The New York Observer referred to him as “The Sultan of Stains.” John Mahdessian, 44, has taken third generation cleaning business, Madame Paulette, named for his great uncle’s wife, from a local Manhattan shop to a purveyor of services to the über-wealthy worldwide. With an eye for opportunity, the company continues to expand its services to all sorts of high-end cleaning and restoration, now including yachts and private jets. Recently Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan caught up with Mahdessian over lunch near his Upper East Side New York flagship store.
ET: What is the history of Madame Paulette?
John Mahdessian: I am the third generation and for more than half a century we have been a family-owned business that has been acclaimed as the pioneer and leader in couture cleaning and restoration. Our client list includes designers such as Vera Wang, Christian Dior, Gucci and Fendi as well as celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Eva Longoria, Salma Hayek and Melania Trump. Our work is so highly regarded we are consistently awarded some of the most prestigious restoration commissions, including Princess Diana’s gowns, Joe DiMaggio’s original baseball jersey, Coco Chanel creations dating from the 1930s and in 2006 many of the irreplaceable vintage pieces featured in the 2006 “Anglomania” exhibit in New York City.
ET: What services do you provide?
John Mahdessian: Obviously we start with expert dry cleaning for designer apparel, which can also include fine European tailoring, in-home tailoring and alterations, invisible re-weaving, wet cleaning, fiber stain protection and special whitening. We also handle a lot of couture garments and Madame Paulette has created the safest, most advanced techniques and procedures to restore and salvage couture collections once thought to be damaged beyond repair.
Even if you look at our shirt laundering business, we can do anything that is needed. For example, in some cases we remove special types of buttons prior to laundering to prevent cracking or breaking, as well as laundering each shirt by hand, which doesn’t cause shrinkage, and increases the life expectancy of the garments by 10 times compared to conventional processes.
Another area of our expertise is interior cleaning. We also do this for yachts and private jets, and includes wall-to-wall carpets, draperies and window treatments, upholstery cleaning, antique carpets and oriental rugs, fabric blinds, shades and curtains, estate cleaning and restoration, water, fire and smoke damage restoration, soot and smoke removal as well as odor treatment. We also handle restoration for furniture, headboards, carpeting and other home items.
Another service I think your readers would find interesting is our Destination Valet Service in which we can have their wardrobe cleaned, restored and shipped to any destinations in the world. Our Closet Concierge is designed to transform a disorganized closet into a beautiful, well-maintained space including digital photographing and cataloging, and seasonal wardrobe rotation.
The Madame Paulette Organization is the authority in bridal alterations, cleaning and preservation. From the smallest adjustment to a complete re-tailoring of a special suit or remaking of an entire dress, we are the final destination for brides and the world’s most famous bridal designers. For brides who feel like a dress has been lost to time, we can fully restore the dress to its original splendor, including adding identical panels, lace or trimming, which may have thought to be damaged beyond repair. No damage is too great for us to fix.
We are the exclusive bridal specialist for designers such as Vera Wang, Reem Acra, Monique Lhuillier, Amsale, Carolina Herrera, Christian Dior, Badgley Mischka, Angel Sanchez, Oscar de la Renta and many more. These companies commission only the finest bridal gown cleaning, restoration and preservation company, which is why they chose Madame Paulette.
Because of this impeccable reputation, celebrities all over the world call us to handle all their bridal needs. One notable dress was Melania Knauss-Trump’s $250,000 couture gown, which was cared for before, during and after the nuptials. Other celebrity brides that have commissioned Madame Paulette include Kate Hudson, Ivanka Trump, Judith Giuliani, Melissa Etheridge, Thalia Mottola, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Mariska Hargitay and countless others. Eva Longoria-Parker was so thrilled with the Madame Paulette Professional Stain Removal Kit that she provided them as goody-bag gifts to her guests during her wedding weekend.
ET: Do you have a high-end customer base?
John Mahdessian: We have 80 active customers who are billionaires, so that’s a good start. Our clients know that Madame Paulette is the best around the world and will bring all their wardrobe and interior items to us for care. People come to Madame Paulette because they know that we have the experience and know-how to care for the most precious pieces—whether they are the most wealthy in the world, or those that simply want the best care for their most prized possessions.
ET: What are your expansion plans?
John Mahdessian: We know our services are a necessity to the high-end demographic throughout the world and we know to these clients Madame Paulette is a brand, so you can definitely look forward to seeing us expand. As of today, we have a significant amount of business from clients who live outside of the New York area, so in some ways we are already serving them. In a typical day we receive pieces from Australia, Paris, Palm Beach and Beverly Hills. Many of our clients visit our website from across the globe and use our feature “ask the expert,” which allows them to ask questions and receive answers about any garments they wish to bring in. Ultimately, we have plans to open satellites in all the major, high-end demographic cities throughout the US, and eventually abroad as well.
ET: How has your luxury business remained relevant in today’s economic times?
John Mahdessian: Considering today’s economic conditions, even people who can afford to buy new pieces of clothing or furniture have been “shopping” in their own closets and homes, and refurbishing pieces instead of going out and buying new pieces. Restoring an old handbag, cleaning a perfectly good couch or refurbishing a vintage dress from grandma’s closet have all become quite popular alternatives to going out and buying new things, creating a niche market for Madame Paulette. We’ve been able to utilize our incredible reputation as pioneers and leaders in the industry for cleaning and restoring and become a valuable asset to these clients. Because many of these pieces have great sentimental value, we are the only one many of our clients would trust with these possessions.