A handbag aficionado or not, you may have heard of the Birkin bag, coined as the “ultimate handbag accessory” and “most iconic luxury bag” by industry leaders and bagaholics. Over the years, new articles crop up explaining what, how, and why the Birkin bag is the most coveted bag above all others.
For first-time Hermes Birkin buyers, acquiring a Birkin bag could be a daunting and overwhelming experience. You need to have the disposable income, plus the knowledge and time to devote when considering purchasing one. With all its clout, does the bag live up to the hype? Or is it a case of exaggerated hysteria built up over the years? Is it worth the investment?
INVESTMENT IN HISTORY
A handbag that tells a story, the Hermes Birkin bag personifies the illustrious and rich history of the once-saddle and harnesses manufacturer. Established in 1837 by Thierry Hermes, it was only in the 1920s, under the guidance of grandson Emile Maurice, that Hermes started introducing a line of leather goods and garments. In the 1930s, Hermes, introduced its first iconic “Sac à dépêches”, later renamed the “Kelly” bag for famed actress-turned-Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly.
Carried by the affluent class, Hermes built its reputation through unmatched craftsmanship and exclusivity. In the 1950s, Hermes introduced its now-widely recognized “duc-carriage with horse” logo in orange and has since been its trademark over the years.
The Birkin bag was first developed in a chance flight encounter with Hermes’ then-chairman, Jean-Louis Dumas, in the early 1980s and named after chic Parisian actress-singer Jane Birkin. Jane Birkin sought a carryall bag made to hold the most important contents a woman on-the-go needs. The Birkin bag continues to be produced today in limited quantities, in varied colors, materials and sizes, cementing it as a timeless classic carried by women from generation to generation.
While no other design has come close to the popularity of the Birkin bag, Hermes has reintroduced classic bags from its historic past reinvented for today’s modern woman such as the Chain d’Ancre bag, H flap bag, and Roulis bag to strengthen and highlight its one-of-a-kind heritage. It serves as a powerful reminder to anyone who carries an Hermes bag, that they are carrying a symbol of Hermes’ long-standing tradition and unparalleled legacy.
INVESTMENT IN STATUS
The Birkin bag did not see a meteoric rise in status until the 1990s when bags from different luxury companies started growing in rapid popularity. From Christian Dior’s boxy Lady Dior bag, and Fendi’s petite Baguette Bag, the “It bag” craze catapulted the high-priced Birkin bag into the spotlight as the must-have bag to carry.
The hunt for acquiring the elusive Birkin bag became a fixation among those desperate to get a hand on it. Hermes has a reputation of strategically not selling a Birkin, Kelly or Constance bag, in-store to walk-ins who have not built a relationship or rapport with an Hermes sales associate.
In order to be considered for a Birkin bag, most shoppers would have to buy other Hermes accessories, bags and clothing items over a period of time, spending thousands of dollars. This makes the Birkin bag highly exclusive and only accessible to those in the upper echelons of society. The “wait-list” myth has since been disproven, and you can get yourself a Birkin if you are lucky!
The Hermes rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré flagship store in Paris is the only store where you have a chance of walking in and out with a coveted Birkin or Kelly bag. The Hermes store follows a strict appointment system and it is up to the discretion of the sales associate you are meeting with to decide whether there is a Birkin or Kelly available. According to the BBC’s interview with antique dealer Jerome Lalande, there are only about 200,000 Birkins in circulation.
The Birkin bag, produced in limited quantities, is tirelessly worked on by Hermes’ artisans and speaks to its incredible craftsmanship. Each Hermes Birkin bag is crafted by a single Parisian artisan taking up to 48 hours to complete. Each artisan goes through intensive training in selecting materials and constructing the bag ensuring the quality is always up to Hermes’ standards. It is then trademarked with its own symbol. The Birkin can also be made-to-order upon availability, if you wish to have your own unique combination of colors, hardware and stitching. There are even hundreds of colors–for example, there are 25 hues of blue alone–with new colors being introduced every year. This level of dedication to the craft and meticulous quality and quantity control only strengthens the bag’s luxury appeal.
Its careful marketing image highlights the bag’s select carriers seen on A-list celebrities and socialites only through snapshots and high-profile events. Hermes does not advertise nor employ any celebrity endorsements officially for their Hermes Birkin and Kelly bags, keeping its air of exclusivity.
INVESTMENT IN VALUE
The cost of the Birkin bag has steadily increased over the years, starting at an average $6,000 in the mid 2000’s, $9000, in the mid 2010s and currently, costing around $11,000. Because of its rich history, limited quantity and exclusivity, the Hermes Birkin bag can increase its prices without decreasing its customer demand. More likely, the more exclusive the Birkin becomes, the higher the demand is.
With all of this in mind, the resale value for the Herme Birkin bag in the secondary-hand market is incomparable to other bags. Because most consumers cannot acquire the Birkin bag on their own, the resale prices could fetch for a similar retail price or even higher depending on rarity of color, material, and size. Limited edition Birkins that are only produced within certain years increase in value as well, such as the Shadow Birkin, Candy Birkin, exotic Birkins targeting Hermes collectors & avid fans.
As time goes by, the Birkin bag’s timeless and classic nature only builds its allure. For first-time Birkin buyers, money, time and effort is spent and ultimately, it is his or her’s personal judgement if the Birkin bag is worth it!