It is becoming increasingly common to find fashion items for sale in the most prestigious auction houses. Christie’s, for example, has hired experts in classic handbags as if they were connoisseurs of Picasso´s brushstrokes. Today the most renowned luxury brands rub shoulders with the great artists of history, and their products are sold in top auction houses to the delight of vintage fashions lovers and investors.
Hermès bags, especially the Birkin and Kelly models are the most coveted in these fashionable events. One of the main reasons is that in order to acquire a new Birkin—at prices ranging from $7,500 to $50,000—you must enter a two-year waiting list. In 2011, a Hermès Birkin bag with diamonds was sold for $203,150 at the Heritage Auction House in Dallas, Texas. This sale stands at the top of the list of the most expensive handbag ever sold. And in September of last year, a similar model in crocodile skin with 242 diamonds marked the second record by reaching a price of $185,000.
But handbags are not the only stars at these auctions. Gowns by major fashion labels—some of them no longer active —like Mariano Fortuny and Poiret and from newly resurrected labels such as Schiaparelli and Vionnet are also objects of desire. The French and Italian brands Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Dior, which have kept their glamour over time, are also very attractive offers. But what can make an item more coveted and expensive is if it belonged or was worn by a legendary personality. This is the case of the famous white dress Marilyn Monroe wore in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch, auctioned in 2011 for $4.6 million, which makes it the most expensive gown to be sold at auction.
Kerry Taylor, an expert who worked at Sotheby’s in New York before founding her London-based auction house in 2003, ably manages this profitable enterprise. Taylor specializes in old fabrics and garments and gained fame by successfully selling the creations of the late British designer Alexander McQueen. In her auctions, buyers can find all sorts of items, from a pair of 18th-century pink knitted socks— with an estimated price of $1,500 to $2,300—to a 1944 pink damask coat by the famous Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, priced between 15,000 and 23,000 dollars. Who could resist the allure of owning a one-of-a-kind original gown by Schiaparelli or Balenciaga? The next meeting of vintage lovers with Kerry Taylor will take place at the end of February. ■