, left, and after its facelift