On the face of it, the new leather restoration business started by two Dubai entrepreneurs seems like an idea so elementary it’s a surprise we don’t already have one on every street corner or in every mall. After all, in a country obsessed with luxury goods, those designer accessories must need a bit of a polish and a little facelift once in a while to live their high-end prices out.
But for partners Jai Tolani and Dhiraj Munjwani, Lovin My Bags Middle East, is a labour of love that took its time. It’s not just restoration, explains Tolani, it’s about giving a prized possession some nice little lovin’.
“We treat possessions, whether it’s bags, shoes, wallets, belts, briefcases as ‘souls’ that require constant rejuvenation, pampering and love,” he says. “We also have an extensive leather care product range developed to prolong the life and beauty of luxury items.”
Lovin My Bags is an American franchise, which opened its polished Dubai doors in March. Thanks to its reception, the partners are already drawing up plans to take it to the rest of the Middle East.
The Directory spoke to them about their service, what they’ve got for men and where they want to take their new found love.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of bringing Lovin My Bags to the UAE?
Jai Tolani: We came together at the beginning of last year to start a new business venture. After researching three to four business concepts, Lovin My Bags really got us going, so we stuck to this business. We reviewed everything from IT gadgets to yoga for kids and tech portals but the idea of a concept focused on ‘Luxury’ was really exciting for this market. We got a chance to meet with Barbara, the Founder of Lovin My Bags Global in Singapore in March 2011 and worked out details of the partnership and franchise. We both spent almost over a year in carefully planning the concept by running feasibility studies, studying local market dynamics, evaluating customer needs, getting the right location, training, staffing and finally launching Lovin My Bags.
Q: What has been the reaction so far?
Jai Tolani: The response has been overwhelming. We modelled the boutique after carefully studying the retail experiences of top brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Versace, and Hermes as we wanted to offer our customers a luxury experience. There is a huge gap in the market for such a service, where customers feel comfortable giving their possessions and luxuries. Our customers are fascinated and really interested on how we make such miracles happen to their items which are in such poor condition at times. We have also recently started a pick-up and delivery service for our customers for free. Q: But it’s not all about handbags for women is it? Tell us what you have for men.
Dhiraj Munjwani: Lovin My Bags targets both the male and the female market. Last week we had a customer who’s had 15 pairs of shoes and four to five bags, wallets, belts for the past two years in his closet for professional restoration. There is a huge men’s market in the Middle East that loves spending on luxury items including bespoke leather briefcases, branded shoes, designer leather belts, wallets, watches and other hand-stitched, expensive leather goods.
Q: What items do the men usually bring?
Dhiraj Munjwani: Men are getting more and more conscious about maintenance of their bags. We do everything from colour restoration and disinfecting, cleaning, leather restoration, stain removal, metal polishing and oil and water proofing.
Q: How long does it take to restore an item and how much does it cost?
Dhiraj Munjwani: Depending on the condition of the leather goods and the services you choose, it can take anywhere between one to four weeks and may take as long as six to eight weeks sometimes. The prices also vary based on the condition of the bags, the work involved and the material. For example, our price range for cleaning of men’s shoes starts at Dh100 and can go up to Dh350 depending on basic cleaning or colour restoration. For other goods, like briefcases, it really depends on the work and time involved in restoration.
Q: You’ve also launched a ‘pre-loved’ concept where you sell pre-owned goods?
Jai Tolani: Yes, we have recently started this concept and have sold a few belts, wallets and briefcases and iPad cases. Our concept is to offer customers looking to own luxury goods at least 50-60 per cent off the original value. Both buyers and sellers get a good bargain and deal.
Q: And now you have expansion plans? Where do you want to take the concept to?
Jai Tolani: At the moment, we definitely have a lot of education to do in terms of leather maintenance and conservation, we are investing our resources to that end here with our first boutique and store. There is a certain charm in keeping it boutique, however, we feel customers want convenience and ease such as a typical spa so we will invest in more stores. There are also plans to open more stores in the future across the Middle East and India.