Shoe repair shops bring new life and style to classic bags, heels

Serene Cicora craved a new black bag last fall, but couldn't come to terms with the $1,000-plus price tags on the styles she liked. So Cicora, an L.A. publicist, took her brown Mulberry Bayswater bag from several seasons ago and spent $120 to have it dyed black. The makeover gave her a key "new" piece -- and moved her $1,800 bag back to the front of the closet.

Such accessory updates are simple, and they're a smart way to extend the life of basic pieces, customize sale finds or reinvent something for a new season. A brown hobo bag, for example, loses the bohemian vibe when dyed black or deep gray. It can get even more sophisticated if you replace the rustic brass hardware with pewter or brushed silver.

We've found four local cobblers who don't just fix shoes and bags, but also rework, reconstruct and update them. They can restyle a pump, turn a gladiator sandal into a T-bar and give a trendy clutch new life as a classic evening bag.

Pasquale Shoe Repair

5616 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 936-6883. 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday.

Pasquale Fabrizio took over his uncle's shoe-repair business 15 years ago and now owns and operates the 50-year-old shop, nestled on a residential corner along San Vicente Boulevard. A lot of high-end items come through his work area, especially with the Christian Louboutin and Marc Jacobs boutiques funneling their repairs to him. And lately, he's had a lot of requests for makeovers of older pieces. "Not everyone can buy the latest thing," he says, "but you can buy last season for the look, and with a little tweaking, it can be right."

Fabrizio specializes in dyeing leathers, and I recently took in a pair of burnt sienna Frye boots to see if I could give them a motorcycle boot vibe. Fabrizio dyed them black, then distressed them so the finish wasn't too shiny or, well, too dyed-looking. The dye was $95, the distressing cost $45, and I got "new" boots for $140 when a comparable pair would have been no less than $250.

Fabrizio took a couple pairs of Manolo Blahnik pumps from simple to shocking for a customer who needed something new. "They were tan and brown before and I made them bright green and bright red. The green suede really jumps out -- it's taking what's there and making something new out of it," he says.

He warns that the more complicated the job or delicate the leather, the more skilled the cobbler must be. "It's like fixing a Ferrari," he says. "You can't just drop it off at some garage." The "Ferraris" he services come in the form of Cartier bags, Prada totes and Louboutin pumps. He notes that, lately, some people are asking that designer logos be removed. "They don't want the flashiness but do want the quality," he says. "They don't want the name but want the look and style. Perhaps there's a certain guilt associated with the labels."

Arturo's Shoe Fix

9643 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-9585. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday.

Owner Arturo Azinian has been in the shoe repair business for 50 years and, at 82, still works in the Beverly Hills shop that has long been a favorite with the area's high-end clientele. Azinian's grandson Ari Libaridian works alongside him as the shop manager.

"Most of the orders we have right now are older things that people have worn just once or twice or maybe not at all," says Libaridian, who adds that the shop is up for any challenge and can "turn a pointed toe into a peep toe," restructuring a shoe and breathing new life into the design.

The purses they treat are usually items that cleaning can't restore. "Once those light-colored Balenciaga bags get dirty, you'll compromise the finish and leather if you keep cleaning it," Libaridian says. "Dyeing it darker will look more natural than trying to get it back to the original color."

The most common repair at Arturo's is a heel tap, which runs $10, but they also put on a lot of "dancing soles" -- a thin piece of rubber placed on the sole under the ball area of the foot. They offer a red dancing sole too, so women won't have to worry about unsightly black rubber eclipsing the signature red sole of their Louboutin shoes. The red soles last three to four months and go for $30 for a full sole and $28 for half.

Shoe Wiz 22

Beverly Connection, 100 N. La Cienega Blvd., Suite 106, Los Angeles. (310) 657-5010. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Cash Feschyan knows how much wear and tear shoes can go through. In addition to repairing the broken buckles and stubborn zippers on merchandise sent over from the Aldo, Nine West and Charles David stores in the Beverly Center, he tends the soles that take a beating on "Dancing With the Stars" and the tours of Madonna and Janet Jackson.

A cobbler for 15 years, Feschyan learned the skill from his grandfather and now owns three repair shops, including one in the Beverly Connection, where he's most often found.

Currently, his most requested alteration is for re-creating the look and fit of fall boots. "A lot of women buy boots, and the shaft" -- the portion that goes over the calf -- "might be too tight or maybe too loose," says Feschyan. "I can shorten, lower, tighten or make the boot's shaft bigger." Translation: Those sexy knee-high boots from a few seasons ago can get cropped down to kicky little ankle boots for a more current look.

Eddie's Shoe Repair

13716 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 789-1972. 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday.

As the third-generation owner and cobbler at Eddie's Shoe Repair in Sherman Oaks, Greg Papazian understands his customers' biggest shoe concerns.

"We maintain shoe collections," he says. "Our customers want preventative care. We replace the plastic sole with rubber, protect, polish and waterproof the whole shoe."

Eddie's has been maintaining shoes from what's now Macy's and Bloomingdale's in Sherman Oaks for the last 40 years, but has recently seen fewer new designer pieces come through its doors for tweaking. "I think people are feeling better renewing what they already have rather than going out and buying something new," he says.

His customers have been bringing in shoes in shocking shades such as fuchsia for maintenance, but as soon as the color can no longer be kept up through protection and cleaning, they make a choice to go darker. "An alternative is to go to a black or dark brown with the item," he says. "You end up getting more life out of it."

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