1 Nov 2012 04:41pm

Handbags and gladrags

Iconic and vintage high fashion can be a lucrative investment alternative. Iwona Tokc-Wilde explains the unadorned facts and figures

With public demand for luxury designer gear seemingly insatiable, investing in classic couture can bring impressive returns. But if you don’t know your Dior from your Yves St Laurent, there are certain things you need to learn first.

The lowdown

While specialist fashion auctions and online sites are good places to look for your first investment piece, you may also find potential winners in charity shops in wealthy residential areas. However, only commit to buying works by high-end designers with worldwide appeal and audience.“The most lucrative investment items come from the iconic global fashion houses of Chanel, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Dior,” says Isabelle Hartley-Nias, managing director of online fashion broker Champagne & Lemonade. Other perennial labels are Hermès, Burberry Prorsum and Yves St Laurent.

“Their heritage and quality will always hold value,” says Sarah Bush, UK marketing director of online luxury fashion reseller Vestiaire Collective.

It’s been said, before but you really can’t go wrong with buying a well-kept Chanel suit, especially the simple styles from the 1960's that are likely to still fit with future trends. “It’ll cost you between £1,000 and £2,000,” says Teresa Hills of pre-loved clothing store Déjà Vu.

But clothes are limited in their appeal because of size. “Handbags, like the classic Chanel 2.55 costing £3,000 new, have the broadest purchase base so they make a more sensible investment,” says Hartley-Nias. Hermès Birkin bags are highly sought after, too.

“Depending on the leather and details, prices start from €6,500 (£5,200) for 30cm VEAU BOX CALF and from €12,000 (£9,600) for a 40cm VEAU BOX CALF model,” says fashion stylist and creative director Rebekah Roy.

Return on investment

Limited edition Hermès models cost the equivalent of a mortgage deposit or the price of a family car, and command years’ long waiting lists. ”These add to their value,” says Roy. “Some shops in Hong Kong have been known to sell the bags for up to 50% more than the retail cost, just because consumers can buy them straight away.” This proves that in fashion too, your return on investment may depend on whether you can take advantage of the lag between supply and demand.

A run-of-the-mill, vintage Hermès will also make you money. “You can usually expect up to £10,000 on re-sale,” says Hills. Depending on the current market and demand, they could even fetch nearly twice as much: Vestiaire Collective have sold one for €20,000.

While still a classic, the Chanel 2.55 bag is in a lesser league, although it shouldn’t depreciate by more than 15% to 20%. “In pristine condition it’ll sell for at least £2,500,” says Hartley-Nias. The Chanel suit, on the other hand, is likely to appreciate. “If you sell it in a few years’ time, you can make 20% to 30% profit,” says Hills. Other experts have noted 10% to 20% year-on-year uplift in value of good pieces of vintage.

But it’s on the garments with “history” where the big money is made. Audrey Hepburn's Givenchy couture collection sold for £270,000 in 2009; Princess Diana's engagement dress went for £192,000 in 2010. Most recently, seven suits belonging to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher have sold for nearly £73,000.

Earlier this year artist and heiress Daphne Guinness auctioned off her personal designer collection to raise money for the Isabella Blow foundation supporting aspiring art and fashion students. “Lady Gaga purchased an Alexander McQueen dress for $133,075,” says Roy. “McQueen’s dresses were highly valued when he was alive and even more so after his death, especially since Kate Middleton wore that wedding dress - a Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.”

New blood

Although you can’t expect an Alexander McQueen to come along every season, you may want to take a punt on a new designer. “Look at the new talent supported by the British Fashion Council,” says Roy. Find out if they are already being stocked, whether they do bespoke pieces and if they’ve sparked the media’s interest.

“The designers getting some buzz this season are Eudon Choi, Sister by Sibling and Thomas Tait. Expect to pay up to £4,000 for a one-off signature piece.” Nevertheless, investing in a new designer is risky. “Only do it if you personally like their work,” adds Roy.


Buying and storing advice from Teresa Hills and Isabelle Hartley-Nias:

• Look for pieces with their labels intact, in good condition and with no alterations

• Avoid buying from eBay if the images don’t show the label, stitching and buttons. Check handbags come with the original dust bag and certificate

• Find out the history of the item - where did they buy it from or was it a gift?

• Store your handbags in boxes, within their dust bags and stuffed with tissue paper to preserve their shape. Keep clothing out of direct sunlight, in a cool, dry room

• Hold onto all receipts, authenticity documents or manufacturers verification certificates. If you haven’t got these, some manufacturers and shops may agree to have the item verified for you for a fee


Iwona Tokc-Wilde


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