Heritage Auctions held its fourth semiannual luxury accessories auction today where such branded rarities as a Chanel bicycle (starting bid: $8,000) and a Louis Vuitton soccer ball (starting at $1,500) will be on the block.
“The world of accessories is different from what it was even five years ago,” said Matt Rubinger, the auction house’s luxury accessories director. “With the it-bag phenomenon, each season there was *a* bag that was *the* bag to have. The world has changed so much. I think a part of that is a little bit recession-related, that people didn’t want to all have one famous bag. It became more about your personal style, and your look. And because of that there’s a much wider range of pieces that people are looking for. And the highest-level shopper wants to be sort of unique.”
At Heritage’s last luxury accessories auction in December, the firm sold the most expensive handbag in history, a diamond Hermès Birkin bag that went for $203,150. Of the lots sold Sunday at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion on East 79th Street as well as online, Rubinger said he was especially taken with a limited-edition Hermès Constance bag in silver chèvre (starting bid: $2,000). The piece is rare because the house only worked in metallics for one season. The Louis Vuitton soccer ball was produced in what Rubinger estimated was a limited set of 2,000 to commemorate France hosting the World Cup in 1998; the balls were offered first to soccer players before editors and VIP clients were given the chance to buy them. And the Chanel bicycle is one of a run of 50 that sold out instantly, and comes with three detachable quilted lambskin saddle bags.
Average shoppers might wonder why it would ever occur to a luxury house to produce such outré pieces. Rubinger said it comes down to engaging top buyers.
“Every brand has a different mentality behind their showpieces, but they all do it,” he said. “Even Prada or Gucci, they make these $30,000 bags so they can sell all their other stuff. But Chanel’s a little different, you know. They’ll just make some obscure pieces because they’re interesting and fun and make people want to come in and see them.”
So who are the clients at Heritage’s accessories auctions? Diehard completists?
“I like to call them collectors to make them sound less crazy,” Rubinger laughed. “We definitely have people who look for obscure pieces from brands they love. Most of them are serious people.”