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11th Jun 2019

An interview with Monika Gottlieb, the woman who collects clothes for a living

Olivia Hayes

Speaking to Monika was like walking into another world.

This Thursday, International Fashion Collector Monika Gottlieb is launching Newbridge Silverware and the Museum of Style Icons latest exhibition, ‘Fashion and Fantasy – a Lifetime Curation of Haute Couture’.

The exhibition will take us on a journey from the 1950s to the 2000s, giving us an insight into never-before-seen pieces, private collectors items and stunning jewellery.

To highlight how sought-after and special these items are, in a recent auction by Christie’s, French actress Catherine Deneuve gave her Yves Saint Laurent haute couture pieces up, with the sale reaching a staggering total of €900,625.

Having grown up travelling the world with her mother, visiting fashion houses and meeting designers, she has more experience than you could imagine.

When asking her about how she became an international fashion collector, she explains it as if she was born to be in the role she is in now.

“I grew up in a family that worked with fashion. My parents, from Germany, owned a perfumerie that sold luxury items. After World War II we stocked our windows with luxury items such as bags and beauty cases.

“My family had quite an open house so with the capital so close by, many well known people would be in from state visits, so I grew up knowing the designers.”

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Monika continued on to say that while other children played with toys, she travelled the world and frequented fashion houses.

“I always travelled with my mother, I was very young travelling to Paris. As a child, while other girls were playing with dolls, I was looking at beautiful jewellery and handbags and scarves.”

It’s clear that she has always had an eye for fashion, having grown up buying accessories around the globe with her parents, but how does she know what to look out for? What makes an item a collectable?

“To find really important things, it’s all about looking out for pieces from a specific period,” she explains. “Things that are not expected. I travel to France, Italy and America, where items are on a higher level of fashion.

“Most of the time, however, people will pass away and the family don’t want to keep certain items. They will call me to see if I’m interested. People come to me.”

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Of course, being a fashion collector you’d presume that Monika’s wardrobe is bursting with both old and new designer pieces… and your presumptions would be correct.

“Last week, I wore a handbag and dress that I’ve had for 40 years. I mix and match pieces, but most importantly I buy pieces which I know will be of special value in a few years’ time,” she said.

When it comes to her most prized possession, however, it’s definitely something that every fashion-savvy person will envy.

“I would say my most favourite possession is by Chanel. I was given gloves with a cuff on it many years ago. It’s one of a kind. It was offered to me from a museum and I wasn’t giving it up.”

With the death of Karl Lagerfeld in February of this year, Monika explains how his pieces for Chanel will always live on and be “something of value.”

“Karl is most famous for being the designer of Chanel. I would say before he started working for Chanel in 1983, he was not known but now his pieces have something of value. You see them now in another view. It’s not just ‘what will be on next season’s catwalk?’ because there will be no next season.

While Chanel may be one of her favourite designers, she has met a whole host of famous visionaries including Givenchy, Dior and Pucci.

The pieces in the ‘Fashion and Fantasy – a Lifetime Curation of Haute Couture’ exhibition will include the likes of the above – Givenchy, Dior and Chanel – as well as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Balmain and Hermes.

The exhibition will be opened on Thursday, June 13 by Monika Gottlieb herself and is free to enter. It’s going to be a once in a lifetime look at extremely special items – some that have never even been seen before.