Fashion central

The celebrity factor also applies to the auction scene and there are two examples on Sunday, August 19, when the assorted collections of Lisa Ho and Peter and Divonne Holmes a Court will be sold by Mossgreen in Sydney.

Both sales will take place at the Byron Kennedy Hall in the Entertainment Quarter at Fox Studios, a location chosen partly because it's in Sydney's social heartland and partly because there's plenty of parking.

The Entertainment Quarter is appropriate because both auctions are expected to be big events. The viewing days - Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning - should be packed. The managing director of Mossgreen, Paul Sumner, predicts the Ho sale will attract more tyre kickers, if not bidders.

''We expect quite a large number of people to view it,'' he says. ''It's a peephole into the life of someone who they know mainly through her fashion.''

While the kind of people who wear her clothes will be interested in seeing what she wants to get rid of, there's also interest in finding out why she is selling so many of her things.

This is the subject of much gossip in Double Bay coffee shops and Jo Casamento also broached the subject in a story in The Sun-Herald on July 22. She pointed out that when the fashion empire of Lisa's husband Philip Smouha collapsed in 2009 she was forced to sell four Picassos to keep him afloat.

Ho was interviewed by Casamento but wouldn't discuss the current state of affairs. Nor will Sumner.

''I don't comment on the why,'' he says. He's heard the coffee-shop goss but will only say, ''They're totally wrong anyway''. Wrong or not, the speculation is priceless publicity.

Mossgreen, based in Melbourne, specialises in single-owner auctions, its core business. It's had considerable success with the concept, most recently with the art collection of the late Ann Lewis in November last year.

Lewis was a much-loved figure in the art world. Her status drew an estimated crowd of 1500 to the auction. Total sales were $4.1 million (including buyer's premiums). Just about everything sold above its estimate and Sumner says 52 auction records were set that day. No doubt Ho and the Holmes a Courts are hoping for similar responses.

Many Lisa Ho bidders will be attracted to her vintage fashion section, more than 200 lots with an emphasis on the currently fashionable art deco period. Values range from $150 to $2000, all offered without reserve. Lot 222 is a strapless gown by Christian Dior, which is probably closer to the upper estimate.

Everyone expects Ho to collect vintage fashion, and her Andy Warhol print of Coco Chanel (estimated at $4000 to $6000) is also no surprise. Less expected is her interest in taxidermy. Among a wide variety of furnishings is a mounted stag head ($1000 to $2000) and a Victorian oak hall stand decorated with stag horns ($3000 to $5000).

Other exotica includes a framed collection of horses' hooves ($1500 to $2000) and a vintage bookmaker's board ($150 to $200).

The furniture ranges from modernist design, including some Grant Featherston chairs and a pair of 1960s Norwegian plywood and leather revolving armchairs ($2000 to $3000), to a Louis XV-style marble-top table ($4000 to $6000) and some 19th-century English leather armchairs.

There's also a reeded waste-paper bin and a pink laundry basket.

Sumner expects Ho to make an appearance before the event but not at the actual sale. It can be a traumatic experience, despite the expected profits at the end of the day.

''I usually tell clients that it's not the best thing to be there,'' he says.

The Lisa Ho and Peter and Divonne Holmes a Court collections will be sold by Mossgreen on Sunday at 2.30pm and 6.30pm respectively.

Catalogues are available online; see mossgreen.com.au.

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