A Public Fashion Auction Becomes a Private Archive Deal

Mr. Lesage ran the family business for 62 years, until his death in 2011. A generous man, he often gave samples to his closest collaborators — among them the seller, who wished to remain anonymous. Mr. Ludot said that when Mr. Lesage was invited to a dinner party, he often brought a sample as a gift to his host.

As antiques go, the prices would have been accessible, starting at €50 for 1950s-era ornamental pieces, such as stylized flowers in beads, sequins and pink feathers on mauve satin that had no confirmed connection to a fashion house. Estimates increased to €1,000 to €1,200 for lots such as a panel of mallard-blue velvet embroidered for Vionnet before 1924 with a pair of peacock feathers in rocaille, sequins and metal thread. The 1940s-era acorn motif on shocking pink velvet, pictured on the cover of the now-obsolete sale brochure, and a purple sequined foxglove motif from around 1939, both made for Schiaparelli, had been expected to fetch the highest prices because of Mr. Lesage’s close friendship with the designer. He also was close to Vionnet and Chanel.

But it was not to be. “I showed up in jeans today, ready to hang the preview,” Ms. Laurent-Bellue said. “Then Chanel made an offer the seller couldn’t refuse.”

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