Securing the Bag With Christie’s Head Handbag and Accessories Specialist

Published June 13, 2019

In the five years since she helped found the Christie’s Handbag and Accessories Department in 2014, Specialist Caitlin Donovan has helped a new generation of collectors secure countless a bag in a climate where the value of a Birkin is more stable than an ounce of gold. “We’re a gateway drug,” says Donovan. “Our clients are younger, so we’re breaking into this new client base. We’re also the only female-centric collecting category. Men have always had all these departments, including jewelry, which they buy for their significant other. So it’s empowering for women to build these collections.” While the bag market remains dominated by pedigree (about 80% of the bags that come through Christie’s are indeed the kinds of Hermes bags that are so famously elusive on the primary market), ironically, it is often the case that more novel and orthodox designs — some too strange or impractical to be sold for more than a year — are the ones that fetch the highest prices. “That’s why I say, when investing in a piece, follow your heart,” says Donovan.” It should truly be one you really love and not just an investment.” With the current handbags and accessories sale coming to a close today, Donovan walked us through some of the offering’s more eccentric and delightful specimens.

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HERMÈS CALFBOX LEATHER SO BLACK (2011)

“The So Black series is one of the more collectable limited-edition series. Jean Paul Gaultier came out with it when he was the creative director of Hermes, and he made it in both leather and exotic skin with black hardware. The series was released in 2011 and discontinued in 2012, because the black hardware actually chipped if you wore it aggressively, so if clients can find one in mint condition, they’re willing to pay an extra premium.”

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CHANEL CROCHET EVENING BAG (2004) 

“Chanel has this way of using their accessories to kind of act as a voice in their collections, and the pieces from their resort collections are often the most playful of all the pieces. In this case, we see an impeccably kept structured bag that mixes leather, silks, and glass beads. It still reads as contemporary and timeless. The beads are made of this kind of glass called gripoix, which Chanel also makes their glass jewelry with. Chanel’s clasp bags are made with special machines that were developed by NASA engineers, and the craftsmen work in temperature-controlled rooms. These bags have really jacked up prices, but you hold one you’ll understand why. And we’ve tested it, it will fit your iPhone!”

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MATTE HIMALAYA NILOTICUS CROCODILE DIAMOND BIRKIN WITH 18K GOLD AND DIAMOND HARDWARE (2010) 

“Himalayans are the white whales of the bag world. It’s called such because it is said to resemble the snowy mountain tops of the Himalayas. The dyeing process to get this white-to-gray gradation is really difficult, so craftsmen will train for many, many years before they’re even given the opportunity to make one. So they’re very rare, and only offered to those who have been top-top clients of for many years.”

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CELINE CLEAR PVC SHOPPING BAG WITH SOLO BLACK LAMBSKIN LEATHER POUCH (2018) 

“This piece is a not super expensive, but it was released in a very limited run, so it’s a rarity. It was one of Phoebe Philo’s examples of using PVC, and it’s something nice to round out the auction, which has many selling places for double or triple this estimate.”

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NATURAL BARENIA LEATHER AND OSIER PICNIC KELLY 35 WITH PALLADIUM HARDWARE (2018) 

 “This is from the picnic collection. It is an operational handbag, and it is a personal favorite of my mine. It’s a pretty basic favorite, because everyone loves those pieces, but they’re so rare. And if you think about the level of craftsmanship that goes into them, on par I would say with a watch or a car, it’s exceptional. When you open the top of this Kelly like you would any leather Kelly, the wicker is designed to open on the side so you can actually get into the bag. The interior is lined in leather, saddle-stitched to the exterior by hand by one craftsman.”

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DIOR AVENUE BAG WITH BRUSHED GOLD HARDWARE (2018) 

“What I love about this bag is the canvas is very sturdy — the grommets, everything. Holding this bag, you really feel like you are holding something that is meant to stand the test of time. I have this dedication to iconic style, so I love that Dior has been utilizing the same print for so many years. By blending elements of their Lady Dior with a classic bucket or tote, Dior created a deceptively timeless and forward-thinking bag.”

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HERMÈS QUELLE IDOLE KELLY DOLL BAG WITH PALLADIUM HARDWARE (2007) 

 

“They made the Kelly Doll in 2007 — and then they just stopped making them, so it’s become an extremely collectible piece. They’re re-releasing them custom in exotic skins for clients, but in order for most of us to buy one, you have to go to the secondary market. This one is very rare and was consigned by a private client. Confidential. Hermes is supportive of what we’re doing on the secondary market because we’re doing so tastefully and are advocates of the brand. It’s like how some artists are very supportive of the auction and the secondary market, while others aren’t.”