Owner of vintage boutique Les 3 Marches in Paris, collector Catherine B deals exclusively in Chanel and Hermès. With a collection that includes the original Birkin bag made by Jean-Louis Dumas for Jane Birkin herself, Catherine has brought this rare piece (among others) to London for the first time in celebration of the bag’s 30th anniversary.
Catherine credits the Birkin’s stunning longevity to its wearability: “The Birkin has been famous since 1984, it will still be here in 2024”. Initialled and featuring a bespoke shoulder strap, the original Birkin bag is the cornerstone of an unrivalled collection of vintage bags, scarves and accessories that are usually housed in Catherine’s Paris store, but have been brought to Liberty: a place Catherine calls a “symbol of chic” with a unique heritage and the capacity to do these iconic pieces justice.
Also featured in the exhibition are a mini black lizard skin Kelly bag, a Birkin bag illustrated by Antoine Kruk and a prairie green collier de chien belt. When selecting vintage or second hand pieces, Catherine says, “The handbag, scarf or accessory should talk to you”. Each piece in her landmark Hermès collection has been chosen for its unique appeal, whether it’s an artistic touch, a luxurious finish or simply for the love of the craftsmanship – a major point in Catherine’s world of vintage.
“Brands can’t craft to the same standard now… there is too much demand. Everyone wants an Hermès bag” she says, mulling over the brand’s position as a pillar of quality, struggling to balance impeccable work with huge demand. This is why she has always turned to vintage: “I don’t want a piece that just anyone can have”.