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The best clothes, shoes and bag menders

Frustrating. So dispiriting. A knackered zip. A rip in a silk top. Bastard moth holes. Vintage bag with the decomposing lining. Most beloved and battered and careworn old boot (not you). You could throw them away. But they were expensive. Or they have good memories. Or you just really love them. So mend them. We don’t mean you. Then who? We’ve found the best menders and fixers around to give your bits and pieces a thorough going-over. This is incredibly useful even if we do say so ourselves. Which we do.

1. DAB-HAND DYERS: PRESTIGE DYERS

Remember when you thought you could turn your everyday togs into things of beauty with a pack of Dylon dye and a vat of salt? Disaster. Every time. Where was Prestige dyers then, huh? They can dye anything so long as it’s a natural fibre. Any colour. Any damn shade you can find – no matter how old or rare, they’ll colour match it. “Nobody does it like we do,” says main man Torguy, who does jobs for big designers including Alexander McQueen. “We had one garment which didn’t work,” he says. “Or maybe two. But that’s in 40 years.” Worth a punt we say and they don’t take payment until you’re happy with the result. It’s £50 for a wedding dress, less for something smaller. Not bad. They’re in Harlow, Essex, but you can do it all by post and email.

£10-£20 for a pair of jeans / 01279 416 710 / www.prestigedyers.co.uk

2. HOSPITAL FOR HANDBAGS: THE HANDBAG SPA

You may struggle with the idea of sending your bag to a spa while you toil away but bear with us. These pros turn any tired old sack into a thing of beauty again. They started out training leather technicians (so they know everything about the stuff) when they spotted a niche in the market. The thinking goes, if you’ve spent an eye-watering amount on a bag, you may not want to hand it over to the grubby little shoe-mending key-cutting kiosk on your daily commute. They’ll restitch, reline, dye, clean up stains like mould and ink, fix piping, polish metal bits – or there are refurb options from The Marbella (general Spring clean) at £59.95 to The Milan (an all-stitching, mending recolouring detox at £189.95). The work is done in Harrogate but they have drop offs around the country (bags come to them from all over the world) or post it. Don’t worry about the state of your shabby specimen, they’ll have seen worse. A recent customer wanted blood stains removed from her handbag. They found a dead mouse in it. So maybe check before you send it in.

01423 888 709 / www.thehandbagspa.com

3. WATCH WIZARDS: ALSAL WATCHES

There’s something about a watch. Until it’s broken. Then good luck to you. This Midult carried four old watches in her bag for a year looking for someone to mend them/change the batteries. “You needed me!” says watch wizard Guven. “We do everything!” And they do. From cracked old Casios to classic Cartiers they’re never stumped, even when the manufacturer can’t help. The family has been doing watch repairs since WW2 and there are three generations of them working there now, including Guven’s father who started mending watches when he was 10 – he’s 80 this year. Respect. So don’t stand wincing while a teenager hacks away at your watch; make a detour by Alsal. They charge from £6 to change a watch battery (the cheapest we’ve found) and £20 for a Cartier. Guven is a goldsmith too and designs and makes jewellery if you’re keen.

0207 353 4195 / 226 Strand WC2R 1BA

4. FASHIONISTA’S FIXER-UPPER: DESIGN & ALTER

Not your average ‘service-wash-and-alterations’ gig (as they’re keen to stress); this is where you go to make your clothes slick, seamless and fit like a glove. There’s a front of house where you get a personal fitting consultant to help you with whatever needs mending, altering or restyling (they design and make clothes from scratch too). Then there’s a workroom where 20 tailors weave their spells. Maybe you need jeans taking up – we’ll replicate the original finish perfectly they say. A vintage dress updating. Off-the-peg designer clothes fitted. “There’s no point spending money on designer clothes unless you have them fitted perfectly,” says the lovely Martina. So true, we purr (tugging at wonky waistband). If it’s easier, they’ll come to you. It’s £60 an hour for amazing results.

0207 498 4360 / 14 Ingate Place, Battersea SW8 3NS / www.designandalter.com

5. WARDROBE REHAB: THE WARDROBE CURATOR

Don’t be put off by the website, which features Elle Macpherson and Ms Paltrow. They use the ‘Total Wardrobe Care’ service but the Wardrobe Curator will also do a one-off wardrobe detox. And detoxes are good for you. The company’s founder Julia Dee (who has more than 30 years’ fashion and tailoring experience) comes round and goes through your wardrobe with you. She’ll help you make decisions about what can be saved, mended, altered. (“Do you wear this? Why not? Sleeves all wrong? So we’ll remake the sleeves.”) She’ll suggest how to get rid of nasties like moths, how best to store your clothes, whisk stuff off to be mended/altered and even organise for designer clothes to be sold on ebay. All for £60 an hour.

0207 350 1510 / www.thewardrobecurator.co.uk

6. CASHMERE CLINIC: CASHMERE CARE SERVICE

Based in the old mill town of Hawick in the Scottish Borders, they know their wool. And how to fix it. High quality knitwear should last for years so don’t let a stain, a pulled thread, some bobbles or even moth holes deter you they say. “We can help. You’ll be amazed,” they told us. Post them your poor pockmarked jersey and for £29 a piece, they’ll pamper, stitch, darn, mend and generally work their magic. Best of all they return the thing to you more beautifully packaged than when you bought it. They helped our source score one on the moths by mending a hole so well she couldn’t work out where it had been. If the damage is too great, like a recent elbow hole in a cashmere hoodie they were recently given, they’ll suggest alternatives like a fab elbow patch, which they’ll do beautifully. Good for the really damaged stuff but also worth it for a general servicing if you’ve something expensive you want sprucing up.

01450 377 648 / www.cashmerecareservice.co.uk

7. SEW ‘N’ GO: LONDON QUALITY DRY CLEANERS

A good central London go-to if you need reliable trouser-hemming, tear-fixing, waistband reduction (one must dream) and so on. They can organise dying, bleaching and will even try their hand at colour runs, which lots of dry cleaners won’t touch. There are no whistles and bells with this lot – no website, they seldom answer the phone and they’re small on the small-talk. But show them a hem/button/flappy bit on pretty much anything in your wardrobe and they can sort you out, fast. Good at dying too; our source sends them a steady stream of black jeans to sharpen up. Ideal for everyday stuff the specialist guys might turn their noses up at. They do a 2-hour dry clean too if you’re ever desperate.

0207 935 7316 / 222 Baker Street NW1 5RT

8. SARTORIAL SCOTS: STEWART CHRISTIE & CO

They have a formidable reputation as a gentlemen’s tailor, all old school tweed suits and shooting jackets. But why should the men get all the tailoring talent? So after 300 years they’ve just opened up a women’s floor and it’s doing a rip roaring trade. They may be a bit specialist to sew a single shirt button but if you’ve something a bit precious you want altering, restyling, resizing, they’ll do an amazing job. Or if you’ve got some fabric you want made up into a you-don’t-know-what, they’ll help. True experts. And surprisingly relaxed too, with not a hint of stuffiness. Our source says the linings they put in her jackets are better than the originals.

01312 256 639 / www.stewartchristie.com / 63 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 4NA

9. LEATHER LOVER: ACE OF SUEDES

The clue is in the title. When it comes to leather these guys are acing it. They’re a big old enterprise specialising in leather, sheepskin and suede. As the main man Hus points out, when you drop your leather jacket off with a London dry cleaner they’ll most likely be sending it to him. But if you’ve something you love, something you can’t afford to replace, don’t leave it to chance, go straight to him. You can call him then post it to his base in Edmonton. They charge £50-£60 to clean a leather or suede jacket. And they do other specialist fabrics too – if something has the F symbol (it’s very delicate) they use hydro carbon solution which is much more delicate than the solution used by most dry cleaners. If it’s results you’re looking for, you’ll find it here in suedes.

0208 981 3232 / www.aceofsuedes.co.uk

10. THE NEEDLE NINJA: INVISIBLE MENDERS OF KNIGHTSBRIDGE

Perfect for a moth hole, tear or burn where other menders fear to tread. Nina is one of only a handful of invisible menders in London. It’s a rare art which isn’t about neat stitching or hiding the stitches, it involves taking threads from a hidden part of the garment and reweaving the fabric into the same weave. Just the thought of it makes us swoon. It takes hours and hours. But Nina is a pro – she’s been doing this for 24 years and her clients include royalty, Gucci and for more than 20 years, Simon Cowell. If someone else can’t mend it and you’re desperate, try Nina. Her prices start from £53.

0207 373 0514 / 161 Gloucester Road, SW7 4TH

11. MOTH MIRACLE WORKER: THE DRESS DOCTOR

As skilled as any doctor we know, Jo Poole is a seamstress extraordinaire. She can do anything from altering a collar to recreating Bjork’s swan dress, but we’re particularly impressed with her ability to give the kiss of life to moth devastated clothes. You know where the moth has ploughed through the fabric with such efficiency that it is more hole than whole. This kind of mild setback doesn’t phase Jo and she has all sorts of tricks up her (well-turned) sleeve to bring the thing back to life. She’ll come to you (it’s £300 for a day but she can turn around up to 10 items in that time) or you can seek her out in her studio. Check out her cracking website, an emporium of fascinating pictures, tips and fun.

jo@thedressdoctor.co.uk / www.thedressdoctor.co.uk

12. JEWEL GENIE: THE JEWELLERY DOCTOR

It may be a leap of faith to put your trinkets and treasures into a jiffy and send it off to Dundee of all places, but bear with us. The Jewellery Doctor is a pro at this stuff. You call or email them and tell them what you’re after. Replacing a lost stone in an earring. Mending a broken chain. Resizing an antique ring. They send you the envelope, you post it recorded and they email you when it arrives. Then they email you your options plus prices. They email you when they’ve finished. And when they’ve sent it back to you. More security than most people have for their children. Or dog. The prices are good and it’s a joy not to have to do the whole ting-ting entering a little old jewellery shop to be faced with intimidating old guy sucking on his teeth routine. So easy why didn’t we sort all those broken bits years ago?

01382 646 706 / www.jewellerydoctor.co.uk

13. MANCUNIAN MENDERS: STITCHES

A Manchester institution, this lot. They do a fair bit of bespoke tailoring for the northern football clientele but they’re also the best people around for every wardrobe whim from basic mending to full-scale alterations. They’ve a big team of top-notch tailors who also work for brands ranging from John Lewis to Armani. They’re lively, helpful and refreshing compared to some of the more traditional tailoring types out there. And so successful they’re expanding across the north to Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool. Our source rushed to them at the 11th hour having realised to her horror that she’d put on a pre-wedding stone (“Who does this?” she laments) and they pulled out the stops (and the waistline).

01618 327 990 / www.stitchesuk.co.uk

14. MASTER SHOE MAKERS: STAR COBBLERS

“If you can wear them, we can repair them,” say these two straight-talking northern craftsmen. They have 70 years of experience between them and laugh in the face of most high street shoe menders. “They’re not trained to do anything,” they say with disdain. “There are not a lot of us out there anymore and we’re rarely stumped.” Stitching, patching, stretching – anything you could want to be done to a shoe or boot, they’ll do. Just package them up with a letter saying what you want. They’ll call you, give you a quote and call when they’ve finished. You pay when you get them back. If you’ve a tricky problem with an old favourite or something you really don’t want messed up, these boys are worth seeking out.

01833 690 113 / www.starcobblers.co.uk

15. REJUVENATING YOUR JEWELS: JEWELLERY WATCH REPAIRS AND RESTORATION LONDON

Their mending service is slicker than their name. Honest (just wait until you see the website address). Based in Hatton Gardens, antique jewellery is their thing and we’ve heard they can be trusted to do complicated things with old pieces, so if you want something reworked or replaced, give them a ring (just make it vintage). It’s appointment only. There’s a younger designer who’ll help you create something from scratch or alter a piece you already have – and two older chaps (one is 81) so we’re talking super experienced. The only catch is if your jewellery is laser cut (lots from Dubai, India and so on say they’re handmade but are in fact laser) the older ones may turn you away (it’s not that they can’t sort it, they don’t approve), but having spoken to them we reckon they can be talked round.

07473 291 834 / www.jewellerywatchrepairsandrestoration-london.co.uk

16. INVISIBLE MENDING MAGIC: BRITISH INVISIBLE MENDING SERVICE

If you’re going to borrow your (highly volatile, anti-smoking) boss’s cashmere stole for an illicit fag break don’t burn a hole in it, was a valuable life lesson one Midult learnt. The other valuable lesson was that the people at Invisible Mending are true magicians. They didn’t just sew up the hole, they rewove the wool so the culprit never worked out where the hole had been, let alone the boss. If you have a moth hole, a burn or a rip which another mender tells you can’t be fixed, go here. They’ve been going for 70 years and their website has great before/after pics showing how they do it. They’ll do more standard alterations and, well, moth holes in knitwear are pretty straightforward for them. Lifesavers.

0207 487 4292 / www.invisible-mending.co.uk

17. LEADERS IN LEATHER: CROMFORD LEATHER COMPANY

It seemed like a good idea when you saw it in the market. Italy. Leather jacket. What could go wrong? A lot, it turns out. Because a badly fitting leather jacket is wardrobe crime numero uno. But you can make it better. These guys make all the leather jackets that are sold in the shop in the workshop below so they know leather, sheepskin and suede inside out. They’ll take whatever leathery thing you have apart and rebuild it so it actually fits you. They can make a leather jacket smaller – and even bigger, though this is tricky so they don’t make promises on that one. They’ll clean, mend and refurb leather too. They’ve been doing this for 45 years. They sorted out Brad Pitt with a 1940s suede jacket for Allied. “That was nice…” says the fitter, voice drifting away… Prices start from around £100.

0207 935 1041 / www.cromfordleather.co.uk / 56 Chiltern Street, London W1U 7QY

18. THE HAT HEALER: BEVERLEY EDMONDSON MILLINERY

Not a thing to keep you awake at night, hats, but if you ever have a flat, floppy or generally flagging hat and don’t want to fork out on a new one, Beverley can sort you out. She runs her own millinery business and will do alterations, mending and restyling hats. Any hats, from wedding creations to something more everyday like a straw hat.

01252 715 039 / www.beverleyedmondsonmillinery.co.uk / 27A The Borough, Farnham GU9 7NJ

19. DELIVERS SHOES TO YOUR DOOR: THE RESTORY

Founder Vanessa Jacobs set this up after a bad encounter with a high street cobbler. Fresh off the plane from New York and hours before an interview, he (unapologetically) trashed the heel on her favourite Louboutin boots. As she says, something needed to be done. So she set up The Restory which offers everything you could possibly need to look after, mend, refurb and protect your bags and shoes. Best of all you don’t need to do the mad dash to get there by 5pm (before realising you don’t have cash – why do they always say no sodding cards?). Because they come to you. To pick up, and to return once they’ve finished. Special cleaning for shoes starts at £25. Why did it take so long for someone to do something so simple, so obvious.

0208 935 5333 / www.the-restory.com

20. RAINCOAT RENOVATION: OUTDOOR CLOTHING REPAIRS

A particularly gruelling encounter with the great outdoors last year (Glastonbury) left one Midult with a broken raincoat zip AND a ripped sleeping bag. Loathe to spend precious cash on more tiresome (her words) outdoor togs she found these guys. Zips, ripped seams, reproofing, resoling walking boots, mending rucksacks and so on. From £40 for a new main zip on a raincoat. You send it to them broken, they send it back fixed. New kit doesn’t come cheap so this is an option well worth considering.

01282 439 109 / www.lancashiresportsrepairs.co.uk / 19 Athletic Street, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4LP

21: ALTERATION ANGEL: RASHMI MAKWANA

Anything from a broken zip to a wedding dress from scratch. By George does Rashmi know her schmutter. For a call-out fee of £60 to cover two home visits (pick up and drop off or fitting) her prices start from £10. Rashmi knows fashion: she was Liberty’s child alterations guru for 10 years so if something doesn’t work, she will magic it into submission. Whether you’ve got fatter or thinner, more or less daring, she can adjust and manipulate fabric like a demon. Add a sleeve, turn a maxi into a midi, and – as a fantastically accomplished dressmaker and couturiere – she is a secret weapon when it comes to copying or making the frock you’ve always wanted but never quite found. She can work from a chat and the most cack-handed of drawings. Stick her on speed dial.

07956 918 865 / www.couturiererashmi.com

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