Rachel Koffsky of Christie’s on investing in collectible handbags
Late last year, auction house Christie’s sold an Herms Himalaya Birkin Bag for over $135,000. As one Forbes contributor reminded readers, that is more than what it costs to scale Mount Everest. Rachel Koffsky, Head of Sales Handbags and Accessories at Christie’s in London says the legendary bag has seen renewed interest from collectors after the 2008 recession. “In the 90s and 2000s, the market was flooded by ‘it’ bags, dominated by models such as the Fendi Baguette (to be reintroduced in Spring), Dior saddle bag and the Chloe Paddington,” she explains. “After the recession, smart shoppers decided that an Herms Birkin or a Chanel flap bag was a wise investment a classic model which stands the test of time.” Today, the best selling bags at Christie’s auctions are made by Herms, with Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Dior coming in at a close second.
In fashion, like in art, the death of a designer can change the market. With Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld’s death, his designs have soared in value on resale sites. “The passing of Lagerfeld is a blow to the fashion world. I loved his whimsical sense of humour and ability to transcend time by embodying the spirit of Coco Chanel in a fresh, modern and often humorous take, season after season,” she says.
Ready to buy
Does any one geography lead the way when it comes to handbag collecting? No, says Koffsky. “I travel to India, the Middle East, Russia and Europe to meet with my clients and appraise their pieces.” At Christie, she organises two large handbag auctions each year (in London). “I source the pieces for these sales and find new homes for the gorgeous bags on the auction block.” Clients can also depend on her advice on the best options for purchase, and at what price they can sell their own collectible items. “I help them cultivate their collections in the same way in which an Impressionist art specialist would curate an art collection,” she says.
Even though the average price of a handbag is approximately 22,000, Christie’s auctions have seen the item auction for upwards of 100,000. “For it to be worth that much, it must be the pinnacle of luxury,” concedes Koffsky. “It must represent the impeccable craftsmanship, the most beautiful design, exceptional materials, and ultimate rarity. It is a work of art, a status symbol and a functional object.”At Mumbai’s second annual Luxury Lifestyle Weekend (which ends tomorrow, and features brands like Nikhil Thampi, Glenlivet and Panerai), enthusiasts can attend the primer by Christie’s on the luxury handbag as an investment option. Experts will focus on selection, getting the best price, the emergence of secondary markets, and trends to look out for. Tomorrow, at 4.30 pm. LLW is being held at JioGarden, BKC, Mumbai.
Working with smaller budgets
For those whose budgets might be tighter, there is good news. Not every collectible item has to come perfect hermes replica
with such a hefty price tag. Today’s millennials, after all, have their own aesthetic. “They love bum bags, and extreme trend brands like Gucci and Balenciaga.” Which means there’s a lot more room to play with shape, size and design elements like appliqu.
To that end, her advice for young collectors is, “save up for the one bag of your dreams that you want to give to the next generation. Often a big price tag can mean hand crafted. But not always so do your research. Look at many venues to make sure you are getting the best price.”Koffsky credits her university education in art history and mathematics with preparing her for a career in the world of luxury leather goods. “My art history skills are extremely useful I am looking at colour, craftsmanship, tools. The math skills are very important as well,” she admits. “I look at shifting currencies, the overall market, seller’s fees, estimates and sale results.” She jokes that if she had known as a child that a handbag specialist could be a job, she would have chosen to be one.
In addition to her longstanding admiration for the Herms Constance handbag, Koffsky herself is a big fan of Isabella Hearst’s creations. “They are simple yet complex. Sculptural yet functional. They are new classics.” Other beloved pieces include family heirlooms (“My mother and grandmother were handbag and shoe lovers”) a 1950s lucite clutch with a tassel, and an original Marc Cross mini backpack.