Until 2013, Charlotte Staerck worked in the pharmaceutical field for NHS and her husband Ben, run a furniture restoration business. When customers started coming to Ben’s business with their dilapidated or broken designer bags, Charlotte had the idea for us the same skills to make. Handbag Clinic, is now the leading luxury handbag restoration service.
The clinic has now fully adopted a sustainable mode business model; buy, restore, and sell luxury handbags. It has global customers, three brick and mortar stores and has seen 500% growth in online sales during the lockdown.
Here, Charlotte Staerck, its CEO, shares her advice on creating a fashion business in a circular economy and why restoration is the future of luxury.
Sustainability must be at the core of the business
“If you are determined to have sustainable business then you need to make sure that every part is as compact as possible. We are always looking for as many solutions as we can. You have to think about how you are going to take out the trash? What products do you use? Whether you make sure that you reduce that waste all the time, you really have to think things through from that sustainable perspective to keep the core values alive in the business. “
“One of the best things about our business is how much it values expertise. A lot goes into bag restoration and it’s an impressive craftsmanship. One of our main values is preserving the past, while attentively rediscovering the future and this is very much about preserving these techniques, keeping this craft alive. If you choose a business like this, you can engage young, passionate people who will get ahead and most importantly – remember our business the current political climate– Create unique skills that are highly UK based. We have people send us goods from all over the world. We are always developing and supporting these techniques for handling specialist bags. We’ve created new products and new dyes and dyes to do it. I think it’s a really amazing thing to see. “
The circular fashion economy is the future…
“I have always subconsciously used this circular fashion ethos since I was very young. When I was 16, I would save up to buy a handbag, then I would sell that handbag and buy what I thought was the next big handbag. I just did that on Ebay! But now I see that this way of thinking is the future of luxury fashion.
We want to extend the life cycle luxury bag overall. We don’t want you wrecking your handbag and dropping in and see us, we always say let’s try and avoid you even getting to that point in the first place. It’s about protecting the investment this expensive handbag has to offer, from the moment you buy it. We don’t only offer a resale platform, we also offer a resale platform that also increases the value of your bag. More and more people think this way, it’s not about hoarding new things but about appreciating old things and keeping them longer, or trading them for something else. This is a good financial investment. You can play the handbag market like the stock market and it’s sustainable at the same time! “
… But used fashion needs the right kind of marketing.
“Back then when I was going to buy and sell used bags, it wasn’t all that glamorous. I think that’s all changing now, with things like the collective Vestiare and the Handbag Clinic. There was a real reaction to fast mode, so now, good quality, pre-loved high fashion starting to look a lot fancier. We try and make pre-loved shopping feel that way, and of course we do with our brick and mortar shop too. We will have very wealthy people happily shopping there when they can buy new ones! Ethical and guilt-free clothing is definitely looking more glamorous now. ”
Make luxury easily accessible
“One of the great things about what we do is that we often offer luxury handbags at lower prices, making them accessible to new income earners. This is a key factor of the circular fashion ethos- rental and resale market– it really democratizes fashion and makes it a very attractive business model. “
Always do your research
“When it comes to luxury materials, it is extremely important that you do your research properly. You really have to not jump on both feet, but spend a lot of time doing your research and making sure you know what you’re getting into to get started. We have horror stories about people who go to companies unprepared. One girl brought £ 40,000 worth of Birkin to someone who was just starting out in the industry, and they really ruined it. You have to really know your stuff. ”
Do one thing, do well.
“For us, because we specialize in handbag restoration, we thought it wise not to expand it. This is great advice for anyone looking to do something similar. The skills required for this type of job are very specific and customers need to be convinced that you are an expert in your field. ”
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