This full-length ocelot-and-mink fur coat sold for $2000.This full-length ocelot-and-mink fur coat sold for $2000.
Maybe it's a sign of the times. In April this year, Leonard Joel auctions in Melbourne staged its first sale of pre-owned designer clothing, accessories and furs and was amazed to find bidders queued up outside the auction rooms in South Yarra.
There was little publicity. Word of mouth was enough to attract a large, eager crowd.
More than 95 per cent of items sold at above estimate, some way above.
Shoes.Fashion or surrealism? These Super Elevated Gillie shoes by Vivienne Westwood were one of the most desirable items listed.
The second auction in this series was held on June 19 and was equally successful. Consignments for the third, in August, are already being taken.
The formula is simple. They sell affordable luxury items from the 1950s to the present, mainly by top designers. At last month's auction there were 540 lots, ranging from Louis Vuitton luggage, a handbag by Paloma Picasso, a pair of Cartier sunglasses and an umbrella by Ungaro. Some noughties items were included, such as a 2005 Moschino suit and a 2008 jacket by Dolce & Gabbana. These are considered deeply retro now. Prices ranged from $50 to about $10,000. Several Sydney collectors flew to Melbourne to attend the auction, others bid online. But being there is preferred, as these are part auction, part social event.
This column's Melbourne spy was there and reported an eclectic crowd.
''[There were] elegant ladies dripping in jewels, unusually styled young men wearing high heels (yes, you read correctly) and fur, a few dressed for comfort in tracksuit pants and runners, lots of fabulous handbags and a mix of equally fabulous reading glasses,'' our source says.
It was a well-educated crowd. They had studied the form guide and knew exactly what they wanted. Most bidders had lot numbers circled and prices underlined.
Handbags proved to be the favourite category, with a Bulgari bag selling for $750, well above its $200 to $300 estimates. An Hermes Birkin bag, estimated at $8000-plus, sold for $10,000 after attracting bids from all over the room.
This was the most expensive item at the sale and perhaps the most keenly sought, eliciting ''a squeal of delight from the winning bidder when the hammer went down'', our spy says.
One of the featured items in the vintage frock section was a 1958 cocktail dress by Christian Dior that sold for $1000, right on its lower estimate. Just as much in demand were designer outfits from the 1980s. An evening dress by Laborn was unexpectedly popular, with the auctioneer struggling to keep up with the bids, which where flying in from all over the room. Hammer price was $360.
The 1980s section also included a red-leather cocktail dress and a couple of evening dresses by George Gross that screamed Pixie Skase. Another item to attract a bidding battle was a pair of Vivienne Westwood's platform shoes from 1993. Only a few brave souls would dare to wear them but following the Westwood retrospective staged by the National Gallery of Australia in 2004, her designs are now considered works of art and wouldn't look out of place displayed in a perspex cube. These sold for $900, slightly above upper estimate.
Then there were the furs, making a big comeback in these politically incorrect times. These included a Tibetan lamb coat, a seal-and-mink fur coat, a squirrel fur coat, a python-and-sable coat and a fox-fur stole by Pamela. The ocelot-and-mink coat by Myer Furriers was the most expensive offering and it sold for $2000, right on the lower estimate.
The Leonard Joel crew must have been delighted with the day. At the jewellery auction held beforehand, a natural pearl sold for $120,000, far above estimates. There is still big money out there waiting to be spent.

I'm not sure about all you readers out there, but I still love the thrill of finding something "Vintage" from your local opportunity shop!!!