The Birkin by Hermes – A Luxury Worth Having?
The Birkin, known as one of the most expensive bags in the world, along with the likes of Mouwad, Chanel and Louis Vuitton bags, is made by the luxury fashion brand, Hermes. They currently boast a waiting list of six years for their Birkin bag, but is this bag really worth the wait?
Of course, the company also stocks normal Birkin pieces in their stores in limited numbers, which are available on request, however, it is the limited edition ones that seem to cause a stir. Birkin’s are said to be handmade (hand-sewn, buffed, painted and polished) and take over 48 hours of constant work to produce. They are handmade by individual artisans who have their own set of tools that they take with them when they retire. The price of the product obviously varies depending on the material used, which usually includes different leathers or animal skins and hardware consists of precious metals like gold and platinum and many of these bags are encrusted with precious stones like diamonds.
The Birkin was named after actress and Singer Jane Birkin, who came up with the concept of this bag on a flight alongside CEO of Hermes – Jean-Louis Dumas. In 1983, on a flight from Paris to London, Jane Birkin ended up sitting next to Dumas and during the flight, her straw travelling bag somehow managed to empty all its contents from the overhead compartment. Jane explained how difficult it was to find a bag she liked that was big enough to carry her essentials and small enough to still be considered a handbag.
Dumas asked her to explain just the kind of bag she was talking about and she sketched it on a sick bag (how ironic) and explained exactly what she was talking about. A year later, the first Birkin bag was born, a black, supple leather bag and that was given to Jane Birkin by the company as a present. From then onwards, it became a status symbol and a must have item on fashion conscious celebrities list, which then put them on Hermes’ waiting list.
These bags are made to order and the customer can select the hide, colour, hardware and size of the kind of bag they want, which will then be made by hand. Although one can’t just end up on the waiting list by simply asking to be on it. A relationship must be built with the company and one must have a history of shopping at Hermes, after which, the company takes a decision on whether or not you are serious enough about shopping with them to be placed on the list (very serious business indeed).
The Birkin, although very similar to the Kelly bag, can be identified very easily because of the fact that the Kelly has only one handle where the Birkin has two. In addition to that, the bag has a lock on it and its key is carried separately in a clochette (a leather lanyard) which is attached to the bag. Also, no two Birkin bags are the same. This is because, the skins are sourced from various sources in France and each part is hand constructed, therefore, there are slight variations in smell, texture and construction of the bags and only someone with an incredibly discerning eye would be able to notice a difference.
Apart from being a delectable piece of arm candy, these bags are considered to be a very good investment, with an average annual return of 14.2% between 1980 and 2005, performing better than both, the American Stock Market and the price of Gold. Victoria Bekham is said to be one of the biggest Birkin fans, owning a collection worth over £1,5 million, including a bright pink piece worth over £100,000.
One would think that after paying such exorbitant sums for these bags, celebrities would at least respect, if not treasure these bags, but sadly, they seem to get some sort of perverse pleasure in marring these works of art. One such example is Lady Gaga, who wrote ‘I love little monsters’, with a black marker – on a white Birkin Bag. Another example is Francesca Eastwood, daughter of Clint Eastwood, who teamed up with her photographer boyfriend, Tyler Shields and set a crocodile skin piece on fire, after which they sliced it in half with a chainsaw, all in the name of art.
Birkin bags have broken many records and are in high demand, especially in Asia. In 2011, Heritage auction sold a piece for $203,150, in 2015, Christie’s sold one for $221, 846 and recently, in 2016, Prive Porter sold a piece for a record $298,000, which became the most expensive Birkin bag to be resold. However, the buyers were all anonymous, so no one really knows where these bags are going.
SO now, my question here is, is the Birkin really worth paying all that money for? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.