I n a world where anyone with enough money can buy the latest Balenciaga trainers or Fendi bag, vintage fashion has become the stylish woman’s solution to setting herself apart. The scarcity of mint condition pieces means that there is no chance of someone else attending the same event in an identical look. It’s why Amal Clooney regularly wears 1960s creations by Balenciaga and Lanvin, and personalities as diverse as Kim Kardashian and Cardi B are following suit.
Keen vintage enthusiasts typically guard their sources closely, but if you scan the wardrobe of any fashion insider you’ll probably discover a few treasures from times past. Indeed, for those in the industry, vintage has always been an important source of inspiration. Designers regularly trawl boutiques, using their finds as reference points for future collections.
Auctions are also a source for quality pieces and ahead of an online sale later this month, a treasure trove of 177 memorable designs by iconic French fashion house Chanel is being unveiled at Sotheby’s Milan. Since its foundation in 1910, the haute couture label has been synonymous with luxury and glamour. This auction – A Collection of a Lifetime: Chanel Online – charts decades of timeless trends, presenting vivid bags in every imaginable colour, elegant dresses, unique jewelry and an abundance of coveted accessories all from the vast wardrobe of a devoted lover of fashion.
While there has always been demand for pieces that represent key moments in fashion history, vintage has gained new relevance in the past few years because it is a more sustainable way to shop than buying brand new clothing. The global second-hand luxury business is currently worth over £17 billion and is expected to grow by up to 10 percent annually over the next few years.
Luxury leather goods and fine jewelry are particularly enticing categories because items tend to hold or appreciate in value. Nor does the buyer need to be a certain dress size or have a piece tailored to wear it.
Vintage fine jewelry has an allure of its own, not only for the precious materials used, but because pieces are often representative of key cultural moments. Our Fine Jewels auction includes a pair of coin earrings by Bulgari, a favoured design of Elizabeth Taylor – while a bracelet by Boucheron from the 1940s is reminiscent of the glamour of the silver screen sirens of the day.
But when it comes to one of the most enduring trends in vintage fine jewelry, we have the Duchess of Sussex to thank: in wearing Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara on her wedding day, she inspired renewed interest in earl 20th century design, and this jadeite and diamond parure from the 1920s echoes the aesthetic perfectly.