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The doctors of haute couture revive old goods

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May 24, 2012, 9:10 p.m. | About Kyiv — by Denis Rafalsky

A worker repairs an expensive leather shoe in a specialized workshop in Kyiv opened by Timofei Polischuk
© Kostyantyn Chernichkin

Denis Rafalsky

Unfortunately, even the most expensive clothes wear out, and those designer shoes lose their luxurious looks. But don’t despair if your favorite $800 pair of Manolo Blahnik lost its shine: Kyiv offers a cure for that. After the financial crisis of 2008, Kyiv has gained a small army of people who are good with their hands and can fix what the French tailors and Italian shoemakers created, saving the luxury brand lovers a pretty penny.

Dozens of websites in Ukraine advertise services such as repairs and dry cleaning that give your luxury attire and accessories a second life.

Timofei Polishchuk, a 32-year old shoe master, has a gallery on his website, http://timotheus.com.ua, of the before and after: what the shoes look like that his clients brought in, and what they look like after he is done with them. They arrive shabby and stained, but are transformed under Polischuk’s skillful hands.

The gallery features brands like Cerruti, Chloe, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent and others, a pair of which often costs more than an average Ukrainian wage, which currently stands at Hr 2,923.

Polishchuk opened his small shoe-mending business in 2003, moving on to elite footwear and accessories about six years later, after the financial crisis hit. His repairs are done in a shop in the Darnytskyi district of Kyiv on the left bank, so he opened a collection center in the heart of the city, closer to his rich clients.

The most expensive item that Polishchuk has ever fixed was a crocodile skin bag worth Hr 500,000. It spent such a long time on a shelf of a Kyiv boutique that its corners rubbed off, and he was asked to freshen it up.

“With the price being so high the appearance must be ideal,” he says. He refused to name the boutique, though, saying the shop gives him a lot of business.

Polishchuk says the master should not be intimidated or even conscious about the price of the item he’s handling. “You don’t care about the price if you work carefully and thoroughly. If you spoil the item, that just says that you are not confident of your skill,” he says.

But the mastery comes at a high price, too. Polishchuk says he has been working on one pair of Italian Casadei shoes for more than three weeks. The average price of Casadei is about Hr 7,000. His work will cost Hr 1,600, Polishchuk says.

Women’s designer shoes are very labor intensive because they often have heals made of mixed materials, including plastic and metal and are covered with leather.

Natalia Hlypavka, a process engineer at Lotus Premium dry cleaner’s, says clients are ready to pay a lot to make their favorite designer things shine.

“Expensive things are not disposable and are usually beautiful and favorite [possessions],” Hlypavka assures. “If a dress tears apart at the seams or the embroidery gets damaged, the item can still be saved. Just apply to us as, the doctors.”

Her shop that handles such repairs has been around since 2009, and gets a lot of luxury items to take care of. “The firm has good clients even from Moscow. Once we helped people that were turned down in the Russian capital and Switzerland,” she says.



Tattered luxury clothes get a second life with the help of an industry that is flourishing in Kyiv. (Ukrafoto)

Kristina Litvinova, a 29-year-old recruiting director of a retail company in Kyiv, is a regular user of elite clothes fixers. “Once they helped me with changing the broken zipper on Chanel bag, the next time my boyfriend’s Lagerfeld shirt was cleaned and sewed on missed buttons,” Litvinova says. “I don’t know where they take the similar gear; things don’t look like they were repaired at all.”

“I’m happy there are masters that can help me with favorite clothes,” Litvinova adds. “If there is something wrong with the dress fitting you perfectly and you know you can’t get another one because it’s from the past collection, their magic hands will do whatever is necessary to save the thing.”

Some of the items come from designers themselves: Andre Tan and Olexiy Zalevskiy and regular clients of Lotus Premium, for example. Some of the clients help out in the cleaner’s work by bringing extra lengths of the precious fabrics, or details of decoration.

“When we get a difficult assignment, we look for every possible solution, but it can delay the fixing times, but clients agree to it,” Hlypavka says, adding that wealthy clients understand the value of their possessions. “They are rich because they are not careless. A well-kept, saved thing is worth a new one.”

Apart from skill, it takes good equipment to handle such complicated jobs. The equipment that shoe master Polischuk and his assistants use is German, while the materials are Italian and French. It reflects on the price, but adequate quality cannot be found in Ukraine, Polishchuk claims.

Kyiv Post staff writer Denis Rafalsky can be reached at rafalsky@kyivpost.com
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