Have you always been into handbags? How did this begin?
I’ve always been interested in vintage fashion, rummaging through local charity shops for bargains was something my friends and I loved to do. I remember my first ‘real’ handbag well, it was a beautifully made green and brown leather cross-body by some obscure brand called ‘Pony’. I remember thinking how much better quality this bag felt compared to all my other bags that I had bought cheaply off the high street.
Have you always worked in fashion? Could you describe your career journey?
After graduating from university with a degree in History of Art, I moved to Shrewsbury and got a job as a junior cataloguer in the ceramics department. I really enjoyed ceramics, however whenever fashion turned up—fur coats, Chinese robes, vintage dresses—I always gravitated towards them and it wasn’t long before I set up a department dedicated to vintage fashion, as there hadn’t been one before.
Then I moved to London four years ago and started working for an auction house in Chelsea. It seemed that every woman in Chelsea either owned or coveted a designer handbag and I was soon inundated with people wanting to buy and sell bags.
I joined Chiswick Auctions 18 months ago, running the designer handbag and fashion department. Such a privilege! For the first time in my career, I was able to curate large sales (I often have over 400 lots) with a variety of designer items with prices ranging from £70 up to multiples of thousands. It’s great to be able to run such a big department, even if it is hard work sometimes!
You launched a whole department devoted to designer fashion and handbags at Chiswick Auctions, what brought this about?
There is such a huge demand for designer fashion, and auctions can be a great place to both buy and sell. For the sellers, it’s a great opportunity to clear some space in the wardrobe, get rid of items that either no longer fit or suit their lifestyle, and to generate funds.
Buying at auction is a really fun way to find designer pieces. Not only is it often cheaper (although not always—according to some sources Chanel classic flap bag prices have increased more than gold over the last few decades!), but you can often find pieces not available elsewhere from a few seasons ago or decades back. Most of the pieces in the sale are in great condition, with some having never been used before. There’s always a great range of items in the auctions; Hermès scarves, Louis Vuitton trunks, Chanel jackets, vintage costume jewellery, shoes, perfume… the list goes on.
Have your travels across Central America and Southeast Asia inspired your fashion sense?
Yes! I love the fashion in Central America, particular the Mayan tribes in Guatemala. I absolutely love colour, and the women in this part of the world know how to do colour and bold print! I bought lots of beautiful blouses in Mexico, although admittedly I’ve hardly worn any of them back home.
It always fascinates me in Southeast Asia how many fake designer handbags there are in the markets. Most of them are really poor copies and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to own them. I have to admit I did buy a fake scarf in Vietnam though. It was a black and green skull scarf, that was supposed to be by Alexander McQueen, but they had managed to spell both names wrong—I am now a proud owner of an ‘Alexande Mcqeun’ scarf and I love how terrible it is.
Where do you think is the most stylish place in London and why?
I live in Brixton and some of the style you see on the street is incredible. The markets there are amazing; you can get food from all over the world.
What does your role at Chiswick Auctions entail on a day-to-day basis?
I’ll start the day going through my emails, people often email me pictures of their designer piece that they would like valued, as well as people coming into the auction house for face-to-face valuations. One of my favourite parts of my job is that I often go out on house visits—delving through people’s wardrobes is amazing, and you never know what you might find.
I also spend a long time researching pieces, spending hours triple-checking stitching and finish to ensure that all pieces are genuine. On sale day I will be up on the rostrum auctioneering all the pieces off—it can be a long day, but always rewarding!
Who are your favourite designers and why?
I’m a big fan of Japanese designers such as Issey Miyake and his incredible, architectural pleated pieces. I also love some of the 1970s London designers such an Ossie Clark, Bill Gibb, or Vivienne Westwood—it’s great how much fun these designers all had with the clothes they were designing. And, like everyone, I love Chanel—the finish on Chanel is second to none, particularly with the pieces made prior to 2000 the quality is just stunning.
Which designers do best at auction and why?
I’m always happy when Chanel pieces come in; be it a handbag, some fashion, or jewellery. Chanel is one of the fashion designers that has made consistently classic pieces, and tends to date less than other pieces often do.
The classic Chanel 2.55 double flap bag was first designed in 1955 (hence the name, the ‘2’ representing February, the month it was designed) by Coco herself and has remained popular ever since. This bag, along with the Hermès Birkin and Kelly bags, which have a similarly long heritage, prove that well designed pieces never really go out of style. I will always have buyers for these three bags and they often make multiple thousands of pounds under the hammer.
What would be your go to single piece of style advice?
As a cyclist, I always go for comfort over glamour, but it’s about wearing whatever makes you feel confident.
Do you have a favourite west London hangout?
After work, my colleagues and I often go to the Bollo pub in Chiswick, which has a great cocktail menu.
Favourite place in the world?
London is still probably my favourite city in the world—there’s always something going on, and all the museums are free!
All-time favourite item and why?
Probably a Chanel skirt suit that sadly was far too small for me. It was a beautiful bottle green (green being my favourite colour), and even though the fit was a bit 80s (think shoulder pads) it was so beautifully cut and gave the perfect hourglass figure. If it had been a size 12 instead of a size 8 (and Chanel sizes are SMALL) I would have fought for it.