Martin Nolan pictured in the Rolls Royce showroom in Hong Kong, where the ‘Princess Diana’s Elegance and A Royal Collection’ is currently on display prior to the auction on June 27.

Local celebrity auctioneer to sell major Princess Diana collection

Fresh from selling a Jacques Azagury gown worn by style icon Princess Diana for a world record $1.14 million in December, Hodson Bay's auctioneer to the stars Martin Nolan is preparing to present the largest Diana collection to come under the hammer in 27 years in June.

The good news for Irish fans is that they will be able to view highlights from the collection later this summer, and Martin predicted they will be “wowed” by the cocktail and evening dresses, suits, shoes and hats when they go on display at The Museum of Style Icons in Newbridge, from June 11-27.

Speaking from Hong Kong, where the 'Princess Diana's Elegance and A Royal Collection' is currently on show, co-founder and executive director of LA-based Julien’s Auctions Martin Nolan noted that clothing and items connected with Princess Diana are highly collectible and the prices paid for them are going higher and higher as time goes on.

“Princess Diana is like Marilyn Monroe - she just stays with us. We have this image of this young, vibrant Diana, and of course, if all things were right she would be Queen of England now, and she is the mother of the future King of England.

“There's a lot of focus on the Royals right now, and so this auction is Diana and the Royals because we have pieces from Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor and Queen Victoria.”

In all, there are about 30 items relating to Diana, who tragically died in a car accident in Paris back in 1997, including items of day wear, clothes by Catherine Walker she wore bringing the children to school and many of her clutch handbags, shoes and hats. Martin is expecting major interest in some of the smaller items because they will be more affordable for buyers.

One of the noteworthy smaller items, a clutch bag, was held by the then Princess of Wales in a famous photo of her solo at the Taj Mahal in 1992, an image many believed spelled all was not well in her marriage to Prince Charles. The pair separated a year later.

Others on offer include Diana’s highly glamourous gowns worn in her most photographed appearances, like the Murray Arbeid midnight blue strapless tulle diamante star gown worn by Princess Diana twice in 1986, at the Phantom of the Opera premiere and to a dinner at Claridge’s for King Constantine of Greece. Diana was later photographed in the gown, which comes with a guide price of $200,000 to $400,000, by Lord Snowdon in 1997 for the charity auction of her clothes, just two months before her untimely passing.

Many of those who paid 15 to 20 thousand or 40 thousand pounds for dresses at that charity auction are now selling them again for hundreds of thousands and even into the millions as happened in December, Martin remarked.

The Kiltoom native predicted prices for Diana items will stay rising. Items they sold in 2012 and 2013, have sold subsequently for 20 times the initial price and much more than that in lots of cases.

“Like Marilyn, Diana's value will continue to increase. She is such an important figure, a humanitarian, a philanthropist, she was the 'People's Princess, the mother of future King, and with the challenges the Royal family are having right now, there is even more focus on her.

“There is a such a love affair with the Royals, especially with Princess Diana, and her value will continue to increase. We do look upon these items as an investment. They are an asset class (a grouping of investments with similar characteristics), people see these as a great conversation piece, a tangible asset, but also something that will appreciate in value because they were owned and worn by such an icon."

Returning home once a month, Martin loves catching up with family and friends each time he returns to Hodson Bay, his most recent trip coincided with an exhibition of items associated with Raquel Welsh in March.

His mother Kitty, a great fan of Hollywood and the Royals, is “very excited” about the Princess Diana exhibition.

“My mum loves fashion and style” and “she loves the glamour of my world,” said Martin. And he certainly has plenty to tell her, having already this year attended The Grammys and the Oscars, the latter was “very special” this year being Irish and seeing Cillian Murphy win the Best Actor gong.

He got to speak briefly to the Cork native to congratulate him, and met other big stars like Melissa McCarthy and Nicholas Cage.

“It was great to be there to see Cillian get the Best Actor Oscar for Oppenheimer. I believed he would because he deserved it. It was such a fantastic movie.”

While the Princess Diana auction is not until June, there is no shortage of celebrity auctions for Martin and his team at Julien's Auctions over the next few months, with several big announcements imminent.

One Martin is particularly excited about is items associated with legendary crooner Tony Bennett in New York next week, given his personal connection to the legendary performer, who only died last year at 96.

“The funny thing about this one is that in my former life, when I first moved to New York, I worked as a doorman in the Hilton Hotel and Tony Bennett lived around the corner in Central Park South and he'd walk down to the hotel for the doorman to call a taxi for him.

“This is before Uber and all that. He was an absolute gentleman and I met him on numerous occasions and now here I am with his auction!”