If you are a collector of couture, you may no doubt be enjoying the hit TV show And Just Like That currently on our screens, which is the reboot of the sexy classic, Sex and the City. While the show celebrates fashion in a flirty, frivolous, and fun way, it does also spotlight some important topics, says Tarina Vlok, MD of Elite Risk Acceptances, a high-net-worth insurer and subsidiary of Old Mutual Insure.

“Love them or hate them, the pieces in the show – which range from Chanel to Birkin – create hype because of their labels, but they also come with pitfalls for the buyer, if insurance is not carefully considered,” says Vlok.

Theft and expensive handbags

In episode 3 from And Just Like That Season 2, Seema’s Hermès Birkin is stolen by a mugger, with the character sentimentally recalling how she splurged on the bag as a gift to herself after her first real estate sale. Today, the price range for a Birkin generally comes in at around $10,000 to $40,000. One article speculates that the bag would sell in today’s terms for about $30,000, that is a whopping ZAR 550 000!

Vlok says while the episode doesn’t make it clear whether she had insurance, “we can only guess that she wasn’t covered for the loss” given her reaction when she discovers how much a similar bag would set her back if she had to splurge again.

“The important thing is to remember to insure it at its replacement cost, not the value at which you bought it.”

She explains that this is because if you had to experience a loss event say, ten years after having bought it, there could be a significant difference in the cost, given factors like inflation and the exchange rate.
If a handbag is discontinued, the insurer would need to replace the bag with another one of a similar value, which means the replacement cost could easily end up being R70 000 for a handbag for which you paid half of that ten years prior.

The mugging scenario happened when Seema stepped outside of her apartment block’s entrance.

“If this had happened in South Africa, you would likely be covered for this under the All-Risk section of your policy. This section says if a theft happens outside of your home, you will be covered for at least a portion of the loss, depending for which value you had it insured.”

Vlok says it is important to make sure when you take your designer bag outside of the house that you have sufficient cover and remember to insure the items in your handbag as well, such as your wallet, perfume, or sunglasses, especially if they have high value brand names.

The rise of second-hand high value fashion

The TV show has also been credited with making second-hand luxury retailers popular again. In episode 2 of Season 3, Charlotte’s daughter sells a Chanel dress “from Lagerfeld’s last collection” to pay for a new music instrument, to a second-hand luxury fashion retailer called the Real Deal.

It is predicted that by 2023 the second-hand retail market is expected to reach $53 billion. Even watch brands like Rolex have launched a certified pre-owned programme in Europe last year. This initiative offers pre-owned watches, certified by the brand itself, along with a two-year international warranty that starts from the date of resale within the Rolex network.

“It is all these factors combined that means that insurance of high value items – whether it is second-hand or bought new – is an absolute must,” says Vlok.

High value fashion: Should you rent or buy?

With wedding and matric ball season coming up, many brides and matriculants opt to rent their gowns and accessories rather than own them. But if you think you don’t take on any risk when renting or loaning, think again.

In 2022 Kim Kardashian stunned the Met Gala audiences when she wore Marilyn Monroe’s iconic “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress for the first time since Monroe wore it in 1962. The dress, originally designed with 2,500 rhinestones, was sold at auction in 1999 for nearly $1.3 million and again in 2016 for $4.8 million. Kardashian faced criticism for damaging the garment.

Vlok explains that insurance policies aren’t only about ownership, they are also about custody, control and responsibility. The question is, who is responsible for the loss while renting a garment or accessory?

“If you buy a gift like a diamond ring intended for someone else, you are responsible for that item until you have handed it over. When it comes to rentals, consider what the rental contract says. Insurance policies don’t insure liability incurred by contract, unless the liability would not have existed if the contract wasn’t in place,” says Vlok.

Put another way, if the rental contract didn’t exist, Vlok says the insurer would probably find that you would be liable for the damage that occurred while the rented item was in your possession, although every circumstance is assessed by the insurer on its own merit.

“Some policies specifically provide cover for items you are responsible for. However, it is always a good idea to work with an insurer that understands your unique needs, and inform them if you intend to rent a garment or splurge on a new high value item,” concludes Vlok.