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Bonhams launches first sale for designer handbags and fashion
Rouge Vif Swift Kelly Cut, Hermès, c. 2016, (Includes felt protector, dust bag and box). Estimate: £6,000 - 8,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Bonhams has accessorised its luxury division with an all-new designer handbag and fashion department. The department launched in January 2020 and the inaugural Designer Handbags & Fashion sale will take place on 16 July in Bonhams Knightsbridge saleroom.

The sale will offer a curated selection of 245 lots of pre-owned / collectors contemporary and vintage handbags, luggage, costume jewellery and classic fashion pieces, showcasing luxury labels including Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Gucci, and Prada.

Included in the selection are 70 handbags from Hermès, ranging from the 1940s, up to 2019. A number of these pieces are in pristine, never carried condition, such as lot 6, the Hermès Bleu du Nord Birkin 30, c.2019, estimated at £8,000-12,000.

Jean-Louis Demas of Hermès designed the Birkin bag in 1984 after a chance encounter with the English model, singer and actress Jane Birkin. The story goes that the two were seated together on a flight when Birkin complained of how she could not find a bag large enough to carry her daughter Lou’s bottles – so Demas sketched the first ideas of the Birkin bag on the back of an Air France paper bag. Hermès would name the bag “the Birkin” and the rest is history.

Another fashion icon is also represented. The Kelly, which had been designed in the 1930s, made fashion history, when the actress and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly, used hers to shield her pregnancy from the paparazzi – making the cover of Life Magazine in 1956. Hermès later renamed the bag in her honour. Lot 199 is a black crocodile Hermès Kelly 20, c. 1989. This rare, smaller sized Kelly bag was only produced for a limited period. It is particularly collectible and hard to source. It has an estimate of £23,000-26,000.

Louis Vuitton from all periods is also well represented in the sale, with an early 20th century wardrobe trunk, taken from the headquarters of the Thomas Cook travel company in London making the final lot of the auction. It has an estimate of £3,000-5,000.

When Marc Jacobs was appointed creative director of Louis Vuitton in 1997, he set about refreshing the heritage brand to make it youthful and accessible to a modern audience. One of Jacobs most revolutionary idea was to invite contemporary artists to add their twists to some of the signature pieces within the heritage collection, to create something new, exciting and rare. Punk artist Stephen Sprouse (1953-2004), was the first artist invited by Louis Vuitton to deface the hallowed Monogram design. Sprouse added his neon graffiti graphics to bags such as the Alma, Speedy, and Keepall as well as to accessories such as silk scarves, injecting a New York rebellious aesthetic not seen before at Vuitton. Lot 154 is a Stephen Sprouse and Louis Vuitton Speedy, c.2001. It has an estimate of £500-800.

More recently, in 2017 American Artist Jeff Koons created a collection of Louis Vuitton bags that were literally covered in art. Koons printed Old Master paintings, by artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Fragonard and Turner onto the canvas of signature handbags for his 'Masters' collection. Lot 5 features a painting by JMW Turner printed on the side of a Louis Vuitton Neverfull Tote, a love-letter between classical art and fashion. It has an estimate £1,000-1,500.

Creator of high-end streetwear brand Off-White, Virgil Abloh, took over as director of menswear at Louis Vuitton in 2018, and his reinterpretations of classic designs, such as the overnight Keepall bags, have become extremely collectable. By keeping the basic design of the Keepall the same but changing just the material of the bags, from canvas and leather, to PVC, Abloh modernised these signature pieces. The use of bright colours makes reference to Abloh's background in street fashion. These bags are sold out worldwide and fetch high prices on the secondary market. Three of these Keepall are included sale, lots 9, 57 and 150.

The sale has been curated to reflect current market trends and fashions by a new team of designer handbag and fashion specialists. Meg Randell, who is head the new department, will take the auctions. She has worked for a number of auction houses over her career, most recently setting up designer handbag and fashion sales for Chiswick Auctions.

According to GlobalData, the pre-owned market for all luxury goods is set to be worth $51 billion by 2023, over double its $24 billion value in 2018, driven by various factors including increasing social-consciousness and environmental concerns of consumers and the scarcity of coveted pieces, such as the Hermès Birkin bag, which commands long waiting lists when brand new.

Jon Baddeley, Managing Director Bonhams Knightsbridge, said: “We are delighted to announce this new venture which will complement our other luxury departments, including watches and jewellery, and we warmly welcome Meg Randell to the Bonhams family and look forward to offering the world-class Bonhams service to a new clientele.”

Highlights include:

• Bleu Du Nord Epsom Birkin 30, Hermès, 2019, (Includes padlock, cloche, keys, dust bag, rain jacket, and box) Estimate: £8,000 - 12,000

• Rouge Vif Swift Kelly Cut, Hermès, c. 2016, (Includes felt protector, dust bag and box) Estimate: £6,000 - 8,000

• Monogram Wardrobe Trunk, Louis Vuitton, early 20th century, (Includes original hangers) Estimate: £3,000 - 5,000

• Pink Patchwork Jumbo Single Flap Bag, Chanel, c. 2017, (Includes serial sticker and dust bag) Estimate: £2,200 - 2,800

• Turner Neverfull MM, Jeff Koons for Louis Vuitton, limited edition Masters Collection c. 2017, (Includes dust bag) Estimate: £1,000 - 1,500

The handbags will be on view before the sale, subject to appointment only.

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