Treasure Trove

24 Aug 2015

Treasure Trove — Les 3 Marches de Catherine B

JOYCE visited the left bank in Paris, to view the original vintage collectors’ shop, which specialises in the works of Chanel and Hermès.

Catherine B, the luxe doyenne, who has been collecting Chanel and Hermes for over three decades, is the go-to-person for insiders and all luxury goods connoisseurs. Her little shop, Les 3 Marches (you walk up three steps and arrive Aladdin’s cave), is packed from floor to ceiling with hundreds of vintage pieces from the two traditional maisons. She kindly shared with us her experience and passion.

“I opened this shop in 1994 but have been collecting since the 1970s. This is not a consignment shop, it’s my passion, my life and also my business. I always look out for authentic items in pristine condition. I buy and collect, it’s my responsibility as people trust my expertise.

I specifically love the Chanel designs of the 90s, the ‘Claudia Schiffer period’, for me, that’s Karl Lagerfeld at his best. Chanel represents ‘family’. There must be at least one tweed jacket or a 2.55 bag or a costume pearl necklace in every household. It’s every girl’s dream to borrow her mother’s Chanel item. My 14 year-old daughter always checks my collection and says ‘mummy, please keep this and this for me.’

If Chanel is the origin of fashion, then Hermès can be called the origin of luxury goods. I bought the original Jane Birkin’s Birkin bag circa 1984 from an auction house, and it’s the ‘Cullinan’ among my collection. Rihanna’s stylist Avigail Claire, called me and asked me if I would sell it to Rihanna, at any price. I said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t. It’s sentimental, it’s priceless.

All vintage pieces have a ‘before and after’ life. It’s all about the feeling. I can’t explain. It’s not about ‘tips’ on checking the leather or making sure it’s from whichever season. I follow my instinct and so should any buyer. The right bag will find the right owner. It’s magic.

I sometimes would accept invitations and curate exhibitions overseas. But most of the time I’m here in situ in my shop. Women from all over the world come to me for that piece of magic. After all, these two maisons are one of the very few brands in the world that are totally ‘made in France’.”

Interview by Lucienne Leung-Davies

Photos by Filep Motwary