What was the most money you ever spent on a handbag? Most of us would probably stay within the two-hundred-dollar rage, at most. And we’re happy to flip through fashion magazines and drool over pictures of celebrities and A-listers with their haute couture, designer pieces.
But it can still come as a huge shock to find out that some women fork out tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for one bag: the Hermes Birkin Bag. What makes one handbag so darn expensive?
A Little Hermes History
Hermes cannot be described as a passing, trendy brand. They’ve been around since 1837. That’s 180 years of experience!
They didn’t start out by making handbags that French aristocrats swooned over. Instead, Hermes started out making harnesses, bridles and saddles that were used for horse-drawn carriages. Humble beginnings to be sure, but it’s worth noting that these equestrian crafts were award-winning.
In the 1950s, they began to produce handbags, jewelry and other accessories. Now, their range includes many other items, but one thing has remained throughout their centennial experience: high quality products based on their roots as saddle-making artisans.
The Birth of the Birkin Bag
The stories vary when it comes to the Birkin Bag. One popular account is that when British singer and actress, Jane Birkin, was flying between Paris and London, her papers fell from her cheap bag (or her bag fell, or something like that). A man by the name of Jean-Louis Dumas helped her collect her belongings, but he wasn’t just any passenger.
Dumas was the chairman of Hermes, and he promised to design a more suitable handbag for Birkin.
Another legend suggests that Birkin’s husband purposefully ran over her cheap bag, and that led her to (obviously) need a fine, Hermes replacement.
Whatever the tale, Jane Birkin and her sorry little bag became a source of inspiration for Hermes, and they created a handbag in her namesake.
Even though Jane Birkin had her very own Hermes bag, she was very practical about it. She shoved it full of personal belongings, she covered it in badges and patches, and she only used one bag at a time, obtaining a new bag only after she’s worn hers to the ground.
The Birkin Bag Craze
Birkin’s practical, down-to-earth approach stands in stark contrast to the luxurious lifestyle of celebrities who covet and collect these bags.
Victoria Beckham, for example, is said to have over 100 Birkin Bags. Kris Jenner has an exclusive closet for her stash of Birkin Bags. Other women, like Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Miranda Kerr, Heidi Klum and Katie Holmes, just to name a few, are all the proud owners of this Hermes accessory.
But what makes this bag so special?
What Makes the Birkin Bag So Expensive?
There are several reasons why this saddle-making company turned haute couture can charge anywhere from $12,000 to over $200,000 for each bag. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Life Time Repairs
That’s right. No matter what, your bag will be repaired and cared for by the Hermes team for as long as you and that bag are alive. This makes it a wonderful gift to pass down to your daughters.
Hand-Made by One Artisan
Normally, artisanal pieces are made by a team of talented craftsmen. But when it comes to the Birkin bag, one person makes the bag from start to finish. They still use the saddle stitching technique which Hermes developed back in the 19th century.
Hand-sewing, buffing, painting and polishing can take up to 48 working hours. Each artisan also uses his own, personal tools to make this bag. It truly is a one-of-a-kind piece.
The Birkin Bag isn’t just made with bovine leather. It’s not unusual to find these signature bags made with leather from calves, ostriches, lizards and crocodiles. These are expensive hides to obtain and that adds to the bag’s astronomical price range.
What’s the surest way to increase the value of something?
By creating product exclusivity, and Hermes has done just that. With less than 100,000 bags produced each year, Hermes can keep people waiting for one for close to six years! This naturally makes it an enviable and desirable accessory.
So, on top of it being a hand-crafted bag from a 200-year old French company, the Birkin Bag is also extremely exclusive and that’s a huge factor in its high cost.
More Valuable Than Gold?
In a 35 year study, market researchers found that the Birkin Bag did better than the S&P 500 and the price of gold. In fact, it’s value increased by 14.2% during those 35 years.
Now, most of us don’t even have gold to invest in, let alone the funds to purchase a Birkin Bag. However, some people argue that it’s a good investment piece – and not just for your wardrobe!
Take for example, the Christie’s auction in Hong Kong, where a Birkin Bag was auctioned off for close to a quarter of a million dollars. $221.844, to be exact. It wasn’t any old Birkin Bag. This one bright pink, crocodile, with diamonds and 18k white gold hardware.
Classic and Timeless Design
Originally, the Birkin Bag wasn’t showy, flashy or extravagant. In fact, it can be very simple, with a very basic square structure, handles and locking hardware.
But that doesn’t mean all Birkin bags are demure. The leather can also be dyed into a variety of brilliant colors. In fact, Hermes has created at least 25 different shades of blue for the Birkin Bag. What’s more, crocodile skin and other exotic hides can up the ante.
When someone drives by in a Lamborghini, you probably say to yourself, “Who drives that?!”
The same goes for this Hermes bag. When you carry a Birkin bag, the way people perceive you changes. Your bag implies wealth, luxury, status, privilege, connection and so much more.
Now you know why the Birkin Bag is so expensive. Do you think it’s worth it?