Bring your old purse to the ‘bag hospital’

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A LANCEL tote before and after Vintage Restore treament

This Mother’s Day, you don’t need to get your mom a brand-new lambskin tote or a lavish python purse. If you ask “bag doctor”

Trisha Cruz Cuason, the true purse-loving mom will appreciate an even better gift, and it doesn’t involve a new, store-bought present.

Bringing Mom’s favored old purse for professional cleaning, repair and restoration as a gift has been a trend for some young people of late, says Cuason, a co-owner of Vintage Restore, the specialty boutique and bag repair shop. Not a few of Cuason’s young clients seem to understand both the inherent and sentimental value of such bags, that having them restored to their brand-new form is becoming a thoughtful gesture for their mothers.

DYEING a stained bag with a darker color breathes new life into it, like this Furla piece.

“Women spend so much on bags. I don’t see why they wouldn’t want to invest in their upkeep. Luckily, some of our clients know that,” she says.

Vintage Restore is noted for magically resuscitating once-gorgeous luxury bags that have ended seemingly beyond saving  from years of use (or misuse), normal wear and tear, or neglect.

PRADA purse becomes new again after a full-body treatment.

Cuason describes simply what Vintage Restore does: “We clean, retouch, re-dye, electroplate hardware, change linings or zippers, or even take entire bags apart to change all the worn-out parts.”

Before and after

The latter might sound drastic, just hearing her say it. But if you see before-and-after images of the bags they have worked on, you’ll understand.

One piece Cuason is especially proud of is a jumbo black Chanel 3.55. When the client brought it in, it looked hopeless, Cuason says. The leather had become brittle and tattered, the hardware faded. “Hopeless,” however, is a word not often used at Vintage Restore.

“Rich women buy so many bags,” Cuason says. “They have so many that they don’t get to use all of them as often as they should. When you don’t air your bags, the leather becomes brittle.”

CHANEL leather purse, before and after

With the client’s consent, the shop did the full service on the 3.55. “We have a selection of fine leathers to match the genuine article,” Cuason explains. They can even match patinated leathers if, say, only a certain section of a bag needs replacement. “If we sew back the original parts, we follow the original stitches.” (Vintage Restore keeps undamaged hardware, and only electroplates them to match the “new” bag.)

When they were done on the 3.55, Cuason showed the finished article to a Chanel “expert” who couldn’t tell the extent of the job that was done on the original purse. “She was very impressed when I told her,” says Cuason. It only cost the client a fraction of the purse’s brand-new price tag.

TRISHA Cruz Cuason

Vintage Restore’s new outpost in White Plains, Quezon City

“I get excited for the harder jobs,” Cuason says. The shop’s work portfolio is impressive, indeed, having fixed bags from every noted designer brand, including some now-defunct vintage labels.

Cuason and her sister and business partner Lally Dizon grew up practically among bags. Their mom Edna Cruz was a bag manufacturer and exporter for 30 years. Cruz wanted to pass on the business to her daughters when they graduated from college. And they took over, albeit briefly.

Cuason and Dizon had other ideas. Bringing with them the decades-long expertise of their mother’s workshop, they shifted from manufacturing to service, to fill a void in the local market; there were many luxury bag retailers but no reputable luxury bag repair shops. Vintage Restore’s predecessor in Market! Market! called The Bag Specialist, which opened in 2004, was Cuason’s graduate school project.

The sisters later set up Vintage Restore in Makati (2/F Doña Consolacion Bldg., 122 Jupiter St.; tel. 8904326, 0916-6262967; e-mail v.restore@gmail.com). Recently, it opened a second branch in Quezon City (Unit 10 Bellitudo Bldg., 57B Katipunan Ave., White Plains; tel. 0916-5288165).

Socialites and celebrities

VINTAGE Restore also sells one-off bag designs by Lally Dizon (above) and vintage jewelry like this necklace.

VINTAGE Chanel earrings

Vintage Restore has become the bag hospital of socialites and celebrities, as well as the regular everyday bag lover. Some of Cuason’s clients say the luxury retailers have referred them.

The shop doesn’t service only luxury bags. “We get pieces from brands like Zara. We even fix shoes now.”

On the side, Vintage Restore has also become the showroom and retail space for Dizon’s eponymous one-off bag designs and Cuason’s own vintage and vintage-style jewelry called Our Treasure Trove.

“More than anything that our mom has given us, it’s the 30-year experience and the exposure to the factory that I value the most,” says Cuason. “We owe our expertise to my mom. The people who work for us have been with us for many years. They know what they’re doing.”

BALENCIAGA bag before (above) and after re-dyeing the leather

The sisters are often available to personally assess the items brought in and handle consultation. “But they can trust our staff even if we’re not around. Our staffer in Jupiter was our production manager in the factory for 12 years.”

BURBERRY bowler bag before (left) and after “confinement” at Vintage Restore

It typically takes up to four weeks to finish a job. Vintage Restore’s rule is “first in, first out.” But a rush job can be done in around seven to 10 days with add-on of 10 percent to the total rate. Rate for the simplest repair starts at P950, and from P1,900 for cleaning.

Cuason’s tips for bag lovers?

Don’t buy white or light-colored bags, whether they’re matte or patent. They’re hard to fix when they get discolored. If a matte bag gets a stain, cleaning it could ruin the finish.

Don’t horde. Enjoy each and every bag. You’re doing yourself a favor by taking them out of the boxes or dust bags once in a while. Heat and humidity can ruin good leather. Use your bags carefully.

Lastly, don’t clean on your own. Leave it to the pros.

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