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Lust for preloved luxury

'Everyone wanted those shoes," says John D'Agata, Leonard Joel's head of jewellery and auctioneer at their regular Pre-Loved Luxury sales in Melbourne.

'Everyone wanted those shoes," says John D'Agata, Leonard Joel's head of jewellery and auctioneer at their regular Pre-Loved Luxury sales in Melbourne.

These were no ordinary shoes. The feature item at the September 19 sale was a pair by Manolo Blahnik, the same colour (cobalt blue) and style (diamante buckle) worn by actor Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw at her wedding in the 2008 movie version of Sex and the City.

The shoes were preloved but had never been worn by the vendor.

After some fierce bidding, an internet bidder from Sydney picked them up for $500 hammer price, or $610 including the buyer's premium. Presale estimates were $200 to $400.

The new owner will keep the shoes in her private collection. She doesn't intend to wear them either. They are fashion trophies.

Initially, D'Agata wondered whether the Sex and the City phenomenon might have passed. He asked his female assistant, who told him it certainly hadn't.

She was right.

Likewise, the demand for preloved luxury continues. Leonard Joel has had steady success with this concept throughout the global financial crisis and aftermath.

Speaking after the event, D'Agata said he detected a new air of confidence in the saleroom. There were more than 100 people on the floor, with many more online, and most items sold for around estimates.

"We've had the election and I get the feeling people are feeling better about things," he says.

If you can use the sale of preloved luxury items as an economic barometer, signs are people are slowly starting to buy again. Handbags especially.

A large variety of Chanel handbags attracted spirited bidding across all price ranges. Top price was $2300, including buyer's premium, for a classic black bag with gold metal hardware. Bvlgari is always in demand at these auctions, with a top price paid of $1200. Bags by Loewe and Vivienne Westwood also sold well.

There are now specific collectors of designer handbags. They are usually kept in a display cabinet like any other collectable.

Quirkier items included an Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee silk scarf by Hermes. A mink coat sold for $800.

There was also interest in a selection of Georg Jensen silver jewellery. This included cufflinks, which are now worn by men and some women as a kind of corporate status symbol. One pair in Jensen's typically simple style sold for $310. A more elaborate design featuring a swan motif sold for $390.

The best seller was $490 for a Georg Jensen brooch.

D'Agata says the popularity of preloved reflects a generational shift as much as a desire for bargains. He has noted that the typical seller at his sales is a woman in her 50s or 60s downsizing her wardrobe as part of her retirement. The typical buyers are women in their 30s or 40s.

"It's one generation handing over to another," he says.

Leonard Joel has also had strong results with its Modern Design and Special Interiors sales.

The latest auction at its premises in Smith Street, Collingwood, included a diverse range of furniture and decorative objects, all from the 1950s onwards.

Australian-made furniture included designs by Fred Ward (for Fler furniture), Sol Shapiro and Marc Newson. A Grant Featherston coffee table sold for $3600 including buyer's premium.

Italian design remains strong. One of Joe Colombo's Elda chairs sold for $6100, a Giulio Radi vase by AVEM sold for $2280, and a Luciano Vistosi egg-shaped floor lamp sold for $2440. A Pablo Picasso dove subject ceramic sold for $3172, all prices including buyer's premium.

This new segment is booming and the prices achieved were unheard of even 10 years ago.

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