O ver the course of 2022, Sotheby's has seen international demand for sought-after Hermès bags in mint condition continuing to soar. This year, our Geneva office saw its most successful Swiss sale to date achieving an aggregate of US$1.2 million while the new branch of the department in France achieved an aggregate €1.6 million and saw huge success with the September 2022 Paris handbags sale which exceeded targets.
In particular, the department notes the continuing trend for small bags such as the Mini Kelly and for limited edition versions of classic Hermès designs. Meanwhile, Himalaya bags maintain their status as a long-term investment as popularity amongst collectors grows - and of course, demand for faithful old favourites, like covetable Hermès bags in mint condition, continues to soar.
Fittingly, our highlights this year are led by a Hermès Himalaya Retourne Kelly 25 in matte white crocodile - the Holy Grail of handbags. In September, this stunning bag was sold in Paris for €352,800 – almost three times the pre-sale estimate and a record for any handbag at auction in Europe. The Kelly bag is one of Hermès' most famous and desirable designs, first created in the 1930s and later named after Princess Grace Kelly who was photographed carrying one in 1956. This particular example was made in extremely limited quantities and as such, is one of the most desirable among Hermès devotees.
In November, another record was set – this time for the highest price for an ostrich Birkin sold at Sotheby's. In a striking bright pink, this Hermès Rose Tyrien Ostrich Birkin 25, with Palladium hardware, sold for €47,880. Alongside the Kelly, the iconic Birkin is one of the most collectible and desirable Hermès designs on the market. Born from a collaboration between iconic chanteuse Jane Birkin and Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas after the pair met on a flight from Paris to London in 1984, during which Birkin dropped the contents of her travelling bag all over the startled Hermes boss. A flight-long conversation later, the stylish and practical Birkin design was created to complement a fast-paced yet chic lifestyle. With each one taking a minimum of 18 hours to craft, painstakingly hand-sewn by individual artisans, demand has remained high since the bag's launch. Today, they are as coveted and cherished as heirlooms.
Another example of the Birkin's famous Himalayan finish was also sold in Geneva in November. This White Matte Niloticus Crocodile Himalaya Birkin 25 proved a solid hit, selling for €189,000. The jaw-dropping finish, made from Niloticus crocodile skin and rendered in beautiful white tones, is designed to evoke the snowy peaks of the majestic Himalayan mountains.
Finally, a rare Picnic edition of the classic Birkin – this Nata Swift and Osier Wicker Picnic Birkin 25 – sold for €75,600 proving that limited edition versions are must-haves for dedicated Birkin collectors.
F or Handbags and Accessories in Asia, 2022 was a record-breaking year that settled the department's presence in the region and achieved +200% year on year growth. It was hugely exciting both the launch the En Route marketplace and to see a new young community of bidders and collectors established.
The team is already on the hunt of the most coveted handbags for next year sales and after a year in which Hermès Mini Kellys were the star, we expect them to continue shining in 2023. Each season a new record for this style is set and the trend shows no signs of abating.