The trick is all in the bag

| Julianna Chen 12 Jun 2019

"A fun pair of earrings is basically the finishing touch to any outfit; a nice watch is both practical and decorative, while the perfect unique bag is not only eye-catching but also timeless - it can be passed on to future generations."

The above styling tips by Liu Wen, dubbed by The New York Times as "China's first bona fide supermodel", sound similar to the advice offered by Nina Garcia, editor-in-chief of Elle, who once said: "Invest in a couple of really good things - a great, classic coat; a good pair of shoes; and a timeless bag - then fill in the gaps with lower-priced pieces."

As anecdotal evidence of the desirability of this timeless fashion accessory, a lawyer friend's daughter who was recently called to the bar opted for a designer handbag as the gift marking the debut of her barrister career.

The solicitor father was surprised at her choice because he had originally budgeted for a Tesla.

In addition to an appealing and easily recognizable design, a high-end handbag requires sophisticated marketing, endorsement by the fashion press and association with celebrity to achieve its ascension to the pedestal of status symbol.

While many of these brand name bags have considerable resale value, those produced by the fashion house of Hermes, particularly the "Kelly Bag" and "Birkin Bag" - named after American actress and the princess of Monaco Grace Kelly, and English actress and singer Jane Birkin - are in such strong demand that they have become investment tools.

Asked to choose between the two, women in business generally prefer the Birkin because the double-handles make it easy to open and close, making them very convenient for frequent travelers.

A study in 2016 revealed that Birkin Bags achieved average annual returns of 14.2 percent between 1980 and 2015, which is a satisfactory result by any standards.

Hammer prices at auction can also serve as a benchmark. An exceptional matte white Himalaya Niloticus crocodile Hermes 2011 Birkin 30cm with 18K white gold and diamond hardware (featuring 245 diamonds with 10.78 cts total weight) realized HK$2 million at a Christies' Hong Kong auction on May 29.

The pre-auction estimate was HK$1 million to HK$1.5 million.

At Sotheby's recent online auction of Hermes handbags, a stunning "One Two Three and Away We Go" Birkin 25cm of multicolor swift leather with palladium hardware (a 2018 limited edition designed by British artist Nigel Peake) sold for US$47,500, (HK$372, 184) surpassing the estimate of US$34,000 to US$40,000.

Retired senior civil servant Juliana Chen is a passionate crystal collector who shares the good things in life

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