When we wrote recently about the cost of Hermès Birkin bags, we noticed a huge amount of interest. Many of us are astounded at just how pricey these beautifully crafted pieces can be, but if money was no object, then an expensive arm-candy investment—and they are very often a real investment, accruing value over time—is not a bad way to spend, oh, the same amount as a deposit for a house.
Quality craftsmanship, the manpower and hours put into production; the divine fabrics, leathers, fastenings and details sourced from across the globe; a history, celebrity association or fashion folklore; notable collaborations and rare runs of styles can all contribute toward a designer bag being worth more than any non-believer would ever be able to imagine.
From the $65,000 Chanel minaudière to a $114,000 tote with cognanc diamonds on the clasp, here are the most extravagant and expensive designer bags on planet fashion.
Hermès will undoubtedly be the brand you think of first and foremost when it comes to bags that cost a small fortune. The Birkin handbag—inspired by Jane Birkin but now owned in multiples by the likes of Victoria Beckham and the Kardashian sisters—is perhaps the most famous of them all. "Cheaper" Birkins start at around the £10k mark, holding their retail value by 130% percent, and with some rarer styles (you know the kind: 18-karat gold hardware, covered in real diamonds) being known to be sold for up to $332,000 in auction. The most expensive Hermès bags tend to be custom-created pieces according to Christie's, rendered in crocodile and with real gold hardware.
The Hermès family includes many other investment-worthy siblings that will likely accrue money over time: Kelly (renamed after Grace Kelly fell in love with the style back in 1954, these now fetch second hand for anywhere between $7K and $15K), Constance (lesser known to the mass market but a popular crossbody choice for fashion editors—you're looking at £10K), Evelyn (perhaps one of the most "affordable" options, the punched-leather H hobo will set you back around $1900), Picotin (a slouchy tote with less noticeable branding or detailing, $3300) and Toolbox (the most utilitarian of all, this small bag is indeed inspired by a toolbox and features a canvas strap, $4000 to $6000).
Founded in Belgium in 1829, Delvaux has been leading the charge for luxury leather goods, creating the brand's first handbags around the turn of last century when the team realized women wanted to keep their "precious belongings at hand during their travels." Highly skilled leather artisans are behind each piece, with the buckle-fronted, vintage-feeling Brilliant tote being particularly recognizable.
This style is available in many classic colors and finishes (as well as eight different sizes), but celebrities tend to favor the brand's more surreal, artsy versions. Rihanna has both a see-through plastic version and one inspired by Rene Magritte inscribed with "ceci n'est pas un Delvaux."
The latter is now available on 1st Dibs for $15,000. These rare designs are significantly more than more simplistic iterations (you can pick up a good-looking, classic vintage Delvaux on Vestiaire Collective for around $1050), but like all of the super-luxury bags, exotic skins will be the most expensive options.
Chanel's handbag offering is so vast and varied in price and style it's hard to pinpoint just a few key investments, but you can often rest assured that whatever your purchase, it will gain value over time: hold onto a Chanel for over 10 years, look after it well, and you've got a safe investment according to resale experts. Signature styles like the 2.55 or Classic bag are just as popular as the day they were born.
To buy brand-new in 2018, these will set you back around $5000 for a relatively unfussy iteration, but the most expensive on record is a white crocodile Classic bag that featured 334 diamonds set into 18-karat gold. Only 13 were ever made and fetched almost $262,000. Newer additions to the daytime range include the Boy bag (a boxier crossbody that has been a favorite in the resale market and will cost you around $4600 new) and Gabrielle (to be worn with one chain across your body and another on your shoulder).
What's interesting about Chanel's bag offering is that styles with a long history are not necessarily going to be more expensive at auction than new, more OTT creations. Karl Lagerfeld has generated many a collectible during his tenure thanks to an array of novel designs: From the hula hoop to milk cartons, bejeweled minaudières to lucite robot clutch bags, there are countless versions worthy of cult status, and now these beauties sit within a section called Collectors, which include items that are often price upon request, they're that expensive.
Even more elaborate options, created by the fine craftsman Chanel highlights during its bi-annual Metiers D'Art runway shows, are particularly covetable: a Matryoshka evening bag from the Paris-Bombay autumn/winter 2009 collection was bought in a Christie's auction last year for just under $20,000.
Bvlgari's decorative bags are as vibrant and eye-catching as the Italian brand's sparkling fine jewels. Some of the most expensive Bvlgari styles are part of the Serpenti family (pictured above): Some Bvlgari Serpenti purses are made from exotic skins and can cost around $13,000, while pared-back leather styles can range from around $735 for a mini version up to $3357.
Where things start to notch up a few extra zeros is in the evening and clutch bag realm. Some Cocktail clutch bags feature jewelry detailing with silver snake closures studded with amethysts and African jade, for example. A style like this will cost around $4500. Some of the rarest Bvlgari clutches are quite literally made out of gold: Weighing enough to give your arms a small workout, these sculpted Melone shells sometimes come with diamonds set into them and often feature a silk tassel for good measure. There is one stocked on Vestiaire Collective for $35,174, if you're interested.
Stalvey is the new kid on the block. Established only a few years ago by Jason Stalvey, a neuroscientist-turned-designer, the mini trunk Top Handle 2.0 bags have been wildly popular among the A-list. Gigi Hadid has barely stopped carrying her cute mini bag throughout the recent round of New York Fashion Week shows, and why would she? These are 24-kara- gold-finished crocodile trunks and bumbags designed in real look-at-me colors.
As the brand is so new, there are no real auction stats to speak of, or much of a re-sale market, so you'll need to buy new. As far as future collectibles go, I would predict that the more novel creations will go up and value: a 24k Gold Crocodile Pillow ($27,479) and 24k Gold Crocodile Teddy Bear ($39,077) are currently available.
London-based Asprey is a purveyor, By Royal Appointment, of home goods, jewelry, timepieces, leather goods and more. Its luxury everyday bags are all super-classic shapes and come in neutral, versatile colors: the Taylor, Polo, Wiltshire, Boxer, and many more silhouettes will cost between $3100 and $26,000 depending on the leathers involved (you can pick pre-loved pieces up for considerably less on Vestiaire). Where things start to get über is in the Precious handbags department, where the brand's 167 style can be found in unusual color crocodile leathers and have clasps that are fully dotted with diamonds. New versions of this style can hit around $131,000.
There are many collectable Louis Vuitton bags in the Parisian fashion house's stable: The supersized Neverfull tote is a more affordable route in and continues to be wildly popular ($1207 for a classic monogrammed version); The Speedy—as favored by Audrey Hepburn—remains an adored option ($958 in its most basic form); Noe BB, the most recognizable bucket bag style ($1212, and originally designed to carry champagne—how fabulous), is often bought vintage by fashion eds; Alma styles are handy with their short and long handles, and often bought in the smallest size ($1212)—perhaps that's no wonder when the handbag was first requested by Coco Chanel as a smaller, handheld version to a larger piece of luggage back in 1925.
Since Nicholas Ghesquière took the creative helm of the brand, new It bags have also been born. The mini trunk-style Petite Malle was one of his first big hits, and there are now elaborate versions that will set you back around $31,000 should you not want to opt for a simpler £4000 piece instead. The Twist bag (featuring an ingenious LV lock) comes in countless options, from the very subtle (black leather, $3100) to the very outrageous (cerise pink crocodile, $30,000). One of the most expensive current options, alongside the ladylike Capucines bag (many of which you need to phone Louis Vuitton directly for to register your interest), is the above Volta backpack—considerably more than the street style–snapped mini LV logo backpacks trending right now.
One of the most expensive new Louis Vuitton bags to date was a City Steamer top-handle bag rendered in crocodile and worth around the $55,000 mark.
Louis Vuitton not only has a heritage that adds hugely to the value of any handbag going for auction, but the brand has often collaborated with artists, architects, and other notable names over the years, creating items that are bound to be collectible. A classic set of luggage—like the type famously owned by Elizabeth Taylor—was sold for $110,500 back in 2011 at Christie's. However, on the flip-side, you'll find that ultra-modern collabs—like the recent pairing up with cult streetwear brand Supreme—include some of the most expensive pre-loved LV bags on Vestiaire Collective right now: You'll need $16,000 for a backpack.
One of the most talked-about and most expensive Louis Vuitton bags is the Urban Satchel. Made originally as a spoof, this was literally crafted out of rubbish (cigarette packets, tickets, a water bottle and more). According to fashion lore, this rare piece created a bidding war between the Olsen Twins, Victoria Beckham, and Anna Wintour and is said to be worth $150,000.
Although you will associate Cartier with jewelry and watches more than handbags, the French luxury brand has a wealth of other categories on offer, including bags, sunglasses, accessories, stationery, scarves, and more. The elegant C de Cartier totes come in a vast array of hues, ranging from $1700 to $19,000 depending on which size and leather you opt for. The Must C range includes super-chic saddle bags, buckets, and totes—all of which can be yours for approximately $2000. Reflecting the brand's iconic Panthère jewelry, there is also a Panthère line of evening bags with ultra-luxe versions reaching into $131,000. It is the Cactus de Cartier range that really amps up the wow-factor, with alligator leather, yellow gold, emeralds, diamonds, and carnelians being listed as the core elements of the neat design pictured below.
Auction houses tend to sell more of the brand's jewels and timepieces, but right now there are some quality vintage Cartier bags available on 1stDibs: minimal leather flap bags, backpacks and clutches ranging from $394 to $1300.
Next up, the best designer bags of 2018.