Bag buzz: the top luxury trends at auction in 2022 — and what’s coming this fall
A deep dive into the latest best-selling bags — dominated by Hermès — and our specialists’ picks for the fall season
Handbags are in high demand as the market moves from a once-niche collecting category into an important global industry.
Across London, Hong Kong and New York, several blockbuster handbag sales at Christie’s in 2022 have reinforced the strength of the category. In New York, Christie’s most recent online auction sold 96% of available lots at 123% above the low estimate. As the market expands, Christie’s now sees participation in its Handbags & Accessories sales from more than 50 countries, with single-owner auctions taking place in cities like Paris and Milan for the first time ever.
After a whirlwind start to the year, Christie’s has zeroed in on the most popular trends from around the world. From ever-enviable Hermès Himalaya bags to custom Kellys, here are the top handbag trends of 2022 — and our predictions for what’s to come next.
Mini Kelly 20 IIs
The Hermès Kelly is synonymous with the famed French brand. Boasting roots that go back to a 1930 design by then-CEO Robert Dumas, this is a style that truly transcends time. Originally known as the Sac à Dépêches — a refined take on larger saddle bags born from the brand’s equestrian heritage — it was eventually renamed ‘the Kelly’ in 1977 for the Princess of Monaco, a notable fan. The Mini Kelly 20 II, first introduced in 2016, is a smaller version of the classic design, measuring 20 cm (7.87 inches) in length.
This particular accessory has caused something of a craze since its unveiling, and the results of the Spring 2022 global auction season reaffirmed the item’s growing appeal. Throughout the season, the Mini Kelly 20 II realised an average price of $32,760, a 6.5% increase from the year before, though some have fetched far more. In Paris, for example, a custom matte mimosa alligator and gris perle Mini Kelly 20 II with palladium hardware sold for an astounding €63,000 ($62,404), more than doubling its estimate, and a matte vert d’eau alligator Mini Kelly 20 II with gold hardware sold for HK$604,800 ($77,046) in Hong Kong.
Custom Hermès bags
For many collectors, a custom-made Hermès handbag is the ultimate accessory. Known as an HSS — for Horseshoe Stamp — each special order bag is foil-stamped with an iconic horseshoe emblem. These bespoke pieces are only offered to a select number of collectors, with some waiting years to finally own one.
Each season, the Maison predetermines the number of custom bags to be made, along with a set list of materials and colours. Other bespoke elements can range from contrasting stitching to bi-colour or tri-colour variations and special hardware.
‘Custom Hermès bags are sought after not only because of their rarity but also for their creative colour combinations,’ says Jerry Chang, Associate Specialist at Christie’s Hong Kong. ‘Oftentimes, the more unusual and unique the final product, the higher its potential value on the auction market.’
Typically, the Hermès styles that are customised are the Birkin, the Kelly and the Constance, and these three are all beloved at auction. At Christie’s in New York, a custom matte pink 5P and gris perle alligator Birkin 25 with brushed palladium hardware achieved $189,000 this June, more than three times the high estimate, while a very rare custom matte black alligator and rouge vif swift leather Quelle Idole with palladium hardware sold for HK$1,638,000 ($208,666) at Christie’s Hong Kong in May.
Hermès Picnic collection
First introduced by Hermès’s former creative director Jean Paul Gaultier in 2011, the Hermès Picnic bag is now a staple of the Maison. Available in a variety of styles, sizes and colours, Picnic bags are handmade from Osier wicker and Barenia leather. Because of their rarity and the high level of craftsmanship required — the difficulty of working with wicker reserved for only the most skilled artisans — Picnic bags of all stripes are some of the most collectible pieces on the secondary market.
At Christie’s Hong Kong, a highlight of the spring auction season was the limited-edition framboise leather and Osier Picnic Birkin 25 with palladium hardware, a bag that fetched HK$756,000 ($96,305). Meanwhile, in Paris, a limited-edition jaune de Naples swift leather and Osier Mini Picnic Kelly 20 with palladium hardware more than doubled its high estimate, selling for €75,600 ($74,969).
Hermès Himalaya bags
Consistently topping the market is the Hermès Himalaya, the most expensive bag in the world. Made from Niloticus crocodile hide, the bags feature a subtle gradation in colour from white to grey, said to resemble the snow-capped Himalayas.
‘The Himalaya series includes the three most collectible Hermès models — the Birkin, Kelly and Constance,’ says Winsy Tsang, Head of Handbags & Accessories at Christie’s Asia Pacific. ‘Highly desirable, the Himalaya Kelly with 18k white gold and diamond hardware sold by Christie’s in November 2021 holds the world record for most valuable bag sold at auction.’
Prices have remained steady since, and New York’s spring sale included a Himalaya Kelly 25 with palladium hardware that sold for $239,400. The season also marked the auction debut of the Himalaya Constance, with a Constance 24 with palladium hardware selling for HK$ 819,000 ($104,333) in Hong Kong.
Over the years, Hermès has introduced an array of limited-edition styles, released for just one season. The restricted run and unique nature of these handbags make them particularly coveted and hard to come by. Variations range from whimsical to practical, with differentiating elements like colour-block patterns, cargo pockets and even a design modeled after the Hermès flagship store in Paris.
One of the newest limited-edition styles — the Cargo Birkin — is also the most functional Birkin to date, says Madeline Lee, Associate Specialist at Christie’s New York. ‘When the Birkin was first conceived in 1981, it was celebrated for its practicality,’ she explains. ‘Now, nearly 40 years later, Hermès has cleverly played on that original principle with the addition of something we all need for those busy mornings on the go: a cup holder for our coffee.’
The practical style has performed well at auction, where a limited-edition black canvas and swift leather Cargo Birkin 25 with palladium hardware fetched HK$441,000 ($56,179) at Christie’s in Hong Kong.
These limited releases elevate already coveted styles to exceptional rarities. From older models like the Shearling Teddy Kelly — one of which recently sold for $52,290 — to newer releases like the Casaque Sellier Birkin, these exclusive bags enjoy consistent popularity.
Hermès is known for its vibrant patterns and unique colour combinations, but the brand also has an expert eye for neutrals. Whether you’re looking for a timeless little black bag or a versatile accessory, Hermès offers a wide spectrum of neutral shades.
‘Some of this past season’s top performing hues have been nata, craie, gris perle and chai — not to mention the classic black,’ says Lucile Andreani, Head of Handbags at Christie’s. ‘When investing in an Hermès bag in a subtle shade, the collector knows they will enjoy their piece for life.’
With the promise of enduring appeal, neutral handbags from the Maison have seen strong results across recent auctions. In Hong Kong, a gris perle ostrich Sellier Kelly 28 with palladium hardware sold for HK$ 441,000 ($56,179), well over the high estimate, while a matte black alligator Birkin 25 with gold hardware saw a final price of $100,800 in New York, more than double the high estimate.
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What’s next for fall?
The Handbags & Accessories category is preparing for a busy season ahead, with auctions taking place in New York, Milan, Paris and Hong Kong. Through this global series of sales, Christie’s anticipates the continued success of top performing models to-date, but is also excited to present collectors with several new trends for fall.
Every season, Hermès adds several new handbag colours to their portfolio. Sometimes these are special editions and may not return, making them excellent collectors’ items. This fall, Christie’s is looking forward to offering bags in several of the Maison’s newly-released hues from 2022, including vert, absinthe, mushroom and mauve pale as well as playful custom iterations that incorporate these new colours.
Exceptional pieces and limited editions
Defined by their novelty and rarity, exceptional and limited edition handbags from Hermès consistently top the secondary market. This fall, Christie’s is pleased to be offering several unique examples of the Maison’s distinguished craftmanship, including the Kellywood 22 and a dazzling diamond Himalaya Kelly. Beyond the exceptional, a variety of limited editions — including a Fauve Barenia Leather & Osier Picnic Birkin 25 — will also come to market, with several making their auction debut. These luxuries — notoriously difficult to obtain — present a unique opportunity for the most dedicated of collectors.