In the latest installment of our regular series, author Kiran Chhabria discusses her passion for rare Hermès handbags — and why she prefers to bid by phone or online
‘Some women like shoes, some are into clothes, some love jewellery. My passion is handbags. I am Indian, and people of my culture don’t like to use things that were previously owned by someone else. A friend even said to me: ‘I hate to think that a piece might be being sold as a result of someone’s financial trouble.’ So for many Indians, vintage is a negative. But not for me. I like to think that someone else enjoyed the piece before I did, and now perhaps wants to move on.
‘All the bags I have bought at Christie’s are by Hermès. Two of them, the blue Shadow Birkin and the suede Teddy Kelly, are pieces that I lusted after and finally got my hands on in Hong Kong last year. Both are extremely rare, and I got lucky, because people in that part of the world are willing to pay crazy, crazy prices.
‘Some of my handbags are absolutely works of art — I have had three or four of them painted by artists to make them even more individual’
‘I am happier buying in Europe or America — although I have never been present at an auction. I have bid online when I was desperate for a particular piece. But generally I put in a phone bid — which is very easy to do — and then back off and avoid the computer at all costs while the auction is on.
‘Some of my handbags are absolutely works of art. In fact, I have had three or four of them painted by artists to make them even more individual: the bag becomes a $12,000 canvas. The orange bag with the face is something else. It is called Quelle Idole [a pun on Kelly Doll]. It is a bag that Hermès makes to mark the opening of a new store, and they might sell only a handful of them.
‘It makes me happy to think that my collection is complete. Anything I acquire from now on will be nice to have, but I don't feel that I need a certain piece or I won’t be happy. I am more or less done.’