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With 70% of the 450 lots sold at their latest designer sale on July 28, Fellows were “delighted with the results”, which saw Chanel and Louis Vuitton join Hermès as top selling brands. The blue ostrich leather Birkin 35 sold for £7500 and joined four other Birkins as the auction’s top five selling lots, fetching £26,000 between them (plus 15%/12.5% buyer's premium). 

“We had a real mix of buyers and the sale room was busier than it’s been for a long time. Most buyers were from the UK and Europe but we also had our first buyer from Malaysia,” said Fellows. 

Thierry Hermès (1801-75) established the French company in 1837, with the first leather handbags introduced in 1922. The original sac à dépêches was popularised by the actress Grace Kelly in the 1950s and instantly became known as the ‘Kelly’ bag. A 1970s tricoloured vintage Kelly bag in blue, tan and red reached its top estimate of £1800.

But the Louis Vuitton brand also sold consistently well at Fellows as did Chanel - a reissue Quilted Classic Flap handbag sold at its top estimate of £1800, with a lambskin leather Maxi Classic Flap fetching £1700.

Dedicated follower of fashion

Other auctioneers have seen good results at their recent designer sales too. Top of the 380 lots at Chiswick Auctions’ Designer Handbags and Fashions auction on July 11 were two more Hermès bags - the cream Retourne Kelly 32 and black Sellier Kelly 32, both selling for £2500 each online to American and European buyers (plus 23% buyer's premium).

“Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton are the pieces that sell the best,” said specialist Meg Randell, “particularly classic bags such as the Hermès Kelly and Birkins, Chanel Flap bags and the Louis Vuitton Speedy. Designer sales work really well because people can buy top-quality, often more unusual pieces, at very reasonable prices.”

True classics

Prudence Hopkins, specialist at Sworders, commented: “Fashions may change, but true classics never go out of style and there is a widespread and growing desire to acquire the best, whether it is clothing, accessories or jewellery. While many of us can’t stretch our budgets to buy new, and to avoid long waiting lists too, women are opting to buy at auction.”

Sworders’ July 6 sale reflected the current trend with a Hermès Paris black crocodile skin Kelly bag fetching £2800 (plus 22% buyer's premium), a classic Chanel vintage 2.55 Double Flap black quilted lambskin classic selling on estimate at £1200 and a Hermès Paris 'Bolide' navy handbag going above estimate at £1550.

Birkin, Kelly and Constance

Kerry Taylor Auctions hit the headlines with their ‘Passion for Fashion’ sale on June 14 as Bjork’s McQueen bell dress sold well over estimate at £44,000 (see ATG report here).

“The total hammer price for the sale was £855,000 – not bad for some old frocks,” said Kerry. She advises newcomers to be aware of fakes and, with handbags in particular, to check for original stitching and that the metalwork is properly finished. “The most popular handbags are the Hermès - Birkin, Kelly and Constance - followed closely by the Chanel Double Flap bags,” Kerry confers.

It’s a record breaker

The highest price paid for a designer handbag was for a rare Himalayan crocodile Hermès Birkin with 245 diamonds which sold for a record $300,000 (£208,000) at Christie’s Hong Kong on June 1.

Next designer sales

Sworders - Objects of Desire, timed auction finishing on July 31

Fellows – Designer Collection on September 29

Kerry Taylor Auctions - Antique and Vintage Fashion and Textiles sale on October 11, and ‘Passion for Fashion’ on December 6

Chiswick Auctions - Designer Handbags and Fashions on October 18