HOT PINK LINE: If you’ve been Googling any combination of “Rihanna”, “pink” and “Chanel” since her pregnancy announcement, you’ll want to follow the Tuesday sale at Paris auction house Gros & Delettrez.
Though the bright pink padded Chanel coat with bejeweled Gripoix buttons going under the hammer isn’t the exact one worn by the music and fashion icon, it will almost certainly blow its 1,200 to 1,500 euro estimate out of the water. And not just because searches for Rihanna’s jacket exploded after her reveal.
“While it’s not unique, this is a rare model” because the elasticated elements of this fall 1996 design by Karl Lagerfeld are often in bad condition, explained Gros & Delettrez auctioneer Antoine Saulnier. “There was one recently sold around 9,000 euros on a resale site after Rihanna’s announcement. Another was listed for 19,000 euros but the listing has been pulled.”
Having it connected, if not worn, to a style icon like Rihanna also contributes to driving prices up. But this particular jacket is also part of the collection of Catherine B, a fashion antiquarian and vintage dealer who spent more than three decades amassing a fabulous cache of Chanel and Hermès pieces.
“There is always more interest in an auction with a provenance. In Catherine’s case, the fact that she can be considered as one of the originators of vintage and secondhand luxury some three decades ago — when clothes from Chanel or bags from Hermès were lumped in at the beginning of an auction and could be won for a few hundred euros at most — adds to the pedigree of these items,” Saulnier said.
According to him, prices are driven up by the conjugated effects of a now-global digital access to most auctions; increased awareness of the sustainable side of pre-loved items; rising prices in the firsthand luxury market, and increased brand visibility. “When you walk past a monument and you see a 30-meter-high Bella Hadid, it’s incredibly powerful,” he said.
But for their soon-to-be former owner Catherine B, an in-demand or buzzy brand was never a consideration. “I’ve never bought an item for the brand but for the stories they carry — the quality of the work of Hermès’ artisans, the fantastic imagination of Karl Lagerfeld,” said the luxury vintage specialist, insisting that “showing and sharing” was an important part of her career.
The COVID-19 pandemic also pushed her to rethink her approach to her collection, focusing on a tighter edit and spending more time on exhibiting items she considers “close to contemporary art” like the original Hermès Birkin bag owned by Jane Birkin, which was a highlight of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s 2020 “Bags: Inside Out” exhibition.
“What’s iconic to some may not have struck my fancy,” she admitted, reeling off personally memorable choices among the 600 items going under the hammer starting Tuesday, including the spring 2013 Hula-Hoop XL bag straight off the runway; a fur coat among the first designs sold by Gabrielle Chanel in her Deauville boutique; a fall 2001 “Just a Drop” sweatshirt celebrating Chanel No.5; platform shoes similar to a pair seen on Claudia Schiffer on the spring 1992 runway, and a wide range of handbags.
“In a world where immaterial things like NFTs sell at high prices, when someone physically comes to meet an object through an exhibition or a sale, that’s when you can pass a message — that fashion’s objects are timeless, that they have a story,” she mused. “Fashion should be a spectacle and should remain one. Otherwise, it’s a supermarket.”