I made my first investment purchase earlier this year when I bought a Nineties Chanel 2.55 at auction. I’ve always thought the style was very chic, but I also knew it represented a good investment: at the very least it’ll retain its value, though I hope it will appreciate over the years. I’ve never used it. I keep it in its dust bag out of sunlight and ensure the chain doesn’t touch the leather – it’s heavy and could leave a mark I do take it out to look at it on occasion and might consider using it one day, but really I bought it as an investment. Hopefully I can add another Chanel to my collection.
My first ever designer purchase was a Nineties cream Céline handbag when I was 18. I spent my teens trawling charity shops in search of interesting pieces, although that didn’t necessarily mean designer – I grew up in the Gloucestershire countryside, so Chanel was pretty rare. I saw this cream bag on sale for £40 and despite having never heard of Céline, I knew it was special. The quality of the leather, zips and stitching was obvious. After completing an art history degree at Birmingham University, I got a job in a small local auction house. Though I was trained to be a ceramics valuer, I had a good eye for vintage fashion, so began curating those auctions in my spare time. I moved to my current auction house last year and decided to concentrate solely on designer fashion. As with the Céline bag, spotting a genuine designer piece is all about details – you might find similar on the high street, but the corners will crumple because the materials aren’t as high quality.
In the past year, I’ve arranged eight designer bag sales with over 400 lots each. It means I can keep an eye on how much they’re going for, so if I do decide to sell one day, I can choose the right moment. Thousands of bags come past my desk, generally from private sellers. Try to see a bag in the flesh if you hope to buy one – most auction houses will allow this. I’ve got excited about bags in the past only to find they smell strongly of cigarettes, which hugely impacts resale value. Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer: they want something perfect, or as close as possible.
Investment tip: Chanel or Hermès are the brands to look out for as they retain their value better than any others. Classic styles – like the Birkin – will remain covetable even when tastes change.
From the pen of Meg Randell – Designer Handbags & Fashion Specialist