Charlotte Staerck On The Handbag Clinic Opening In York


In conversation with Charlotte Staerck, co-founder of The Handbag Clinic, as they open a concession at Fenwick York

Meet Charlotte Staerck, the CEO and co-founder of The Handbag Clinic, leading pre-owned luxury retailer offering restoration services. In light of the recent opening of The Handbag Clinic store within Fenwick, York, Charlotte discusses how she has created a welcome sanctuary for all preloved bags. 

Where did your passion for handbags stem from?

I’m from a small village in the North East of England where nothing really happens in terms of fashion. When I was seven, my godmother bought me this handbag with embroidered flower detailing. It immediately sparked my interest and became my new school bag. In comparison with my classmates’ mundane satchels, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I told everyone it was designer and flung it over my shoulder. 

Later on, with my first proper income, I saved up and bought my first real designer bag which was from DKNY. I began this cycle of selling my older bags on eBay to be able to afford new ones. 

Charlotte Staerck

What did life look like prior to The Handbag Clinic?

I used to get involved with pageants, not only to play dress up, but also in an attempt to secure myself a place in the fashion industry. The panel of judges was often made up of experts and buyers from department stores and I would stand on stage and ask for a job! I was so eager to start, but had no idea how to get there. 

I worked for the local government in the waste and recycling department, at the same time studying to get my buying qualifications. This led me to buy medical products for the NHS. I always wanted to be a fashion buyer, but university didn’t appeal to me, I just wanted to start earning money as soon as possible. What started as a career in buying knee replacements for the NHS suddenly became a lot more fun by buying handbags. 

As well as restoring handbags, how does the resale aspect work?

Essentially, we buy old, worn bags and give them a new lease of life. We take details on bags for sale via our online form or you can bring your bag instore and an expert can assess it there. Either way, our team comes back quickly with an offer.

What makes The Handbag Clinic sustainable? 

We created The Handbag Clinic way before sustainability became popular. Most of the criticism at the beginning stemmed from lack of understanding. People couldn’t contemplate why we wanted to recycle dusty old bags. By not creating anything new, we are one of the few fashion brands that is fully circular. We try to save every bag physically possible using the most environmentally friendly products to clean and touch up.

Could you tell us about the most exciting item you have restored?

One of our customers owns five diamond encrusted crocodile skin Birkin bags. In my whole life I had never seen a bag of that calibre. She loved the work so much that we went and picked up the whole collection to restore. 

Another really exciting bag we resold was an ostrich Birkin back in 2017, which went for £14,000 – the biggest sale we had had at that point. 

What do you want customers to take away from shopping at The Handbag Clinic?

The most important part of the business is to be accessible to all. Our brand philosophy stems from doing everything we can to make sure that luxury feels special, without feeling elitist. We don’t want people to feel excluded from purchasing a handbag. No matter the circumstance, everyone is allowed to feel nervous or unsure about making a big spend and our team are there to talk through any questions and doubts. 

We will also restore any bag, designer or not. We definitely don’t discriminate! It’s really about maintaining the emotional connection people have with their bags that resonate happy times, as well as lengthening the longevity and value of the product. 

Hbc Portraits Copy
Inside The Handbag Clinic

How do you feel Yorkshire is doing in terms of circular shopping and its availability for customers?

The Yorkshire region is up there as one of our top areas in highest online sales. There’s still work to do though with regards to the restoration side. It’s a case of changing attitudes towards really treasuring items by learning how to bring them back to life. Rather than running a pair of Louboutin’s into the ground, if they were regularly restored, the value of the product would remain high, as well as benefiting financially in the long run. 

Which handbag is your current favourite?

All of my bags are from The Handbag Clinic and my favourite brand is Chanel. A standout in my collection is a silver Chanel Boy bag and a pink mini square Chanel that I love as well. 

What are your top tips for purchasing a designer handbag?

If you’re wanting to start investing in fashion I would definitely advise starting with a handbag. Stylistically, they are the root of an outfit. For someone’s first designer bag, I would recommend buying something that’s comfortable and wearable, but that will equally hold its value. This tends to be all-time classics where styles keep to minimal changes. If you then decide to sell it, you can easily move up that ladder and get increasingly more value out of your items. It’s easier to do this with handbags rather than say shoes, for example, because they are less hard-wearing. 

What are you most looking forward to with The Handbag Clinic this year?

We’re looking to get involved with more events around Yorkshire. It would be great to be part of fashion week this year and speak at sustainable pop ups in the North.


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