The Chanel Addict: Lauren Sturges-Fernandez

Lauren Sturges-Fernandez, 35, adores Chanel. Her Biscayne Bay bedroom is an homage to the French label, an ode to Coco. “It is a full-on tribute, all in ivory and black.” The headboard of the bed is black lambskin quilted like a Chanel purse. The couch is upholstered in Linton tweed, the tweed Coco used for her trademark suits. And the closet has glass shelves that light up, so Sturges-Fernandez can enjoy her collection of bags, jewelry, and clothing “as the beautiful objects of art that they are.”

Sturges-Fernandez was first bitten by the Chanel bug when she was a mere 10-year-old living in New Jersey. “My father took me to the Chanel boutique at Bloomingdale’s to buy a sautoir for my mother.” The cost ($375) represented a lot of saved allowance money, and a little help from home. She finds much to love about the label. “Chanel was a super-high-end name that was universally known, even in the mid ’80s when luxury was not as accessible to the middle class. Chanel had a presence; it had a makeup line and the perfumes. And my mother held Chanel in high esteem. To this day, it’s a collection passion my mom and I share. We swap pieces.”

Her love affair with the brand was further cemented when her parents gave her a pair of Chanel earrings, hand-blown glass tubes with little thermometers in them. When she graduated from high school, they gave her a black camellia ring; for her 18th birthday, a Chanel bag. During college she found a Chanel suit in a vintage shop in Miami, where her parents were then living, for $220. She wore it for a while, then decided to unload it on this newfangled website. “I was one of the first to sell a Chanel suit on eBay,” she claims. For $1,525, a career was born.

“For the next 10 years, I bought and sold a huge amount of Chanel. I’d buy it, enjoy it, sell it, and make a profit. I’ve bought and sold from every collection since Karl [Lagerfeld] began designing for [the house].” She’s far from the biggest Chanel devotee, however. Her idol: socialite and wellknown Chanel collector Mouna Ayoub.

Sturges-Fernandez collects new, as well as vintage, Chanel. “It’s much harder now because so many people are stalking outlet malls and markets.” Miami does have some consignment stores, but Sturges-Fernandez says they “just don’t have the supply of New York, LA, or Paris.” She won’t buy anything unless it has at least one of four classic features—a black-and-gold color scheme, the classic tweeds, the camellia, or the interlocking cc logo. “It must have a thread of what makes Chanel great,” she says.


 

The Handbag Lady: Stefani De La O

Stefani De La O, 32, began collecting vintage bags from all over the world at an early age. “When I was seven and in Venice, I bought a clutch bag of Florentine leather stamped and embossed with gold so it looked like a book,” she says. Beaded evening bags from the 1950s came next. “I always loved poking around antique stores and vintage markets. I grew up in a house full of heirlooms in South Miami, a little like a museum, so I’m used to things that are older. That’s why I buy vintage. Every piece has a story.” Like the black raffia bag, a token of a dotty old contessa’s steamy, long-ago love affair (a neighbor of De La O’s when she lived in Florence), or the lovely floral embroidered and tasseled ivory satin pouch from the 1930s that was cherished by a grandmother she never met.

She loves her bags, and buys them to be worn. “I really use them until they fall apart. I’m always buying new ones.” All evening bags are individually wrapped in satin bags or acid-free tissue paper and stored in labeled boxes, stashed in a closet at her Miami home, ready to render service when called upon. “I don’t take collecting too seriously. The point is to have fun with it.”

Anything that catches her eye, at any price, might become part of her collection. “I bought a vintage bag at a straw market in the Bahamas for $5. I found an embossed saddle leather bag in the San Telmo market in Buenos Aires for $3.” One of the costlier items, an Hermès Birkin bag that she bought for thousands of dollars, is no longer a part of the collection—it was stolen from the Caffé Giacosa in Florence. De La O has bad luck with Hermès, it seems. A python sac à dépêches from the house—the precursor to the Kelly bag, which she bought at the Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt in Paris when she was 19—disappeared on a trip. “I took it with me to Monaco at the beginning of the summer, and by the time I got to Ibiza at the end of the season, it was gone, lost along the way.”

De La O has lived all over the world, collecting as she goes: sand from every beach, ashtrays from hotels, and, of course, bags, bags, and more bags. She recently launched an interior design business and is establishing a blog, The Nomadic Collector, so she can share with others what draws her to her discoveries, the stories each one has to tell.


 

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