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IN CONVERSATION WITH CATHERINE B

— JASMEEN DUGAL

EXCLUSIVE! She is one of the most respected vintage luxury handbag collectors… owner of one-of-a-kind decadent pieces from French fashion houses, Chanel and Hermes. Including the first Birkin! These rare bags are long-lasting heirloom pieces with guaranteed resale value. So, transforming her passion into a profession, she opened 'Les 3 Marches' nestled in the heart of Paris, where she exhibits and sells rare collectibles. THE place to purchase a rare Kelly or Chanel. So is it a wonder then that her roster of clients include Rachel Zoe, Paris Hilton and Cameron Diaz?! Meet Catherine B.

 

Catherine, you have rich experience. Do share your knowledge on why this vintage luxury handbags is becoming a lucrative collectors playground? Do you feel there is awareness of what owning a collectible handbag means and the value of these pieces on the primary and secondary market?

 

A luxury vintage handbag is more than an accessory in a collector's closet. It a very personal thing. It holds our secrets, It tells a story of the person who designed it, of the person who owns it. Collecting vintage luxury handbags is not a playground; it is a lovely lifetime addiction without side effects. It is all about beauty and elegance that enchants day to day life. I feel people are longing for stories, romance, beauty far from marketing concepts and blatant consumerism.

 

You are proud owner of coveted collectible handbags from Chanel and Hermès. What triggered your interest in vintage high- end handbags? Is it a passion for handbags that tell a unique story? Or something more?

 

Chanel and Hermes epitomise for me, Paris. It is quintessentially French and Parisian. It doesn't belong to an era. It defines timeless style. It is refined and divine. When I see a Chanel handbag, I think of women like Diana Vreeland, strong women with an attitude. An attitude is what defines a persona much more than a body. I have a passion for true Parisian elegance and French craftsmanship. I love stories and I enjoy being able to discover some when I find a treasure and to tell some myself to people that enter my stores.

 

What was the first piece in your collection? And do you remember where and why you picked it up? Do you still have it?

 

The first true piece of my collection must have been a Chanel handbag and then a Kelly. But what is truly the masterpiece is the very first Birkin bag that used to be Jane's until I bought it at an auction in 2000! I think this masterpiece deserves to be shown and talked about through an exhibition and that is why I accepted to be part of an exhibit at MOMA 2017. I would love to exhibit it all around the world alongside my incredible collection of Hermes scarves that I am very proud of. Each scarf narrates an adventure.

 

At what point in your life did these handbags become your true passion?

 

It became my reason to wake up and go to work once I realised that I had something to share, in my late thirties.

 

How did you develop your expertise in vintage handbags? Have you talked to the Hermes and Chanel craftsmen and attended the demonstrations organized by the houses? Are you basically self-taught?

 

My expertise was born of my passion! Before transforming it into my profession, I wanted to know more about it and understand all the nuances. My expertise is completely self-taught and sensory; it's as if the articles tell me stories. I've never visited the workshops — it's a regret not to have touched the fingers of these craftsmen who are in love with the subjects and their trades.

 

How does it feel to be the proud owner of the very first BIRKIN?

 

This product is a better buy from this home. My pride is to have been invited by Momas or at Liberty's to present my treasure!!

 

7. How many are there in your collection right now? And among these, do you ever separate?

 

A collection lives and evolves at the whim of its owner; my collection is in my image — very lively and colourful. Difficult to separate, they represent strong moments — the first times, the happy moments, the magical journeys accompanied by people that I love very much. To separate myself from one of my favourites would be like breaking with all that it represents.

 

Catherine You have opened 3 Marches, one of the world's coveted luxury vintage collectibles, including Chanel and Hermes collectibles. Who are your customers and what do they want?

 

I work with collectors around the world who will buy a moment of history. My clients come from all over the world. I quickly have a natural selection of my clientele — they have understood that my activity is not a sell-out of the collector's pieces of my two favorite brands. I am not a salesman, nor a sales depot. We sometimes sell an item bought twenty years ago at a higher price because there is a value of exception and state of the bag or the headscarf. To cite an example, with a square evening scarf, a model may not be renewed in a sales season so its price will increase because of its rarity. I have also been collecting resin Chanel bracelets and cuffs for a long time! I love piling them on my arm!!

 

Do these collectors tend to use the vintage bags or is it simply an investment?

 

To be honest I cannot read my customers' mind. I would say it is more useful than an investment, for Chanel. Hermes could symbolise more as an investment nowadays.

 

What is the biggest difference in the luxury collectibles' marketplace today compared to when you started?

 

People used to have true interest, knowledge of the crafts; today it is more a showoff approach.

 

Catherine, do vintage collectible luxury bags come under the umbrella of couture? What is your perception?

 

No. Couture or Haute Couture means the respect of a said list of criteria. Today we mix and match words, we swap them, forgetting that each one has a genuine meaning.

 

Personally, is there a vintage handbag that you are looking for? What is your wish list?

 

I missed the Kelly sheep and the leopard which are both a marvel. If these bags are for me, they will come one day to me… one way or another.

 

Finally, do share some advice for new collectors.

 

It is the beginning of the story; you have to like the quality of the leather or the silk scarf. And you have to wait a long time before you know if it will be a part of a collection. I have never bought an object because it is an object of desire for many. Scarcity is the guiding thread — a leather color that is removed from the catalog of a collection- for example.

 

Gratitude, Veronique Poles!
 

CATHERINE B
Catherine B
 
CATHERINE B
Catherine B with her proudest possession: the very first BIRKIN!
 
CATHERINE B
Les 3 Marches
 
22-NOVEMBER-2019
 
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