DIRECTOR OF LUXURY ACCESSORIES STRIVES TO MAKE EVERY CLIENT FEEL SPECIAL
Diane D’Amato made her name in the luxury accessories world with high-profile positions at Hermès of Paris and Louis Vuitton, where her buying trips to Paris were influential in setting market trends across the United States.
As director of luxury accessories at Heritage Auctions in New York, D’Amato now helps consignors and collectors with appraisals as well as supervising the category’s double-digit growth. She uses her expertise to help raise funds for charities such as the Foundation for Autism Training & Education, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
If she has a work and life philosophy, it’s about bringing joy and beauty into her life and the lives of those around her. “I believe in treating everyone with kindness, compassion, respect and honesty,” she says. “Life is too short. It’s important to appreciate and enjoy every moment.”
Did you collect anything as a child?
I started collecting at a very young age … glass and porcelain miniatures. I also had a large collection of Steiff stuffed animals.
What happened to those items? Do you still have them?
Some have survived in boxes in my attic. The majority, however, has sadly disappeared. I still have a favorite three-foot-tall stuffed blue dog, and a Steiff bear. I have had both of these since I was a small child.
How did stuffed animals lead to luxury accessories?
I always loved beautiful things and as I grew up, I developed a passion for fashion, precious goods and exquisite craftsmanship. When I left Neiman Marcus as director of couture/fine apparel to become store director for Louis Vuitton and then Hermès of Paris, my passion for luxury accessories and craftsmanship soared. It was during my bi-annual buying trips to Paris that I fell madly in love with luxury accessories. This love for luxury accessories eventually led me to Heritage Auctions, where I am surrounded by the most incredible pieces in the world.
What are some of the most unique pieces you’ve held in your hands?
An Hermès Limited Edition 30 cm Matte So Black Nilo Crocodile Birkin with PVD hardware. The So Black handbags were first offered in the Hermès boutiques in the United States at the end of 2010. The bag is distinctly rare, with an unsurpassable all-black look. We auctioned one for $125,000 in April. I’ve also handled an Hermès Extraordinary Collection 25cm Diamond, Shiny Vert Emerald Sellier Kelly Bag with 18K white gold hardware. This bag is an incredible work of spectacular craft. They can easily go for more than $85,000 at auction. We’ve also sold a Chanel White Lambskin Leather Garden of Versailles Medium Double Flap Bag with PVD Hardware. This bag is painstakingly handcrafted and highly sought after.
Describe your typical luxury accessories collector.
Mostly women buy the handbags, however, men are now an emerging market. Men are purchasing luxury goods as an accessory and investment. Our clients are vastly diverse. There is no typical buyer.
What trends do you see coming around the corner in the vintage handbag market?
The trend is toward smaller sizes, mini bags. These bags are also called micro or nano. There is a growing market for small and cross-body bags. This market has tremendous potential.
Explain what sets Heritage Auctions apart from other auction houses.
We strive to make every client feel special, treating them with respect and honesty. We welcome first-time consignors – educating them about the process and bidding at auction – as well as long-time consignors and buyers. We’ll do the extra things, like visiting clients in their homes if necessary. I want them to have confidence in knowing they can reach me at any time, or stop by the office with questions or concerns.
All our bags are authenticated by experts, and we offer a specialized repair service. If you want to buy or sell outright, we do that, too. If there’s something you’re looking for, we’ll try to find exactly what you want. Our clients appreciate these things.
Diane D’Amato can be reached at DianeD@HA.com.