Berkshire Life - - Front Page - WORDS: Julie Lu­cas

Bags of style

Ac­cord­ing to the De­sign Mu­seum’s book 50 Bags That Changed The World, the hand­bag is a snap­shot of a woman’s life – com­pan­ion, re­cep­ta­cle of se­crets, a sta­tus ob­ject and means of self-dis­play. It has be­come a key item in fash­ion cul­ture.

Christie’s sold its first bag in 1978, part of Coco Chanel’s col­lec­tion. But the vin­tage and se­condary mar­ket for hand­bags re­ally emerged af­ter the re­ces­sion about a decade ago, ac­cord­ing to Rachel Koff­sky, Christie’s hand­bags and ac­ces­sories spe­cial­ist. It was at this time women be­gan see­ing their hand­bags as a se­ri­ous in­vest­ment.

Her­mès is king, says Rachel. ‘The Kelly bag was de­signed al­most 100 years ago, with vir­tu­ally no change to the model since. Sim­i­larly, the Con­stance was de­signed 50 years ago and the Birkin launched 30 years ago. These three mod­els are the most de­sir­able be­cause they are the high­est qual­ity hand­bags, ex­pertly crafted in an ate­lier (French work­shop), in a time­less de­sign.’

Last year, Christie’s sold what is con­sid­ered to be the holy grail of bags, a matte white Hi­malaya Birkin bag made from Nile croc­o­dile with an

18-carat white gold and di­a­mond lock for £292,188, a world record price. A sim­i­lar piece in Lon­don fetched £162,500, the record price for a hand­bag in Europe.

Chanel is an­other cov­eted brand. A Time­less bag de­signed by Karl Lager­feld with its distinc­tive CC clasp fetches premium prices, and a rare run­way piece, a Chanel Paris Bom­bay Ma­tryoshka Doll Min­audière was sold through Christie’s last year for £16,500.

So how is the value cal­cu­lated? ‘We will usu­ally es­ti­mate the sell­ing price at around a third of the re­tail price,’ ex­plains Pru­dence Hop­kins, head of ac­ces­sories at Sworders Fine Art Auc­tion­eers. But there are ex­am­ples where vin­tage hand­bags are now more valu­able than when they were first pur­chased. Cat­walk pieces from Alexan­der McQueen, ex­otic skin Birkins or Chanel’s iconic 2.55s hand­bags (named when the style was in­tro­duced in Fe­bru­ary 1955) pur­chased in the 1980s all com­mand a premium. ‘Con­di­tion, prove­nance and orig­i­nal re­ceipts all add to the value of your hand­bag,’ she says. She feels peo­ple like the his­tory of clas­sic pieces and newer pieces that would have cost sev­eral thou­sand pounds in a shop many years ago can be found for a frac­tion of the price.

‘I think a lot are bought for an in­vest­ment but get light wear,’ ex­plains Sarah White from Ten­nants Auc­tion­eers. ‘Some

Vin­tage de­signer bags not only look

good – they’re an in­vest­ment too ‘Con­di­tion, prove­nance and orig­i­nal re­ceipts all add to the value of your hand­bag’

wear is okay, but they want to be in the best con­di­tion pos­si­ble, if there is a card of au­then­tic­ity, then even bet­ter. Check the han­dle is not cracked and check the cor­ners as of­ten they wear.’ Sarah be­lieves the rise in pop­u­lar­ity is celebrity driven. ‘They are pho­tographed ev­ery­day car­ry­ing the lat­est bag – and peo­ple want a piece of that.’ Sworders are hold­ing an Ob­jects of De­sire sale on Oc­to­ber 3 – see more at

Sworders sold this Cartier Clutch for £2,200

ABOVE: Chanel Paris Bom­bay Ma­tryoshka Doll Min­audière BE­LOW FROM LEFT: Hi­malaya niloti­cus croc­o­dile di­a­mond Birkin; a Chanel black caviar leather2.55 dou­ble flap medium hand­bag sold for £1,550

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