Why people buy bags at auctions
Today people buy bags primarily in order to carry them, while some of them think about what they are investing in: how much a certain model will cost in a few years and whether it is possible to make money on it. Previously, this was definitely not observed.
Matthew Rubinger © press service
About when the "hunting season" began
About 20 years ago, in the late 1990s, there was a major shift with the introduction of the first collectible bags like the Fendi Baguette or the Louis Vuitton X Stephen Sprouse. Buyers looked at these accessories from a different angle, market prices skyrocketed, and some models doubled or tripled in price as they were no longer available and could not be bought.
Louis Vuitton X Stephen Sprouse © farfetch.com
In the mid-2000s, such a phenomenon as the IT-bag emerged, and each season there was that one cherished model that connoisseurs longed to get - Chloé Paddington, Balenciaga City. These bags were not only very expensive, but also produced in limited editions, and it was necessary to guess the moment in order to have time to buy a new product. But as the season passed, people began to go crazy for something else, and the model, which had been hunted just a few months ago, depreciated.
In 2008, the financial crisis hit and people started to think seriously about spending. The question of whether this or that item is worth its money, if next season it will no longer have any value, hung sharply in the air. That's when they returned to the classic models that have stood the test of time. Black leather Kelly, brown Birkin, Chanel in beige. Not only did these bags seem like the right investment, but they also stood out from all the seasonal fashions that were so catchy that they lost their appeal. Interestingly, as soon as people started thinking about spending, the market for "new" bags plunged into a crisis, while vintage models began to rise in value. The buyers wanted to buy something really valuable that justifies its value.
SAC KELLY RETOURNÉ 32 EN CUIR GULLIVER NOIR, GARNITURE EN MÉTAL DORÉ HERMÈS, 1995 © christies.com
By 2011-2012 we got out of the crisis, but we started spending money wisely. Expensive vintage bags began to be treated like watches, jewelry, cars and paintings. By that time, some models of rare bags had grown in price, and new factors were added to this. For example, the classic Kelly and Birkin had value, but their value varied depending on the color or material. Gradually, such bags began to appear more and more often on the market, and over time, the trend only grew stronger. There are now two categories of bags: classic models that never change in value - black Birkin, Kelly and certain Chanel models. The second category is a real reserve of very rare items, limited edition bags made from materials that are no longer used. Such models are the main value.
© press service archive
This is comparable to a watch auction. Collectors already own a Rolex Daytona, a watch can be purchased from any auction house, and customers want something special, like Paul Newman's own Paul Newman Daytona. Last year they sold for $ 17.75 million. A colossal amount, buying such a watch is risky, but incredibly exciting. Something similar is happening in the vintage bag market now.
About the main brand on the market
The three most important brands at the moment are Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. This is followed by Fendi, Gucci, Dior and other Houses with history. For auction Hermès is the number one brand. In percentage terms, this is a huge chunk. However, if you look at the secondary handbag market in general, it turns out that Hermès does not have such a large share. Auction houses, online retailers, private sellers sell bags of brands of varying degrees of importance, but they do not have the very rare bags that collectors hunt for. This is important to us because we focus on niche history and the heart of this niche is Hermès. For decades, they have been the best at what they do. Hermès' main secret is craftsmanship, quality, design, style and limited edition. Here you can also add a personal history of some bags. However, I'm not surethat the last factor is such an important engine. A huge number of other Houses also have stories, they called their bags after the names of the stars, but it didn't work. The point is that you cannot create a legend in one season. Hermès handbags may not be in line with the hottest trends, but from the point of view of collectors and connoisseurs, they are the best there is on the market.
Jane Birkin with Hermes Birkin bag © Michel Dufour / WireImage
Some brands realized that they needed to copy Hermès strategy, focused on quality, began to use rare materials, and produce limited edition bags. We see certain brands rise in price at auctions, but Hermès has set the bar so high that everything pales in comparison. Take the Fendi crocodile bag from a relatively new collection, which sold in the US a couple of years ago for $ 2,000 and now costs 4,000. The numbers don't look impressive, and the bag already costs twice as much, which is absolutely incredible. Luxury brands are moving in this direction, but Hermès prices are so high that attention is focused only on them.
The world's most expensive bag
My job is like a competition, and I really love to compete. I put a lot of effort into making Christie's the best. Sometimes I can't sleep thinking about all the items that I would like to put up for auction. The most coveted lot I dream to sell is Bijoux Kelly. You know, we are very proud to sell the world's rarest models. I can say that Bijoux Kelly will break every conceivable and inconceivable record. This is the most expensive bag in the world. I finally managed to find two copies, I know which of the clients owns them, but you understand, I cannot come and say: "Do you know that your bag is the most expensive in the world?" It will alienate me from my goal, no one will part with such a rarity. However, I am sure that one day everything will work out.
If we talk about the bags sold, the most expensive model is the white Hermès Kelly Himalaya, made of alligator skin, with diamonds. She broke the world record three times. But it should be borne in mind that we have always exhibited it in perfect condition: no one used it, there was not a single scratch or tiny speck on it. And for the first time in London, we exhibited a less impeccable specimen.
Hermes Kelly Himalaya © christies.com
For us, the story was not very exciting, because the bag with minor defects will not even come close to the record. On the other hand, it was an opportunity for true connoisseurs and collectors, not competing in the rates, to get their hands on it, buy a bag previously sold for more than £ 200,000 for 100,000. A very interesting situation for collectors, buyers and the market as a whole. Yes, this bag will not break the world record, but it will definitely break the record in Europe.
Other brands worth investing in
It so happened that French Houses are the market leaders. They are followed by Italians, then by the Americans. In my opinion, some brands that are not as well-known as Hermès or Chanel may increase in value over time. An interesting example is Judith Leiber. The brand is not widely represented at world auctions, but, in my opinion, it has a future. True, it will depend on what strategy the brand chooses today.
© Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Last year at Christie's in London, we put together a collection of incredible Judith Leiber clutches: about 40 bags were displayed like little cakes in a pyramid. This event did not affect the market in any way, but the process was incredibly fun and exciting because of the lots - unusual, shiny, funny. And most importantly, the buyers wanted these particular models because they were created by Judith Leiber herself, who left the brand more than twenty years ago.
Judith Leiber © Frank Leonardo / New York Post Archives / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images
Today there is a group of collectors collecting clutches of her authorship. In recent years, the brand has changed the logo and design of accessories several times, opened and closed stores. It's hard to say where all this is heading today. Take, for example, the rolled-up dollar clutch by Alexander Wang and Judith Leiber - very cool and really popular, but as far as its future is concerned, it all depends on how things unfold.
Rolled-up dollar clutch, Alexander Wang X Judith Leiber © alexanderwang.com
If there are too many models released, the bag won't be as valuable, and if the brand remains limited, the clutch will be hunted down in the future. This compares to the hype surrounding Chanel's Matryoshka bag collection. Early models are so small that people collect them and buy them at auctions. If Judith Leiber and a number of other brands take note of this strategy, their bags will surely be in value over time.
About working with collectors
There are not that many people in the world who own large Birkin diamond collections. But those who love these rare models are very involved in the process. They have a couple of friends with whom to discuss bags and auctions, but like any advanced collector, they want to learn and understand what they are buying. They need catalogs and it is important to know what is in the price, what is interesting on the market, they want to get expert opinion and advice. It's like art. Almost the most important part of our work is training. We often discuss collections with clients, think about how to make them more valuable, what to buy next. Professional collectors have so many bags that they are thinking about the next step: get a new model or put something up for auction, because the value of the bag has increased.
By the way, we also work with men who buy bags for their wives, and it is very important for them to understand what they are paying for, what makes the bag so expensive. I can say that I really appreciate such a thoughtful approach. Most of the time we work with connoisseurs who come and say, "Show me something special." And here you need to explain to a person why a particular model is worth the declared money.
HERMES BIRKIN 35 Bag BLUE SAPPHIRE Epsom Coveted Gold Hardware © christies.com
I had a client who wanted a blue sapphire Kelly crocodile skin. In fact, the model in this particular color is not very interesting on the market, as the brand continues to produce bags in this shade. We discussed the purchase, I talked about its initial cost - $ 20-25 thousand. He asked me long and meticulously about the model. I assured him that this is a very fair price, and advised him to stick to the $ 30-32 thousand limit. This is the maximum value for a bag of this color. And then it came to the bidding. Hearing the amount - 62 thousand - I looked at the person who was buying Kelly, and saw the same man. Then I called him: “Look, we spent an hour and a half discussing the strategy. I recommended that you don't go above 32 thousand. How did it happen that you paid 62 thousand? " The client replied that it was important for him to understandwhy the bag is so expensive and what is its peculiarity. His wife opened the catalog, picked a particular model, and he was going to buy a blue sapphire Kelly anyway, no matter what. He knew that he was ready to pay any amount, just not to return home empty-handed, but he contacted me anyway, because he wanted to understand the issue. This episode is a perfect example of how we work with clients. For me, the most important thing is to teach people to understand the subject and the market.how we work with clients. For me, the most important thing is to teach people to understand the subject and the market.how we work with clients. For me, the most important thing is to teach people to understand the subject and the market.
About bags with "history"
The condition of the bag is one of the most important factors for us. In perfect condition, it will cost several times more than the same model with minor defects. We rarely do restoration ourselves, but in exceptional cases we are ready to close our eyes to the condition. It happens that some wear and tear makes the bag valuable. Last year, we sold Elizabeth Taylor's Kelly. And yes, it was clear that the bag was used, but at the same time, Taylor herself was felt in the item. Another example is Louis Vuitton's luggage, which has been on the Queen Mary and covered with first class travel tags. Here we are rather selling history, and the condition of the bag does not play such an important role.
Tips for Beginner Collectors
The first and most important rule - do not get hung up on something specific, give yourself freedom. Choose three to four bags and start from the situation. It's easy to lose control of yourself in an auction, especially if you're passionate and emotional. Set a price cap for yourself and watch your rates closely.
For beginners, I would advise you to pay attention to the classic models. However, here it is hard for me to say, because rare specimens are much more interesting - the auction resembles a fight. You come to an auction and a certain bag is so amazing that you can't think of anything else.
It is also very important to come to the auction or follow the online bidding - this is the only way you will understand how everything is happening, feel the atmosphere, find out what amounts are being offered, and, perhaps, be glad that the bids will not be as high as you expected. Well, make sure you don't get into a fight with someone very serious. In any case, the bags Christie's works with are already a good choice, you definitely can't go wrong.
The editorial staff would like to thank the auction agency Baltzer for their help in organizing the interview.>