Stocks, shares... handbags? That’s right, handbags can now be more valuable than gold. Stylist gets investment advice from the women making money in the most fashionable way
Illustration: Natalia Sanabria
“To be profitable, you need to research your bags”
Investor: Fanny Moizant, 40, co-founder of Vestiaire Collective
Number of investment bags: 25
Estimated value of collection: £45,000
Most expensive bag: Hermès Kelly, £9,000
“I have a one-in-one-out system with handbags – I currently have my eye on a vintage, dark green Hermès Kelly. Because of its unusual colour, it was difficult to track down, but I found one on Vestiaire so I’ll now sell on a black version I currently own. I always trade up and have never made a loss. I’d like my collection to appreciate in value, so when I pass it on to my kids they can make some money from it.
“If you met me you might not guess I have a collection of amazing bags. I love the craftsmanship, but I’m a low-key dresser and I carry an old canvas tote. Though I might take one out for a special occasion, I couldn’t throw my packed lunch into a Kelly. The first rule of investment, after all, is to look after your pieces.
“If you want to buy low and sell high, my advice would be to get the bag of the season, keep it a few weeks, then re-sell while demand is still high. Obviously you need a little capital to start with and you have to know which products will be the most in-demand. Research the styles designers are about to release, look at the celebrities who already have that bag and study the hype it’s getting online and in magazines. Hot products sell out straight away – if you’re an early purchaser, you can re-sell these, often for a profit, to desperate buyers keen to own them as soon as possible.
“Personally, I prefer to buy classic, vintage pieces [over 20 years old] and hold on to them. I check sites such as odettavintage.com and whatgoesaroundnyc.com and avoid anything ‘on trend’ as it dates quickly. Stella McCartney, Gucci and Chloé do fantastic bags, but they’re seasonal and aren’t worth as much after a few years. Chanel and Hermès have styles that have been popular since the Fifties. My best ever return was £1,000 profit on an Hermès Kelly.”
Investment tip: “Look at what’s happening on catwalks before deciding whether to sell or buy a piece: what’s fashionable on the runway will dictate what sells well on the vintage market.”
“Spotting the quality of a bag is all about the details”
Investor: Meg Randell, 27, designer bags and fashion specialist at Chiswick Auctions
Number of investment bags: 7
Estimated value of collection: £7,000
Most expensive bag: Chanel 2.55, £1,800 (retail value £4,000)
“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.”
“I use Margaret Thatcher’s boxy bag”
Investor: Mounissa Chodieva, 39, founder of luxury wardrobe management service Vault (vaultcouture.com)
Number of investment bags: 293
Estimated value of collection: unknown
Most expensive bag: A bag that once belonged to Margaret Thatcher, £35,000
“I keep my bags in museum-quality conditions, in an air-controlled, guarded storage facility. I could use any of them, but tend to rotate one or two for day-to-day wear – usually Hermès Birkins, which I have no plans to resell.
“Hermès is my preferred brand. I seek out rare skins and styles as they’re guaranteed to go up in value. Generally only a handful are made each year, so I attend international auctions and private bag exhibitions and often connect with other collectors. Paris is the ultimate destination to buy vintage, though I recently attended an extraordinary auction with exemplary pieces in Moscow. Auctions are where I go to unwind. I tend to collect rather than sell on, but I will swap a bag if I find I have more than one in the same style.
“I bought Margaret Thatcher’s bag at a charity auction in 2014. It’s boxy and black – very understated. The auction got impassioned with lots of bidders, but I don’t regret the purchase – all proceeds went to charity, after all. I use it when I go to meetings and want to feel empowered. Carrying one of her bags is like taking a small part of history with me.
“My passion for bags started while growing up in communist Russia. I was obsessed with a weekly CNN show – one of the only western channels we could get – called Style With Elsa Klensch. Reporting on the history and symbolism behind brands like Calvin Klein and YSL, it seemed like a real fashion education. Of course it was far removed from my everyday life (though my family lived comfortably, luxury goods were hard to come by), but ultimately it was my first lesson in bag investment. It taught me to look for craftsmanship and clever design.
“I started collecting properly after university – more as a hobby than an investment – and was gifted my first Hermès Birkin by my parents for my 25th birthday. Hermès bags are an excellent example of style and craftsmanship. Only limited numbers of each design are produced every year and they can be particularly lucrative if you find the more exotic colours. I try to buy new, but for vintage I’m constantly checking 1stdibs (1stdibs.com). Each piece is listed with an in-depth description of its history. I can lose a few hours there.”
Investment tip: “The pieces that retain their value are either limited edition or ones that epitomise their era. It’s about understanding which styles captured the zeitgeist. Tom Ford at Gucci, John Galliano at Dior; they each had signature styles, so well-maintained versions of their bags now sell because they created an historic moment.”
The Stylist guide to buying an investment bag
Kerry Taylor, of vintage fashion specialists Kerry Taylor Auctions, shares her tips
“The best investments are Hermès and Chanel, followed by Gucci. [Good quality vintage Birkins have increased in value by more than 500% in the past 35 years. According to re-sale site Baghunter.com, the annual return on a Birkin is 14.2%, compared to 1.5% on gold.] Look for brands that are artisanal: Hermès bags, for instance, are all hand-crafted, ensuring there aren’t any imperfections. With Chanel it’s more about the design – the classic 2.55 is the most sought-after. When it comes to Gucci, the most lucrative designs are from the Sixties, with the curved bamboo handle.
“The most prolific buyers of luxury bags tend to be from China and Russia. They look for colours such as pink, orange, purple and jade green – less so for functional black and brown. Those shades are still desirable, but will result in about half the price of a more exotic option.” condition “A bag that’s scratched or a little worn can be reconditioned – have it done by the company that made the bag – but it costs around £350. Get it valued at an auction house first to check it’s worth the outlay.”
“The texture, smell and strength of the leather should be obviously superior. If the stitching is uneven and different sizes, it’s an indication that it could be a fake.
“Keep the bag fastened and filled with tissue so that it holds its shape. Bags can cave in after long periods of no use, but ensuring that the interior is supported should guard against this. Keep it in its dust cover and box, ensuring that the edges of the box don’t become bashed and worn, as this can also devalue the piece. Chanel always use incredibly soft leather, so ensure the chain doesn’t touch it.”
“Having the original box and receipt helps enormously if you plan to sell on. And if your bag is a rare skin, you must have a licence to prove the animal was specially farmed, not wild. The licence should always be with the bag – police or customs have the right to destroy it, if not.”
Illustration: Natalia Sanabria at Illustration Ltd
Photography: Chris Floyd
Hair and make-up: Nina Sagri at S Management, Andrea at S Management