Bag rehab

Siratcha Patcharasopachai gives battered and bruised old bags a new lease of life

Call it genuine brilliance or an innate passion for bags - Siratcha Patcharasopachai's eyes and hands are trained to identify what each luxury bag is made of and how to clean it. On seeing any bag from any high-end brand, she could easily say what went into the material and which detergent or chemical is required to give it a brand new, shiny look.

But that shouldn't come as a surprise, considering Siratcha is the mastermind behind one of Bangkok's best known bag- and shoe-handling services, Momoko Bag and Shoes Spa - a shrine for all those bag ladies in search of temporary rehab for their once-fab handbags or a total facelift for their less-than-perfect accessories.

"It is entirely different from sending your bag to a typical laundry shop," she said of her spa. "There are so many details in a bag, and there is no [one] cleaning detergent suitable for all materials. We know what works for each type of metal, leather and fabric, and that's what makes us different."

Momoko, as Siratcha explained, was built on a combination of roots in her family's business in leather and her own experience - she had her own bags cleaned by her family's technicians and the result was met with admiration from friends. Convinced of the potential after receiving calls for leathergoods treatments from those who witnessed the work on her bags, she decided to quit her full-time job and opened Momoko Bag and Shoes Spa at Thong Lor's J-Avenue.

It wasn't an easy start. Since her business was relatively new, it was hard work convincing the property project to let her occupy their slot, even if it wasn't properly used at the time.

"I persisted and called them every day. I was so persistent that sometimes I felt embarrassed, but I was so passionate about the idea of opening this business that I was willing to go the extra mile to make it happen. Finally they relented and let me have the slot," she recalled proudly.

With its complete service involving cleaning, repairing, colouring, maintenance and delivery services offered by technicians who are professionally trained abroad, Momoko has rapidly achieved huge success. It has become a destination for ladies and gentlemen who had long been searching for a place to entrust their precious shoes and handbags - celebrities, society people, magazine editors and showbiz stars.

The before and after pictures on the shop's Facebook page are proof she can work magic, even on old, battered bags.

"At first, it was difficult to explain to them what we do, and why we are different from any laundry shop that claims it can clean any bag. We started building trust slowly and focused on providing honest, quick and high-quality services. Soon we were handling as many as 400 bags a day, and that pretty much proves that we're doing it right," said the 29-year-old entrepreneur. As the one-stop service for luxury handbag handling, Siratcha has the privilege of conversing with some of Thailand's best known faces on the entertainment and social scenes - several of whom have now become the pillars for her to set up a new extension business called Brandname Society.

The idea behind Brandname Society sprang from her clients who wanted to sell their used bags which are still in tip-top condition. Some bags arrived in Siratcha's hands because its stellar owners had once used them and were pictured with them, and did not wish to be seen carrying the same accessories again.

"They asked me to display their bags and put them up for sale, and that sparked an idea. Why not offer used bags in prime condition at a more affordable price? The trend for used bags has been very big for a few years now, so I think it's the right time to open Brandname Society," Siratcha said. Her latest business sells used bags acquired from trusted clients only, with the added benefit of lifetime cleaning services for any bag purchased there.

One reason for the success of her bag spa was the popularity of the delivery service, which her shop has done wonderfully well. Siratcha said that even if a client in Bangkok wanted a bag cleaned and the service only cost 500 baht, her staff would fetch it and return it for no extra cost.

For Brandname Society, she is using the same approach to attract busy clients who can't afford to take time out from their crazy schedules to go shopping for new bags. They can have bags delivered to their home or office to shopping.

"It's also fine if they don't like any of the bags they see. No hard feelings at all," she said with a sweet smile. Using technology to her business' benefit, she puts the available products on social media websites so that potential clients can see the choices. This helps her business reach clients outside Bangkok as well.

"Strangely, I've noticed that faceless communication drives better sales than the traditional face-to-face approach. Sometimes a client will call me and ask about a bag that costs, say, 500,000 baht, and decide to buy it within 10 minutes. The trend of shopping has certainly changed," said Siratcha, adding that at present, 30% of the sales are from clients outside Bangkok.

Brandname Society has been in operation for half a year now, but is already doing very well. She said that 70% of the clients are Momoko Bag and Shoes Spa's regulars, as they know they can trust the quality of the products. The bags on display rarely ever sit on the shelf for longer than a month before they are snapped up by a new and very happy owner.

However, the stores' popularity is in no way a reason for her to open more branches. Siratcha said firmly that she doesn't believe in branching out around the country.

"I have no plan to add more branches and I don't think it is necessary. With the 15 employees I have currently set aside for delivery services, I think the shop meets the needs of the clients that call on us. It is easier to take care of the quality of the work when there is just one centre, it is easier to keep an eye on everything, and I always check every piece of work before handing it back to my clients."

About the author

Writer: Napamon Roongwitoo
Position: Life Writer