The Gown Cleaner

Photo: Katie Murray

John Mahdessian of Madame Paulette

So who is Madame Paulette?
She was my great aunt. My dad’s uncle Andy married a French woman, Paulette, who was a couturier. They opened Madame Paulette on the Upper East Side 50 years ago. That first year, my dad came over from Cyprus and took over the business. Thirty years ago, I had a job lined up as an investment banker, but I gave up my aspirations so my dad could retire.

Any regrets?
I’m very happy. I’m a family-oriented guy, and at the end of the day our company has earned a great reputation for cleaning any type of fabric, from bridal to couture. We have clients all over the world, from London to Abu Dhabi to Dallas.

What kind of messes do brides usually get into?
I’ve seen pretty much everything, from basic hemline dirt to body oil, sweat, and grass stains. Some brides are thrown into the pool; one came to us after she rode horseback at her wedding. They can trash their gowns, and I’ll still get the stains out.

What other services do you provide?
We clean, restore, and do archival preservation of gowns. We have ten different methods for cleaning and restoring, so your garment will look like new. We also store dresses in a climate-controlled environment. We did Melania Trump’s wedding, and her gown is still in our vault. Lots of times, we service the bride before and after the wedding.

How so?
These days, many women buy their dresses online or at a consignment shop. If you find a size 6 Vera Wang dress at a sample sale, we can make it a size 2. We can source out the fabric and embellishments if the gown needs to be reworked. If you have specific concerns before you buy online, we can look at digital images and give you an estimate of how much the process will cost. There’s nothing we can’t do.

Any advice for brides on the big day?
Go out and enjoy yourself. Don’t pick up your hem and worry about it getting dirty! Have fun! When the red wine spills, don’t worry.

Easier said than done.
I invented and patented a stain-removal kit that every bride should have; you can get it for $12.50 on our website. It’s not OxiClean or Tide to Go or Shout Wipes. It’s a must, and it will definitely do the job without leaving a yellow ring on the garment. Eva Longoria Parker gave one to each of her bridesmaids.

Doesn’t good old-fashioned seltzer work?
No. Our technologies are beyond what museums are using. We charge for 50 years of experience. Sometimes brides take their gowns someplace less expensive before they come to us, and it’s like fixing a botched surgery.

Are you married?
There’s no ring on my finger. For all you unmarried women out there, I’m the most eligible bachelor with a spotless reputation.

avoid homemade remedies

“All salt and seltzer water do is set the stain. Some people think white wine can get out a red-wine stain. None of it works!”
Photo: Henry Hargreaves/New York Magazine


The Gown Cleaner