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How to Buy Vintage Designer Bags Like a Pro

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When shopping abroad, vintage purchases are some of the hardest to consider. After all, if you walk away from a one-off piece, there is no going back. Therefore, for anyone on a tight budget, it is perhaps best to stay away from the vintage boutiques of Paris.

Thanks to its proximity to big fashion houses like Chanel, Lanvin and Hermès, Paris is packed with high-quality second-hand fashion—especially accessories. As any industry insider will tell you, there’s now a massive market in vintage Birkins, Kellys, Constances and Plumes, and the French capital is one of the best places to buy them.

To reflect the growing market for second-hand bags, Artcurial, the upstart auction house that’s grown into a player in the 14 years since it launched, has a dedicated Hermès specialist. Her name is Eva Yoko Gault, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, she is a veritable poster-girl for the benefits of going vintage.

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“Vintage reflects another kind of authenticity,” Yoko Gault told me. “These are pieces with history and soul—and there’s no waiting list, either.” Price is another major advantage, with most good-condition vintage Hermes bags going for around half their in-store price at auction.

When picking a particular style, Yoko Gault says there are important considerations to be made. “Normally I recommend grained leather, which is the most durable and won’t show scratches as easily,” she says. Don’t be dismayed if your bag’s hardware fades—this is just part of its natural life cycle. “Even in a genuine Hermès bag, the gilt metal hardware will fade, so that’s not a sign of a fake.”

Yoko Gault says the Birkin and Kelly styles remain the best investments for resale, but the Constance, with its visible H, is rising in value, too. Just make sure to stuff the bag when you’re not carrying it. Despite the Birkin and Kelly bags’ practical metal feet, the bottom corners do scratch, so don’t leave yours on the ground.

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Due to the mammoth traffic in fakes, Yoko Gault is emphatic that certified auctions are the safest place to pick up a used bag. But she does concede that certain reputable Paris boutiques, such as Luxe &Vintage (31 Galerie Montpensier, 75001), Royal 41 Galerie (41 Galerie Montpensier), or Collector Square (70 rue Bonaparte, 75006), are good alternatives.

If you happen to be in Monaco on July 22, for Artcurial’s next vintage Hermès auction of 100 exceptional bags, enjoy. (Think acid-bright croc, diamond trim, artist customizations, and more.) For those of us not in the neighborhood, the catalogue still makes for pretty interesting reading.

Alexandra Marshall is a contributing editor and the Paris correspondent at Travel & Leisure. Food, design, architecture and fashion are her specialties, which means, living in Paris, that she is very busy. 

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