We talk to Morgane Hamili, Head of Handbags & Accessories at Sotheby's, about the world of handbag investing and how people can get started...for as little as one dollar.
Given the origin of the word ‘investment’ was tailored from the Latin verb ‘investire’, meaning ‘to clothe’, it seems appropriate to look towards handbags when it comes to alternative investments. Last year, the return on handbag investments grabbed global headlines and when you look at the figures it is not surprising. Morgane Hamili, Head of Handbags & Accessories at Sotheby’s, shares her expertise and her tips for those who want to invest in handbags or who have a valuable handbag in their collection.
Designer handbags have become a highly sought-after investment commodity. What do you think is driving this?
There are a few driving factors that make them attractive investments. The timelessness of the piece is one. Maisons like Hermès only use leathers of the highest quality to produce their handbags. This means these handbags, with the right care, can be used for years, which also means they are more sustainable.
Owning a part of fashion history is also a driving factor. To be able to own a part of the maison’s history has a lot of sentimental value to our collectors. This is especially so when it comes to limited editions like the original Quelle Idole Kelly Doll in Gulliver leather, and Vibrato Kelly – these highly sought-after bags have all been discontinued and are no longer in production.
Thirdly, the potential profit that can be achieved via resale is a factor. This is dependent on the brand, rarity, condition and market interest. Usually, the resale market favours designers like Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. For example, the Hermès cult favourite Mini Kelly II in calf leather, mint condition, can sell for up to three times its original retail price in auction
Data shows the increasing financial prowess and power of women investors – are you seeing this in your work?
Yes. Female buyers and sellers make up the majority of our auctions worldwide.
Is investing open only to ultra-high net worth collectors or are there entry points for someone to invest a few hundred or thousand euro?
There is definitely an entry point for everyone in our handbag auctions. Our sales are always meticulously curated with a wide range of buyers in mind – from seasonal collectors to younger buyers. We often offer lots with ‘No Reserve’ – where the bidding starts from $1.
Most of our buyers and sellers are in their 30s and 40s, which is significantly younger when compared to our counterparts in the art world.
Is this an investment area you are seeing interest in from Gen Z?
Yes. We are seeing buyers as young as in their 20s, as participants of our handbag auctions, both as buyers and sellers. Most of our buyers and sellers are in their 30s and 40s, which is significantly younger when compared to our counterparts in the art world.
What are the handbags that have already proven bankable as investments?
Most of Hermès’ and Chanel’s items. As for Louis Vuitton, it is mostly limited editions, runway pieces, or collaborations with artists – such as Louis Vuitton’s Artycapucines, collaborations with Virgil Abloh, Supreme etc.
Is the Hermès Kelly still a collector’s dream?
Of course! The Hermès Kelly is truly an iconic piece in the history of bags and fashion. From being a princess’s baby bump cover-up to now every collector’s dream, the Hermès Kelly is both feminine and elegant. Countless variations of the iconic Kelly have also been reinterpreted by different well-renowned designers over the decades – such as the Kelly Pochette and Picnic Kelly 35 by Jean Paul Gaultier, the Quelle Idole Kelly Doll by Jean-Louis Dumas – making the Kelly forever timeless.
While current trends have shifted away from the bigger sizes, and we see a strong rising trend in the smaller sizes such as the Kelly 25s and Mini Kellys, the Hermès Kelly is a must-have in every collector’s closet.
What are some styles to note that have performed well as alternative investments in recent years?
In general, every size and style of Birkin and Kelly saw increases in average value. The Mini Kelly II, which was released in 2016, is the most valuable style Hermès has produced, and is slowly becoming a hit even amongst young collectors. Limited editions like the Mini Picnic Kellys retail for around US$14,000 but can reach up to US$76,000 in auction. Sotheby’s Hong Kong has even sold a Picnic Mini Kelly in Vert Verone colour for HK$820,000 (US$104,000). The most coveted Himalaya Birkins sold for US$95,000 in the resale market a few years back, but now you will rarely see any Himalayas falling below the US$200,000 mark. Calf leather Birkins & Kellys in desirable sizes can sell for up to 2.5 times their original retail price in auction.
What are your top 3 things someone who wants to invest in a handbag should think about/look out for?
- Is it easy to style?
- Is it a timeless piece?
- Most importantly: is it sentimental and personal? Choose something that you like, do not always focus on resale value or the trend.
What advice would you give to someone who owns an investment handbag?
Keep it in good condition.
Provide appropriate leather care and storage.
Ask your handbag experts for advice – different bags can be suitable to sell at different times!
This article was originally published in November 2022.