How to Start Collecting Luxury Design

Our guide to breaking into a new genre of collecting

In the steadily growing luxury goods market, it can be difficult to know where to start when building your collection. Here, Freeman’s specialists offer advice to first-time collectors when looking for items like handbags and other accessories.

12/14/2022     News and Film, Luxe, Latest News


Throughout the last century, designer apparel and accessories have become symbols of quality, luxury, and status. It’s impossible to miss the double “C”s on a pair of Chanel earrings, or the all-over monogram of a Louis Vuitton tote. The luxury goods market is steadily growing, with further projected growth of nearly 6% anticipated by 2026. Now is the time to expand your collection—but where’s the best place to start? As we move into an increasingly quality-conscious future, confidence is key when it comes to starting your designer collection.

It’s a classic choice, but for good reason: start with accessories. As long as you properly care for your pieces, they’ll have staying power; an accessory will get much more use while withstanding less wear-and-tear than a garment. While you might want to avoid wearing the same cashmere sweater three days in a row, a high-quality purse that matches the rest of your wardrobe is a crucial everyday staple. A pair of Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses or an Hermès scarf can elevate a neutral outfit—without the need for constant dry-cleaning.

hermes togo birkin 35
Lot 503 I Hermès Togo Birkin 35


If you opt to begin your collection with a handbag, start with a classic style. Whether you intend to only use it for special occasions or you want a day-to-day number, it’s best to stay within your comfort zone when starting out. Buying a bag that doesn’t go with your wardrobe is a sunk cost, and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever reach for that item when building an outfit. You don’t have to stick to neutrals, but be sure to keep your personal style in mind when making a designer purchase. Remember, this piece is an investment for yourself—there’s no need to buy the trendiest new piece if it’s not your style.

hermes buffalo kelly II retourne 35
Lot 502 I Hermès Buffalo Kelly II Retourne 35


Start with the brands you know and love. The more familiar you are with a product, the easier it will be for you to select something you truly appreciate. Use brands you’re already fond of to determine your likes and dislikes when it comes to details like cut, color, and fabric. Figure out what size handbag you like to wear, for instance, or whether you prefer a shoulder bag or a cross-body purse.

The more time you spend around luxury items, the easier it becomes to distinguish what makes a piece high-quality. The look, feel, and even smell of a handbag stands out from the average, and when taken care of thoughtfully, can last for decades.


louis vuitton rayee canvas steamer trunk
Lot 501 I A Louis Vuitton Rayée Canvas Steamer Trunk


Don’t feel the need to purchase your pieces new. In fact some of the most coveted designer items are retro and vintage styles, making them more exclusive. Buying at auction is a great way to begin your luxury collection, as each item comes with its own unique history and provenance, specialists with years of expertise vet each piece carefully, and items are frequently sold at prices even lower than wholesale. Always be sure to check for condition, taking note of commonly damaged areas, like hardware, handles, and interior linings.

Instead of looking to what everyone else is buying, make sure you’re shopping specifically for yourself. Does this piece match my lifestyle? My wardrobe? My aesthetic? Look for items that are both versatile and chic, like a mid-size cross-body that can take you easily from day to night. If you’re not someone who likes to carry a purse, opt for a timeless clutch or a classic leather wallet. Smaller leather goods like these are great ways to start out, as they withstand frequent use and typically sell at a lower price point.

fendi mink throw
Lot 504 I Fendi Mink Throw


Freeman’s December 8 Boutique Jewels and Accessories auction features several pieces that are ideal for first-time collectors, including an antique Louis Vuitton steamer trunk (Lot 501), a Fendi mink fur throw blanket (Lot 504), and two of the most iconic bags on the market: an aubergine Hermès Birkin bag (Lot 503), and a black leather Buffalo Kelly II Retourne 35 bag (Lot 502). The sale is a not-to-be-missed event filled with perfect starting points for someone looking to build their designer collection.





View the rest of our December 8 Boutique Jewels and Accessories auction.



 Have something similar?
Get in touch with our Jewelry and Watches department
to request a complimentary auction estimate.