Birkin Bag: the reasons behind the high value

Parlez-vous vintage - Hermès bag - why are hermès bag so expensive?

Starting from $9,000 up to half a million dollars, a Hermès Birkin bag is one of the most expensive bags in the world. It’s not just a handbag that you are buying, it’s a masterpiece. This spacious and sophisticated leather design is perfect for everyday use and not to mention very functional. However, the Birkin bag was not overly popular when Hermès first launched it.

The Birkin Bag: Origins and short history

It took ten years for the bag to really gain traction and increase its value, in the early 90’s the Birkin bag became the “It Bag of an era”. Not one bag is identical to the other, right to the fine stitching. They truly are a work of art that we would love to have hanging off our shoulders!

image source: Hermès

Here is a little bit of history to give you some context before we dive into the reasons behind the crazy pricing of a Birkin bag. Hermès first released the Birkin model in the early 80s, but the real story of creation began on an airplane thousands of feet above the ground with nothing more than some simple sketching on a paper bag.

Jane Birkin, a famous english actress (who was also Serge Gainsbourg’s wife) was taking a flight from Paris to London. At this point in time she was accustomed to travelling with her belongings in a wicker basket during her trips regardless of what it was she had, which I’m sure you would agree is not the most practical of options when it comes to travel in general let alone air flights.

image source: All posters

During this trip her bag fell over, dumping all of her belongings on the floor. And who better to share your complaints with than the passenger in the seat beside you, who just so happened to be  Jean-Louis Dumas.
If you are not very familiar with Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas happened to be the chief executive of Hermès at that point in time.

She told Jean-Louis that she was unable to find a weekend bag she liked! And with that he began to sketch what would one day become the most expensive bag in the world.

What makes the Birkin Bag so expensive: 

  1. Availability
    The amount of bags produced each year remains a secret, but there are estimated to be around 200,000 in circulation. Which makes this bag extremely rare when you consider how many people would love to own one!
  2. It’s 100% handmade
    Made in France of course, it can take up to ten years training for an artisan with Hermes before they would be allowed to attempt to produce a Birkin bag. Only ONE employee is assigned to making an individual bag, yes you read correctly, ONE person is working on each Birkin bag. 
  3. The materials are very rare.
    Only premium materials are used when creating a Birkin such as: calf skin, alligator skin and ostrich skin. 
  4. Six main phases are needed to ensure the perfect results:
    Preparation and cutting of the materials.
    Taking shape over a wooden clamp to stitch the materials together perfectly.
    Smoothing the rough edges by shaving, sanding, and waxing. 
    Shaping and adding the handle by using the same materials as the main body of the bag.
    The pearling: adding the hardware into the bag such as the lock, studs, clasp and other components.
    Finally, passing its final inspection under the watchful eyes of the workshops lead artisan.
  5. Hermès hand picks who is eligible to purchase one.
    The number of Birkin bag clients that can purchase it yearly is also very limited. Regarding the fact that they want to preserve the exclusivity of the bag.
     
Hermès manufacture in France
image source: Sud Ouest

Which celebrities are crazy about the Birkin bag:

  • Jamie Chua from Singapore has the world’s largest Birkin collection with 200 bags.
Jamie Chua bags collection
image source: scmp
  • David Oancea bought a Birkin for half a million dollars buying the “Himalaya Birkin Bag”, 35 centimetres (a very rare model) often referred to as the “holy grail of handbags”. This collection only comes in 3 sizes. It features 18-karat white gold hardware and 200 diamonds. This bag is made with white albino crocodile skin, which is extremely scarce. It is painstakingly dyed to emulate the snowy appearance of the Himalayan mountains.
Himalaya Birkin Bag on parlez vous vintage blog
Himalaya Birkin Bag
image source: the sun UK
  • Victoria Beckham loves them too, she reportedly owns 100 of them. Her collection is estimated to be worth around $2M.
Victoria Beckham and her the "Hermes obsession" - parlezvousvintage blog
Victoria Beckham and her the “Hermes obsession”
Image source: Pursebop
  • It’s THE bag to have if you are a celebrity, as seen on shows such as Sex and the City and in the hands of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, and NeNe Leakes and over Instagramers too: 

How to purchase a Birkin Bag?

If you’ve never bought anything from Hermès and you don’t have an account, the chances of you walking out of a store with a birkin on your arm is virtually zero. You need to show some “brand loyalty” before you have the opportunity to get your hands on one of these.
I’ve also heard that they discriminate against the people who they consider likely to resell the bag in the future. Birkin bags are considered to be so rare that the chances of an increase in value are extremely high. So, to prevent this from happening they really want to sell the bags to women who are actually going to wear it and enjoy it! 

If one actually has the opportunity to be offered one by Hermès, don’t expect to be able to choose the colors or the size of the bag. Only a handful of very lucky ladies received the chance to get their hands on one by Hermès. Most wait a lifetime.

Hermès Birking bag - the new "Birkin Faubourg" model
Nouveau membre de la Birkin Family: le Birkin Faubourg
image source: Hermès

Is it cheaper to buy a Birkin bag from the preloved market?

A study revealed that the price of a Birkin bag has increased by 500% in the last 35 years. Yes! That was not a mistake you read correctly, an increase of 500%, which means an increase of 14% annually.

The Birkin Bag retains its value but more often than not, depending on the size, the color and the type of leather most of these bags have had a considerable increase in the price by the time they reach the second hand market. The preloved market is definitely the place you want to buy your Birkin ONLY IF you are willing to pay more to have the opportunity to have the color and the size you are specifically looking for as it might not be possible at Hermès. It might also be your only chance to ever have the possibility of buying a Birkin.

Why is it such a good investment?

Some consider that it’s a better investment than gold or the stock market. But will Birkin bags remain that expensive forever? That’s always the big question. Experts predicted that the value will continue to increase. But before buying one, your need to think about the colors you pick. This tip pretty much applies to any of the luxury bags you want to invest in. A neutral color such as gold, black or etoupe would be a better investment in the long term. 

why a Birkin bag is such a good investment
source: Bag Hunters
“However, unlike the S&P 500 and gold markets, the value of Hermes Birkin handbags has never fluctuation downwards and has steadily and consistently increased. The bags experienced a peak surge in value in 2001, increasing in value by 25%, and with the lowest increase in 1986 when the value went up by 2.1%.”

Tips & tricks:

With a great currency exchange you may be able to shave a few dollars off your purchase if you are lucky enough to be in the right place.

Why are there so many copies of the Birkin Bag?

Because it’s rare and the fake ones are becoming better and better. It’s getting hard to pick the differences at a distance but a true addict will be able to spot them!

The Scandal about Hermès Employees and the Birkin bags.

In 2012, actual Hermès employees were arrested for helping to counterfeit the Birkin bags in an international crime ring. Ten people went on trial in June 2020 including seven former Hermès Employees.

The Hermès workers were smuggling out components from the factory to create the fake Birkin bags in a “secret atelier” between 2013 and 2014 for a total of 2M.€

What’s the difference between the Birkin and the Kelly bags?

Kelly bag vs. Birkin bag : a Hermès love story on parlezvousvintage
source: Pinterest

The difference is slight. The Kelly only has one handle and a shoulder strap when the Birkin has two. As well, the Birkin has a slightly larger depth than the Kelly, which makes the Kelly more casual and relaxed.
However, they are both iconic bags. The story behind the Kelly is as gorgeous as the Birkin. And it all began when Grace Kelly, back in 1956, used the bag to hide her pregnant belly to the photographer.

The French Opinion:

Brown Birkin Bag - blog Parlez vous vintage
image source: BFM Business

Would I buy a Birkin bag if I had the money tomorrow? For me they became more of a status symbol than a real “coup de coeur”. It’s an intemporel item of course, let’s be honest, I think I could resist. Owning a Birkin bag one day is definitely not my “goal” or will never be an achievement like it may be for some.

And you, if you had the possibility to have a Birkin bag, would you go for it? Regarding the expensive value of it, would you actually wear it outside and take the ‘risk’ of getting at least $10k stolen?

For more articles, check out the home page of my blog.

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