On September 21, Hindman Auctions
A Life in Couture: The Collection of Michelle Smith, Washington, D.C. achieved $614,156 in sales, over triple than expected. The auction saw incredible engagement across more than 320 lots, and reached an extraordinary 99 percent sell-through rate. Exceptional J. Mendel furs and garments by Ralph Rucci, who custom designed many items for Smith, were among top lots. This offering from the collection of renowned Washington, D.C. philanthropist included garments by distinguished designers and illustrated Smiths carefully curated selection of outstanding designs spanning more than 50 years.
We were delighted to see the way in which buyers responded to this singular collection of couture from such a trailblazing woman, Hindmans Director and Senior Specialist of Couture and Luxury Accessories Timothy Long shared. From the furs to the shoes to the handbags, bidders recognized that this sale offered something unique. The items were of such interest that we attracted an international list of buyers, including museums and top collectors.
J. Mendel Furs Command Top Prices
J. Mendel furs soared past presale estimates. A sable fur blanket lined with gray wool, attributed to J. Mendel (lot 152), emerged as the top lot of the auction and realized an impressive price of $28,125 against a presale estimate of $2,000-4,000. Other furs by J. Mendel that achieved remarkable prices included a natural chinchilla stole (lot 122), which shattered its presale estimate of $600-800 to ultimately realize $16,250; a sable fur vest (lot 117), which realized $6,875; and another chinchilla stole (lot 146), which sold for $6,875, over ten times its presale estimate. A gold-tipped Russian sable (lot 131) hooded-coat also sold for $5,938.
Ralph Rucci Garments Climb Past Estimates
American couturier Ralph Ruccis garments also saw phenomenal bidding engagement. A pieced sable coat (lot 100) with a smoothed and blackened suede exterior climbed past its estimate to sell for $16,250. A net-encased ostrich feather jacket (lot 56) sold for $8,125, compared to a presale estimate of $1,000-2,000. This coat is a strong example of Ruccis suspension technique, seen through ostrich feathers that are encase within triple panels of black and tan tulle and fragmented into a geometric patchwork effect. A golden sable and braided leather stroller coat (lot 68) skyrocketed past its estimate of $600-800 to reach $5,313.
Other top garments from the designer included a printed and embellished silk jacket (lot 81), which sold for $5,313. One of only three Americans in history invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne to present at haute couture in Paris, Rucci upholds the traditions of French couture in his materials and techniques, infused with modern innovation.
Highlights also included expertly crafted handbags such as a Bottega Veneta crocodile tote (lot 323), which sold for $8,750, over eight times its presale estimate and an Hermès Double Sens tote (lot 295) realized $5,625, well above its presale estimate of $1,000-2,000. Seven Giorgio Armani two-piece pantsuits (lot 177) sold for $8,125.