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Christie’s Auction House expert recalls moment she won a £236,750 handbag

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Hannah Keegan
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Handbag specialist evaluates bag

Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, Rachel Koffsky talks us through her one-day diary, from morning latte to lights out. 

Rachel Koffsky, 28, is the head of handbag sales at Christie’s Auction House. She lives in south-east London

My alarm goes off…

At 6.30am. The first thing I do is make a big pot of coffee, poach some eggs and check emails that have come in overnight. I try to go to a 1Rebel fitness class before work twice a week. For workwear, I love the brands Wolf & Badger and Rixo. I walk 30 minutes to the office and listen to a podcast like Dressed: The History Of Fashion.

I’m responsible for…

Curating two handbag auctions a year at Christie’s Auction House and acting as a specialist for all of our clients. This involves sourcing, authenticating and appraising the bags we auction. I also manage a coordinator and a junior specialist.

I got the job…

After studying art history and mathematics at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. At the time, I didn’t really know what I could do with that combination. I started working at an auction house in New York before I even knew that a handbag specialist was a real job, and my skill set came together. I joined Christie’s in 2014 and moved to London in 2016. 

Dior, Chanel,Louis Vuitton and Hermes bags being valued
The historic and social context of a handbag can help make a sale

My typical day…

Sees me arrive at my desk 
at 9am. I start by going 
through emails from Hong 
Kong, then the Middle East, Europe and finally the 
United States – working my
way around the time zones. Clients come in and out all day long, so I can authenticate and appraise their collection of handbags.

 For me, the biggest sign of authenticity is the smell – an atelier has a very specific scent. I see 2,000 bags a year, so I have an intuition, but primarily it’s about examining the craftsmanship, the quality of the material, even the packaging it comes in. We take handbags as seriously as we would a Picasso. I get most excited about seeing a Hermès Constance bag. It was designed at a time when handbags were evolving from having a top handle to a shoulder strap because women were entering the workforce, so it’s representative of women’s changing goals. I love that. 

Handbags are so interesting to me because they reveal how we see ourselves, our buying power and, as women, they hold our most intimate secrets.

I stop at 1pm for lunch and get something from the salad bar at Whole Foods. In the afternoon, 
I might have a meeting with our marketing team to discuss any tours we’re taking an auction on, where we show the highlights
to clients in places like Moscow, Dubai and Geneva. I travel at least once a week to see clients, too.
 I finish at 7pm most nights. 

My most memorable moment…

Was helping my client win a 35cm Hermès Himalaya Birkin bag with 18-carat white gold and diamond hardware for £236,750 last year. It was a record price in Europe for a handbag sold at auction.

The worst part of my job…

Is when an item has more sentimental than market value. It can be really disappointing.

The best part of my job…

Is finding treasures that people thought hadn’t survived, like an 1892 Louis Vuitton aluminium trunk. I’d only ever seen one in books.

After work…

I try my best to cook something; it’s my resolution for this year. Then I’ll watch something on TV like Les Miserables. Other nights, I’ll be out at a Christie’s Lates talk we host with art, music and fashion experts. I’m asleep by midnight.

My Plan B: Psychologist

Ever since I was little, I’ve been a tiny relationship therapist. I love talking through people’s problems and acting as a mediator. And, to be honest, being a handbag specialist isn’t that far off a therapist – listening to people’s stories is a big part of my job.

Photography: Holly McGlynn

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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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