Caroline Dask sits down with Charlotte Staerck, founder of The Handbag Clinic, to learn the ins and outs of this blossoming business…
The Handbag Clinic, is a business combining a life-long obsession with handbags and a family legacy of leather and fabric restoration. When you think about it, a handbag is such an important accessory, yet sometimes it goes unnoticed.
It never leaves your side, it carries your whole world in it, it complements your outfit and each one of them says something about you. It comes in all shapes and sizes and in exchange for the service it provides, it doesn’t ask for a lot, just some maintenance and care.
A handbag is a staple in most of our wardrobes, and over the years, it has become a necessity. This necessity is often overlooked and underappreciated, and this is where The Handbag Clinic steps in.
You might have seen or heard of them before, you might have even used their services, whatever the case might be, the name speaks for itself.
Started by Charlotte and Ben Staerck in 2013, The Handbag Clinic is a revolutionary business, giving a brand-new life to luxury designer accessories. Founded a decade ago, they were the first ones to introduce a restoration process specifically tailored to luxury handbags.
Although there are no quiet days at The Handbag Clinic, the business is flourishing and running smoothly; no matter how successful it has become over the years, Charlotte does not take it for granted and remembers the days when it was all just
The Handbag Clinic: Where It All Started
“Growing up, I was never sure of who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do, but one thing I did know was that I love fashion,” Charlotte starts.
“I always had an obsession with handbags and I’ve always tried to turn that obsession into a business. When I was 16, I started picking up a few jobs to help me save money for designer handbags, and this is how I purchased my first DKNY bags.
“I managed to sell them on eBay, which helped me save up for a Mulberry bag. The only problem I discovered was the fact that I could never verify the authenticity of them. Maybe this is where a subconscious idea for The Handbag Clinic was born,” laughs Charlotte.
Before there was The Handbag Clinic, there was, and still is, the Furniture Clinic. A business started by Charlotte’s husband Ben Staerck, focused on wood and leather repair and cleaning.
“The story of how we met is quite a fascinating one,” says Charlotte, and I’m all ears. I love a good ‘how we met’ story.
“When I was 18, I bought a bag from Bicester Village. I remember it was a leather Luella cream-colour bag,” Charlotte begins.
“After a while, the handbag had dye transfer on it, and I was looking for someone to repair it, so my friend gave me a contact number for Furniture Clinic, but I never ended up using their service.
“Then two years later, I met Ben at a bar in Newcastle. I thought it was such a strange coincidence!”
For Women By Women
At the time, The Furniture Clinic would go out into people’s homes and fix furniture, but they would often get requests to repair handbags too. As a woman, Charlotte understood the struggle. How many of us have experienced serums and perfume leaking, powder spilling, and lipstick staining our treasured accessory?
Charlotte identified a problem and was set to provide a solution.
“Back at the Furniture Clinic, it was technicians that worked on repairing handbags, and I was always lurking in the background,” explains Charlotte.
“I started having ideas and making suggestions to expand the business into handbag and shoe restoration.
“Then later I noticed a space in Newcastle that I thought would work for a physical shop, and it was quite large, so I started thinking about not only repairing handbags and other accessories, but also selling them,” she says.
“This was the point where I really stepped in and made a concept of what The Handbag Clinic is today, which is a business of buying-selling, restoring and authenticating.
“I think a business that is dealing with products that are predominantly owned by women, is best suited to be looked after by a woman,” Charlotte smiles.
The Handbag Clinic: The Restoration Process
Their restoration process is a delicate affair. Each luxury designer bag comes with detailed craftsmanship. Therefore, each designer brand will require a specifically tailored restoration process. From the angles of the stitches and colour patterns to unique metalwork.
No job is too big for The Handbag Clinic, but my curiosity gets the best of me and I have to ask Charlotte about an instance where there was no hope of saving an item.
“It happens sometimes that a customer brings in a designer bag and the restoration process exceeds their budget.
“Sometimes the damage to the bag is so severe, it would need to be completely reconstructed. At the end of the day, it’s up to the customer to decide whether it’s worth investing back into the product.”
Opting to extend the life of a designer bag is never the wrong choice. It aligns with The Handbag Clinic’s core mission – give a second life to as many handbags and shoes as they can.
“Sustainability is so important to us, it goes beyond prolonging the life of a handbag or shoes,” highlights Charlotte.
“When in our clinic we use cloths for cleaning, these are provided to us as a reuse of linens from the leisure industry. Our office is powered by solar panels. Our care kits are made out of products that are recycled. And our care bottles are made out of recycled materials.”
With sustainability at its forefront, The Handbag Clinic is a thriving business with a bright future ahead. What originally started in Newcastle, has now expanded into Qatar, France and Monaco. A move that is inspiring not only to me, but I imagine, to a lot of women in the business.
However, none of it is easy. As we say our goodbyes, Charlotte mentions a busy day ahead and the 18-month-old waiting for her to get back home. She informs me that downtime is not a luxury she can always afford, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s my passion. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”