Chiswick Auctions

In Conversation with – Head of Designer Handbags Meg Randell talks favourite backpacks, Hermes spas & top tips for spotting a fake

23rd February 2018

All lots offered in Designer Handbags & Fashion, 14th March.

In demand for sharing expert insight into the luxurious world of classic handbags, Head of Designer Handbags & Fashion Meg Randell has been widely featured on our television screens, BBC radio and in The Daily Mail and Stylist. Ahead of the forthcoming auction on 14th March, we talk to Meg about her favourite luxury handbags, how to spot a fake, her restoration tips and top investment pieces through a selection of lots offered in the sale.

 What attracted you to the world of designer handbags?

I have always loved fashion and have been selling vintage fashion for years. However, when i moved to London 5 years ago i realised what a big business designer handbags are here. I find the diversity of styles and the incredible craftsmanship that goes into each bag fascinating, although what I really love is how personal each handbag is to its owner.

Gucci Black Ostrich Leather Backpack designer handbags

Gucci Black Ostrich Leather Backpack, 1990s. Estimate: £300 – £400.

What are your favourite luxury handbags?

Whilst I love classic handbags such as the Chanel 2.55 and the Hermes Kelly, I am more of a backpack girl as I am always on the go, or on my bike. The Gucci bamboo backpack is one of my favourites and i also love the Louis Vuitton Montsouris backpack.

What is your most memorable work moment to date?

I will always remember selling a stunning 1960s black crocodile Hermes Kelly that realised £12,000. The vendor and her mother had matching handbags and they kept them both in pristine condition. I carefully looked after the handbag until after the auction and the buyer was so delighted with her purchase that she took me out for a glass of champagne to celebrate. Whilst at the pub, she placed her new purchase on the floor; in mayonnaise, lost it briefly, and spilt champagne all down it. That shows the beauty of handbags; it is up to the owner how and when they use their pieces, whether they keep them safely packed away or take them to the pub.

Chanel Small Black 2.55 Classic Flap Bag designer handbags

Chanel Small Black 2.55 Classic Flap Bag, c. 1989-91. Estimate: £1,000 – £1,500.

What advice would you give to buyers when bidding at auction?

If you only buy pieces you love then you will never waste your money.  Make sure you are buying from a trusted source, such as an auction house, where you know the pieces are professionally authenticated. When buying a handbag do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you can – and if something feels too good to be true, sadly it usually is.

Hermes Gold Barenia Kelly 32 Sellier designer handbags

Hermes Gold Barenia Kelly 32 Sellier, c. 2007. Estimate: £4000 – £6000.

What tips would you give to buyers for spotting a fake designer handbag?

Designer handbags have a hefty price tag because they are often high quality artisanal products. Designers such as Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton use only the highest quality materials and each bag is handmade. An Hermes Birkin is made by one master-artisan and takes around 48 hours to complete.

A good way to identify fakes is to be well acquainted with the real thing, by visiting your local boutique or auction house. It is also a sensible idea to research the details of your handbag and make sure that they really did make that bag in that leather, colour, or year as often fraudsters will get these small but important details wrong.

Hermes Black Ardennes Birkin 35 designer handbags

Hermes Black Ardennes Birkin 35, c. 2000. Estimate: £4,000 – £6,000.

What factors should a collector keep in mind? Should buyers stick to the classics or is there value in risk taking?

If you are buying in order to invest, there are three handbags that are likely to increase in value: the Hermes Birkin, the Hermes Kelly and the Chanel 2.55. In fact, the Hermes Birkin has beaten both the stock market and gold as an investment class since its launch in 1984. A study by Baghunter.com established that, on average, Birkin bags have realised an annual return of 14.2% since launching and remarkably, the bag is yet to experience an annual price decrease, even during an economic recession. Not only has the Birkin long been considered a must-have fashion collectable for the super-rich, it remains a high performing investment following stratospheric success at auction.

Once you have bought an investment piece, it is important to keep your handbag in immaculate condition. Store your bag in cool and dry conditions and ideally, in its dust bag and box. Make sure the hardware, such as padlocks or chains, are not sitting on the leather as they can leave marks.

How difficult is restoring classic handbags?

Both Chanel and Hermes have their own ‘handbag spas’ in Paris where you can send your bag to be restored.  There are also handbag clinics across the U.K. that also restore leather goods, often for less money and at a faster rate. Whilst these companies often do a brilliant job, I would always recommend taking your bag back to the original company, who will send it to their spa. This is because they will repair at the same quality as the original pieces, using the same materials as the original bag. When reselling this is an important factor. For example, if a Chanel chain has been altered, the value will be effected. Hermes and Chanel handbag spa receipts can be used as authentication, so will aid with resale. In fact, the only way Hermes will tell you if your bag is genuine is if you check it into the spa. If it is not genuine you will not get your bag back!


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