Lux­ury Birkins, record-break­ing auc­tions and a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar court case – who knew the mar­ket in used bags was so cut-throat? SUNA ERDEM talks to the 27-year-old be­hind the drama

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - FASHION INSIDER -

Last December, Matt Rub­inger, who heads up the lux­ury hand­bags and ac­ces­sories team at Christie’s auc­tion house in Lon­don, over­saw the sale of £4 mil­lion (about R87 mil­lion) worth of bags and other pret­ties in an on­line auc­tion. One – a matte-white Hi­malaya crocodile­skin Her­mès Birkin – sold for more than £100 000 (about R2.2 mil­lion). An­other croc­o­dile-skin Birkin, cus­tom-made in Paris and dec­o­rated with images of red tulips, went for £65 000 (about R1.4 mil­lion).

Matt is a hand­bag prodigy, and the bags he deals in are as­tro­nom­i­cally priced items sold at auc­tion. Faced with the di culty in get­ting hold of pre­mium Her­mès bags, with their lim­ited re­lease and mys­te­ri­ous wait­ing lists, what else is an oli­garch’s arm candy to do?

The suave, well-groomed Matt – only 27 – is king of this fast-grow­ing new world. As I chase him by tele­phone across the globe, he pops up in the play­grounds of the mon­eyed and im­pa­tient. First, I nd him in Dubai, where he is exploring pri­vate sales. Then he’s in Hong Kong, his base, where, in June, Christie’s sold the most ex­pen­sive hand­bag ever at auc­tion – a fuch­sia croc­o­dile-skin Birkin – for £147 000 (about R3.2 mil­lion).

As Matt ex­pounds with en­thu­si­asm on the world of rare lux­ury hand­bags, it’s easy to see why he is at the cen­tre of a tug-of-war that has re­sulted in a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar court case. The sub­ject hit the spot­light in 2014 when the Amer­i­can auc­tion house Her­itage sued Christie’s over al­legedly lur­ing away its lux­ury hand­bag ex­perts, most griev­ously snatch­ing Matt. The suit alleges that Matt breached his contract and stole trade se­crets from Her­itage, which hired him straight out of uni­ver­sity four years ear­lier. It is still un­re­solved. Christie’s, Matt and his col­leagues hotly con­test the case, in which Her­itage is seek­ing £40 mil­lion (about R876 mil­lion) in dam­ages.

I tell Matt I nd the whole story in­cred­i­ble – mil­lions of dol­lars for a row over a bunch of old hand­bags? He is silent for a scar­ily long time. ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ he says in a whis­per.

Get him back on the sub­ject of the bags them­selves, how­ever, and there’s no stop­ping him. He talks ex­cit­edly about the Hi­malaya; only a hand­ful have been made, I’m told, but he di­rects me to the Har­rods VIP suites, where Christie’s is hold­ing an in­vite-only pri­vate sale in a rst-time col­lab­o­ra­tion with the lux­ury depart­ment store. The bag is a beauty to be­hold, with its white-dusted dye care­fully cal­i­brated to evoke the Hi­malayas. Well, I ex­pect it is, but be­fore I could ‘be­hold’ it, the bag had been sold – for £95 000 (about R2 mil­lion). ‘Har­rods can get you any­thing,’ says Michel Omeyer, Christie’s pri­vate sales man­ager for the Mid­dle East. ‘But even if you turn up with a mil­lion dol­lars, even if you are a king, they can’t get you this bag.’

Matt has been well ac­quainted with hand­bags for most of his life. ‘I fell into it,’ he says. ‘When I was a teenager, my mom asked me to look on­line for a bag for her. As I was spend­ing my par­ents’ money, I was care­ful and took it se­ri­ously. I did a lot of re­search. A week later, I sold it again – she didn’t want me to.’ Why would you do that? ‘I be­came fas­ci­nated by the pos­si­bil­i­ties. I prob­a­bly made $100 (about R1 500), and I was

Grace Kelly car­ry­ing the Her­mès bag named af­ter her

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