Fashion and art have always been intertwined, with designers frequently partnering with artists (living or dead) to inform their collections. Raf Simons x Robert Mapplethorpe, Dries Van Noten x Verner Panton, and a seemingly never-ending stream of clothing inspired by NYC artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring are just a few examples. In fact, when it comes to collabs based on the work of the latter pair, some might wonder if the stream is literally never-ending.
In another sense, for some, fashion is equatable to art. In our interview with Kim Jones after Dior's FW19 show at Paris Fashion Week, the artistic director reflected on the sensibilities of the brand: “It’s a couture house, so you should celebrate those special pieces that someone that’s a billionaire or millionaire can go and buy, and may probably put on their wall."
What Jones said was telling. With the rise of limited edition pieces — something a collector as avid as Jones is wont to make — fashion can be viewed through the same lens we view an artwork, as something that lives on a wall and not the body.
However, fashion items mimicking the appeal of art as an investment has been seen before. The Supreme x Louis Vuitton trunk from 2017 was billed at $57,000 when it was released, and then went to fetch $100k when it was sold at French auction house Artcurial the following year. When Chanel released its own bike in 2008, it retailed at $17,000, with resale prices hitting $28,000 just after release. Most shockingly, a super rare camouflage bomber from Raf Simons' FW01 collection recently sold for a $47,000 on Grailed last year.
The point here is: fashion items have worth that extends well beyond their original retail price – much like artwork – and perhaps they should be treated as such.
High-end, artful pieces were a feature of Jones’ Pre-Fall show in Tokyo at the end of last year. The glistening, metallic collection was made in collaboration with cult Japanese artist and illustrator Hajime Sorayama. A highlight of the show, among the pearlescent puffer jackets and utility vests, was the robotic-looking saddle bag made in partnership with Matthew Williams of 1017 ALYX 9SM and Sorayama.
Dior confirmed to Highsnobiety that the bag will retail for a cool $230,000 HKD, roughly $29,300 USD, produced in extremely limited quality and will be available at Landmark Men Boutique in Hong Kong and select boutiques around the world.
But is the saddle bag really worth that much money? We spoke to Caitlin Donovan, head of sales, handbags, & accessories at Christie's, to learn how the bag could potentially increase in value once it hits the secondary market after release.
Have you seen an increasing number of fashion items being sold at auctions as you would art pieces? What kinds of items generate the biggest buzz at Christie’s?
The handbags sold at Christie’s are often works of art themselves. The limited edition Hermès pieces can be akin to numbered artist prints, as they are made in small batches and each piece is constructed by hand. In our December 2018 sale, we saw collectors pay a premium for limited edition pieces by Hermès and Chanel, as they are hard to find or no longer available on the primary market, making auctions a great — and the only — buying destination for these one-of-a-kind pieces.
As with art, our clients are looking for unique pieces that are rare, made with quality construction, and beautifully designed.
The limited edition Dior x Sorayama saddle bag will retail for just under $30,000. How could the value of this item change over time on the secondary market?
As this piece has yet to hit the primary market, it’s difficult to speculate how the secondary market will value it. I can say that similar pieces we have sold at Christie’s, such as the Chanel Métiers d’Art and limited edition collaboration pieces by brands such as Louis Vuitton and Supreme, have proven to perform very well.
These types of creations are in many ways wearable works of art and act as a tangible expression of brands that push boundaries in the most creative ways. It is the fashion-savvy connoisseurs that help shape the value trajectory of a fashion item, deeming some highly valuable, rising in value over the years, or, if not well received, we have seen special, limited edition pieces lose the initial draw, which is what commands high prices.
Do you have any advice for those wishing to invest in fashion pieces?
I tell clients first and foremost to buy what they love. When making a purchase, whether it be in fashion or fine arts, you should let your attraction and desire to collect be your guide, not the secondary market value. Markets shift and trends are fleeting, but if you buy what you enjoy, there are no missteps to be made when collecting.
I do think educating yourself on a market, carefully researching before purchasing, is important to understanding a collecting category holistically. Talk to other collectors or specialists. My door is always open for anyone looking to talk through purchasing their first handbags or growing their already prominent collection.