Meet the manager of the designer handbag hospital that can barely keep up with demand
Cherry (centre) with the Handbag Clinic team
Before and after Handbag Clinic treatment
Rescuing rare designer handbags is all in a day’s work for Cherry Cumberland, manager of Handbag Clinic in Newcastle, who describes the struggle of keeping up with rising demand and starting her own luxury brand Pink Cherry Couture.
On a typical Monday, I come in and deal with any enquiries that have come in over the weekend. We also sort out all the new stock and reorganise all the displays. I put together a blog and a style report for the company every month, so I usually put aside some time on a Monday to write that. As well as repairing handbags, we also buy pre-owned bags from customers. On average, we get about four in a day, so pricing up the bags is another task to tackle.
At Handbag Clinic, we offer colour changes, zip and strap replacements, full cleaning, metal work and Christian Louboutin red sole repair from £35.99, as well as our own handbag cleaning kits from £15. We’ve seen all sorts, from dogs chewing through bags to drink spillages, rips and tears. You name it, we’ve seen it and repaired it. The most frequent repair requests are bags that have been worn away from being put on the floor or had colour transferred on to them and just need a little TLC to make them look brand new again.
The most challenging part of my job has to be keeping up with demand. The store has grown so quickly over the last year that we have a big queue for repairs and often see delays, although this is something we’re working to improve.
Seeing my final collection from university go down the catwalk during Graduate Fashion Week in London was amazing. I was inspired by construction and scrap metal and it was such a proud moment. It’s also fantastic seeing my own luxury beachwear brand, Pink Cherry Couture, on TV shows such as The Only Way is Essex, Love Island and The Real Housewives Of Cheshire.
The biggest achievement for Handbag Clinic has to be its growth. The more people are discovering us, the more rapid demand is. We have a small but great team here, with myself, one supervisor and one sales assistant.
The most enjoyable part of my job is when a customer brings in an amazing bag. The most memorable was a vintage Chanel lip print bag from 1995, which was priced at £3,000. We had it in the shop for ages and I couldn’t resist it, I had to have it. Handbags are such a good investment. I got my first ever Chanel bag when I was 18 years old. I paid £1,000 for it, and it’s now worth £4,000.
The most dramatic handbag transformation is probably a complete colour change. It costs £379 and we have a machine that correctly colour matches to any shade the customer wants. This is most popular with Hermès Birkin bags – because the waiting list is so long, people often buy another colour that is in stock and then come to us for a colour change. It makes sense, as my mum was on the Birkin waiting list for three years before she got a call to say she could collect her bag.
My top tip for prolonging the life of your handbag is to cover it in protection cream. It’s great for suede or leather, as any spillages just wipe straight off. Another is to store bags correctly. Keep them in a clean, dry place, and if you can keep them in the original boxes, that’s even better.
Business at the moment is very good. We deal with on average 30 to 40 repairs a week, alongside the retail buying and sales. Demand for repairs definitely shoots up at this time of year: outdoor events like weddings and races often play havoc with shoes and bags.
Looking to the future, we are going to focus on increasing marketing and social media to really branch out. We have two stores in London, one in Leeds and one in Newcastle, and new stores are planned, which I think will be in cities such as Birmingham and Manchester.
My other career
If I didn’t work at Handbag Clinic, I would be fully focused on my own brand, Pink Cherry Couture. At the moment, it’s just a hobby, but I would love to have my own store one day.
2014-present Manager, Handbag Clinic in Newcastle
2013-present Owner, Pink Cherry Couture
2013-2014 Ecommerce stylist at Harrods, London
2012-2013 Personal shopper and stylist at Topshop, Newcastle
2010-2012 Designer and manager at DEV Boutiques in Dubai
2010 Graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design, after one year at London College of Fashion and three years at Northumbria University, Newcastle
Interview by Megan Goodwin