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Responsible for some of the most eye-watering sale records of all time, 29-year-old Matthew Rubinger, Christie’s Senior Director of Luxury Handbags and Accessories, is something of maverick.
A pioneer in the handbag industry, Rubinger started buying and selling items on eBay while at high school, quickly growing his knowledge (and profitability) by doing so across Hong Kong, Indonesia and Europe. Featured in Forbes 30 Under 30, Rubinger joined Christe’s in 2014 and opened sale sites in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai and Paris. Since joining the auction house, Rubinger has broken the world record for a handbag at auction twice, first in 2015 and again 2016.
In a market driven by collectors who come for something unique and different, Rubinger affirms that top buyers will buy globally. “They trust our brand and curatorial eye, so if they see a piece they love – they bid – no matter where it is.”
A man with a global remit and an eye for the elusive, we spoke to Rubinger about the novel and the notable in luxury and travel.
Where is the most remote place you’ve visited to view a collection of handbags?
How far have collectors been known to travel for a new bag?
Distance doesn’t matter because we ship anywhere in the world. However, clients from across Asia come to Hong Kong for the big sales there, and often join us in Paris and London if their schedules allow. We get some Americans in the London and Paris sales rooms as well.
How do you prepare for a trip?
I do a lot of long-haul so I’ve had to develop a system that works for me. I drink lots of water, avoid alcohol on the plane and when I arrive, I do my best to exercise every day and sleep normal hours. I find this does the trick.
Can you share your packing tips with us?
I’m from New York, used to live in Hong Kong, now live in London and travel all the time for work so I am quite accustomed to travel. I am a classic, simple dresser so I find packing very easy – neatly fold those staple pieces and you’re done. For longer trips, my wife and I play a game where we see who can wear more things twice [without anyone noticing.] I realise this doesn’t sound fun but we’re very competitive.
Where are the majority of your buyers from?
By pure numbers, Asia. That said, we also have our biggest and strongest auctions there so it makes sense that we have more attention in that region. Interestingly, the last three world records that we achieved in Hong Kong were purchased from outside of Asia. Go figure.
What is your most prized sale item?
By value it’s our Diamond Bags – Hermes Birkins and Kellys with solid gold and diamond encrusted hardware. The most prized for me is the set of miniatures that we sold in 2016.
What is the most functional luxury bag/suitcase for travel?
The Orion – rare and collectible but also extremely strong and light-weight.
How does travel inspire handbag design?
It’s a lifestyle. More and more the collective “we” are spending our money on experiences and travel – I think we are starting to see fashion and collectible handbags speak to that. The inspiration adds mystique and intrigue to the pieces.
What do you think makes a good hotel?
I often have many hours of work to do at night and need a nice environment to put in that extra time. When I am travelling for pleasure, I want those additional amenities to really feel relaxed and on holiday. I am not overly picky but the place has to be clean – I mean spotless – and I need space; tiny rooms make me crazy. Service is also absolutely key.
Efficiency. There should never be those long snake-lines – it’s ridiculous and avoidable.
Where is on your travel hit list?
Morocco. I’m finally going in a few weeks.
Give us one piece of travel advice.
Don’t get drunk on the plane. Or in the airport. You look like an idiot and you are going to feel terrible when you land.
And finally, what do you always pack in your SUITCASE?
A book. You can only stare at a screen for so many hours a day.
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