When we recently wrote about the cost of Hermès Birkin bags, we could see 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.
The quality craftsmanship, hours put into production, fabric and fastenings (often sourced from across the globe) all contribute to a bag's price. A history, celebrity association, fashion folklore, notable collaboration and availability can also contribute toward a designer bag being worth more than any non-believer would ever be able to imagine. From the £50k Chanel minaudière to a £92k tote with cognac diamonds on the clasp, here are the most extravagant and expensive designer bags on the planet.
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 Kardashians—is perhaps the most famous of them all. "Cheaper" Birkins start at around the £10k mark, holding their retail value by 130%. With some rarer styles (you know the kind: 18-carat gold hardware, covered in real diamonds) are known to be sold for up to £253k in auction. According to Christie's, the most expensive Hermès bags tend to be custom-created pieces that are rendered in crocodile with real gold hardware.
The Hermès family includes many other investment-worthy siblings that will likely accrue money over time: the Kelly, which was renamed after Grace Kelly fell in love with the style back in 1954 (these now fetch secondhand for anywhere between £6k and £12k); the Constance, a lesser known to the mass market but a popular crossbody choice for fashion editors (£10k); the Evelyn, perhaps one of the most "affordable" options (£1.5k); the Picotin, a slouchy tote with less noticeable branding or detailing (£2.5k); and the Toolbox, which, yes, is inspired by a toolbox and features a canvas strap (£3k to 5k).
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 realise 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 recognisable. This style is available in many classic colours and finishes (as well as eight different sizes), but celebrities tend to favour the brand's more surreal, artsy versions.
Rihanna has 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 1stdibs for £12k. These rare designs cost significantly more than more simpler iterations (you can pick up a good-looking vintage Delvaux on Vestiaire Collective for around £800), 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 that 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 £4k for a relatively unfussy iteration; the most expensive is a white crocodile Classic bag featuring 334 diamonds set into 18k gold (only 13 were ever made and each cost almost £200k). Newer additions to the daytime range include the Boy bag (a boxier crossbody that has been a favourite in the resale market and will cost you around £3.5k new) and the Gabrielle bag.
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 newer more OTT creations. Karl Lagerfeld has generated many a collectable during his tenure thanks to an array of novel designs. From hula hoops and milk cartons to bejewelled mini bags and Lucite robot clutches, there are countless Chanel items worthy of cult status. However, many of these beauties sit within a section called Collectors, which include items that are listed as "price upon request," which means they're super expensive.
Even more elaborate options that were created by the fine craftsman Chanel highlights during its biannual Métiers d'Art runway shows are particularly covetable. A Matryoshka evening bag from the Paris-Bombay A/W 09 collection was bought in a Christie's auction last year for just under £15k.
Bulgari's decorative bags are as vibrant and eye-catching as the Italian brand's sparkling fine jewels. Some of the most expensive Bulgari styles are part of the Serpenti family. Some Bulgari Serpenti purses are made from exotic skins and can cost around £10k, though pared-back leather styles can range from £560 to £2560 for a mini version.
Where things start to notch up a few extra zeros is in the evening and clutch bag realm. Some Cocktail clutch bags feature jewellery detailing with silver snake closures studded with amethysts and African jade, for example. A style like this will cost around £3.5k.
Some of the rarest Bulgari 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 £26,820, 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 24k gold–finished, crocodile trunks and bumbags designed in real "look at me" colours. As the brand is so new that there are no real auction stats to speak of or much of a resale market, so you'll need to buy new. As far as future collectables go, I predict that the more novel creations will go up and value: a 24k Gold Crocodile Pillow (£20,952) and 24k Gold Crocodile Teddy Bear (£29,796) are currently available.
London-based Asprey is a purveyor, by royal appointment, of home goods, jewellery, timepieces, leather goods and more. Its luxury everyday bags are all super-classic shapes and come in neutral, versatile colours: The Taylor, Polo, Wiltshire, Boxer and many more silhouettes will cost between £2.4k and £20k, 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 crocodile leathers and have clasps that are fully dotted with diamonds. New versions of this style can hit around £100k.
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 (£920 for a classic monogrammed version). The Speedy—as favoured by Audrey Hepburn—remains an adored option (£730 in its most basic form).
Noe BB, the most recognisable bucket bag style (£855, and originally designed to carry champagne—how fabulous), is often bought vintage by fashion eds. Louis Vuitton's Alma styles are handy with their short and long handles, and often bought in the smallest size (£855)—perhaps that's no wonder when the handbag was first requested by Coco Chanel as a handheld version of 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'll set you back around £23k, should you not want to opt for a simpler £4k piece instead. The Twist bag (featuring an ingenious LV lock) comes in countless options, from the subtle (black leather, £2.4k) to the outrageous (cerise pink crocodile, £22.9k).
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 £42k mark.
Louis Vuitton not only has a heritage that adds hugely to the value of any handbag going for auction, but the brand has also collaborated with artists, architects and other notable names over the years, creating items that are bound to be collectable.
A classic set of luggage (much like the type famously owned by Elizabeth Taylor) was sold for £84k back in 2012 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. In fact, you'll need £12,164 for one backpack.
One of the most talked-about and most expensive Louis Vuitton bags is the Urban Satchel, which was originally made as a spoof. Fun fact: The bag 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 £115k.
Although you might associate Cartier with jewellery 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.
For example, the elegant C de Cartier totes come in a vast array of hues that range from £1.3k to £14.5k, depending on which size and leather you opt for. The brand's Must C range includes super-chic saddle bags, buckets and totes—all of which can be yours for approximately £1.5k.
Reflecting Cartier's iconic Panthère jewellery, there's also a Panthère line of evening bags with ultra-luxe versions reaching into the £100k mark. However, it's 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.
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, such as minimal leather flap bags, backpacks and clutches ranging from £300 to £1k.