The Hermès Birkin is one of the most expensive handbags in the world. Prices on the second-hand market start at $7,000 for a “standard” model and go up to over $100,000 for the rarest versions. For a wearable leather accessory, one might ask: How does it actually fit together?
From craftsmanship to investment prestige: TASTETHELUXE explains the economics of the cult object: Hermès Birkin Bag.
Birkin is one of the most famous anecdotes from the world of fashion. The idea for the bag came about in 1984 when actress and singer Jane Birkin and Hermès boss Jean-Louis Dumas boarded the same flight from Paris to London. As a new mum, Jane found her current bag impractical, struggling to securely hold her most important essentials, so together the two came up with a more appropriate design: THE BIRKIN.
Celebrity bag of choice
Ever since it first appeared, the Birkin has been spotted on the arms – and in the huge walk-in closets – of many A-listers. Dedicated collectors include Victoria Beckham, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and even Drake, who told reporters he’s building a Birkin collection for his future (very lucky) partner.
The Birkin was the subject of an entire story arc in Sex and the City, was rapped about by Jay-Z and A$AP Rocky, and was used as a canvas by contemporary artists like George Condo, Alec Monopoly, and Terence Koh. With so much star power behind it, it’s no wonder the Birkin has continued to rise in price and popularity over the years.
There are handicrafts – and there is Hermès
Let’s be clear: the Birkin is more than just an it bag. She is a work of art. As a fashion house, Hermès prides itself on placing craftsmanship above all else. The Hermès ethos is “one craftsman, one bag” and so each Birkin is made by a single artisan from start to finish in one of their dedicated ateliers.
The entire process takes about 40 hours in total. This includes checking and cutting the leather pieces, carefully hand-stitching them together and attaching the HARDWARE using a technique called “pearling”. Every seam is accurately applied by hand.
TAKE A LOOK INTO THE HERMÈS STUDIO IN HONG KONG IN THIS SHORT FILM:
Only the best leathers are used, with each leather element carefully matched by the artisan to ensure a harmonious finish. And should you ever send your Birkin to Hermès for repairs, it will be delivered right back into the arms of its original creator.
The value of the personal touch
For a global luxury brand, this is an unusually personal approach – the craftsmen have even been known to recognize their handwork in the store. Actively rejecting a factory production line and the resulting economies of scale of such an approach, the cost of producing a Birkin is inevitably high.
What’s even higher is your chances of snatching a limited edition Birkin. Each season, Hermès introduces a new color range for its accessories, many of which are seasonal exclusives.
Some of these shades, like Rose Bubblegum, Vert Criquet, and Mimosa, are so rare that they have become prized collector’s items. Hermès is also known for collaborating with artists on unique designs, such as B. Nigel Peake’s “One Two Three and Away We Go” Birkin.
The limited edition Birkin bag can be frustrating at times, but it also has a certain allure. Hermès lives creativity with a business model that is not only guided by commercialism, but by an artistic sensibility.
The ultimate investment piece
Although quality comes at a price, it is this appreciation of traditional craftsmanship that makes the Hermès Birkin Bag the ultimate investment piece. In short: it lasts a long time.
A Birkin is made for life, not just one season, which is why you can still find so many beautiful vintage models on the second hand market. Coupled with the timeless design, it is a bag that will retain its value for generations.
Calculating cost per wear becomes much more justifiable when you think in terms of decades rather than years.
The ROI of your Birkin bag
Due to its long lifespan, the Birkin has in recent years increasingly been viewed as a safer investment than many traditional goods. In 2019, art achieved an average total return of 5%, while Birkin Bags achieved 13%. This has created a self-perpetuating cycle of growth in the Birkin aftermarket.
Those looking to capitalize on the investment gains buy up bags, driving prices up even further. Where there is high demand, auction houses follow: Christie’s launched its first own handbag auction in 2017, and since then it has broken world record prices almost every year (mostly – you guessed it – by Birkins).
A rare species
Hermès is an expert in exclusivity. With the world crying out for Birkins, one might assume the fashion house would ramp up production. Instead, Hermès reduces it to just 12,000 Birkin bags per year.
And that’s not all: Hermès boutiques are notoriously picky about their customers. Birkin Bags cannot simply be bought off the shelf – instead they are offered to privately selected customers who have developed a special relationship with their local store associate or selected online retailers such as TASTETHELUXE.
High demand plus limited supply can only mean one thing: rising prices. So if you do get your hands on a Birkin, it’s very unlikely that you’ll find another of its kind anywhere else. Beautifully crafted, exceptionally rare and a sound investment – with all these attributes, is it any wonder the Hermès Birkin is so expensive?