The late style icon Karl Lagerfeld famously suffered from an overstuffed wastebasket, brimming with his discarded sketches. "I throw everything away," the German designer told the New Yorker in 2007, predating Marie Kondo's unsentimental war on excess paper. So imagine West Palm Beach auctioneer Rico Baca's surprise when he received a call, weeks after Lagerfeld's February death at 85, telling him a client was ready to part with 125 of the designer's never-before-seen sketches from the start of the Chanel creative director's career—two of which were drawn specifically for Elizabeth Taylor.
"Auction houses just wait for the phone to ring to get something like this," said Baca, of Urban Cultures Auctions, in an interview with Fortune. The rare collection will be on the block at noon EST on April 18, remotely via LiveAuctioneers.com or live at a West Palm Beach, Fla. gallery.
Portfolios containing 22 to 44 original sketches are expected to sell between $2,000 and $4,000, while individual sketches—some of which are hand colored, annotated with notes, or include fabric swatches—could fetch $1,000 to $1,500.
Lagerfeld only wrote a client's name on two of the sketches: those for Elizabeth Taylor, Baca said. They are estimated to sell for $3,000 each.
"Liz Taylor in 1964 was the Beyoncé of the day," said Baca, who's uncertain whether the actress' sketches ever made it into production. "He knew when he was doing these drawings that these were important, and he better put her name on them."
The sketches from the 1960s predate Lagerfeld's ascension to fashion royalty, when he was an unknown, but up-and-comer, at the House of Tiziani in Rome, whose principal designer was Evan Richards.
"Even though this was the very beginning of [Lagerfeld’s] career, [Richards]saw something in these sketches because he chose to save them," Baca said. "He surely had other people work for him over the years, and he didn’t save theirs."
The sketches' provenance is easy to trace. Richards kept them until his death in 1994, when he passed them to his partner, Raf Ravaioli. The work was then inherited by Ravaioli's subsequent partner, who's now put them up for auction
The owner, who's asked to remain anonymous, "isn’t in the fashion world," said Baca, crediting the keeper of this historic trove for contributing to the fashion world's knowledge of the early segment in Lagerfeld's fashion career.
Lagerfeld's years at the House of Tiziani became more widely known when the current owner in 2014 first auctioned off some sketches in his collection, through Urban Culture Auctions' parent-company, Palm Beach Modern Auctions.
Most modern designers can't sign their own sketches because their creative work is deemed output of the fashion house. Thankfully, Baca told Fortune, Lagerfeld signed his name on some of his Tiziani work. That gesture not only increased the sketches' value, it created evidence. "We were then able to authenticate the rest of his sketches that didn't have his name on them by characteristics that were in the original sketches," Baca said.
At the time, unknown to Baca, the consignor held onto more Lagerfeld drawings as personal favorites.
The 2014 auction had a 100% sell-through rate, generating a quarter million dollars for the owner. Lagerfeld's highest selling items were a signed charcoal sketch of a skirt and jacket, closing at $4,600, and a $4,300 self portrait that went for $4300. Although the highest Elizabeth Taylor sketch sold for $2,600 at the time, Baca believes the current drawings have gone up in value following Lagerfeld's death.
Interested buyers in and out of the fashion world have already made pre-bidding offers.
"I look at the sketches, and they are art," Baca said. "They don’t look like sketches for a collection, they look like works of art to sell the pieces to the clients."