Un­der­stated El­e­gance, Unob­tain­able Lux­ury

Distinguished Magazine - - CONTENTS - MADHUSUDHANAN SRIDARAN

Birkins bags are a sym­bol of un­der­stated el­e­gance and unattain­able lux­ury. But what makes them so ex­pen­sive? And how has Her­mes man­aged to main­tain this inim­itable elu­sive­ness?

In­ter­ested in in­vest­ing? Does the stock mar­ket look like un­de­ci­pher­able code to you? Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study, a Birkin hand­bag might be the best op­tion for po­ten­tial in­vestors, even more so than gold, and the stock mar­ket!

There are many vari­a­tions of the brand’s ori­gin, but most of them have a com­mon core: French ac­tress Jane Birkin, spilt the con­tents of her tote bag on a flight en route to Lon­don from Paris. Her gen­tle­manly neigh­bor, re­trieved her pos­ses­sions while she lamented on not hav­ing a good bag for the week­ends. Her neigh­bor, how­ever, was not just “an­other” French gen­tle­man. He was Jean-Louis Du­mas, then Chair­man of the Her­mes Group. Hav­ing piqued his cu­rios­ity, Du­mas struck up a con­ver­sa­tion with Birkin, prob­ing her as to what she vi­su­al­ized as be­ing the “ideal” bag.

Nearly 35 years later, Birkins are a sym­bol of un­der­stated el­e­gance and unattain­able lux­ury. But what makes them so ex­pen­sive? And how has Her­mes man­aged to main­tain this inim­itable elu­sive­ness?

To un­der­stand this brand value, one has to dis­sect the heart and soul of Birkin’s brand phi­los­o­phy. A fam­ily-owned and op­er­ated busi­ness, Birkin ex­erts tight con­trol over the man­u­fac­tur­ing process of their bags. Un­like most hand­bag man­u­fac­tur­ers, Birkin em­ploys hun­dreds of skilled trades­peo­ple and ar­ti­sans to craft their bags—pre­fer­ring this method­ol­ogy over mass pro­duc­tion. It is be­lieved that the skilled ar­ti­sans at Her­mes un­dergo a train­ing pe­riod of five years be­fore they are al­lowed to cre­ate a Birkin on their own. Each bag is then crafted ex­clu­sively by hand, from start to fin­ish—tak­ing 48 hours to com­plete. This in­ti­macy in the process of cre­ation is a residue of the Parisian brand’s hum­ble ori­gins as a cre­ator of finely crafted horse har­nesses and car­riages.

Not un­til 1922 did Her­mes en­ter the world of lux­ury hand­bags. Even to­day, pro­duc­tion quan­ti­ties and lists of prospec­tive clients are tightly re­stricted to main­tain the bag’s near myth­i­cal sta­tus. Adding to this rep­u­ta­tion, the lux­ury bags are be­lieved to come in a va­ri­ety of ex­otic hides—crocodile, calf, lizard, and ostrich to name a few. There have even been Birkins crafted from pre­cious met­als such as plat­inum, stud­ded with di­a­monds. A Birkin by Ja­panese de­signer Ginza Tanaka, is be­lieved to cost around USD 1.9 mil­lion, just for one bag. The as­tro­nom­i­cal price can be at­trib­uted to the bag be­ing made of 100% plat­inum, with over two thou­sand di­a­monds, and an eight-carat pear shaped rock.

To­day, Birkins are of­ten spot­ted on the red car­pet, in the arms of celebri­ties who are em­blem­atic of haute cou­ture. Birkin does not ex­empt these stars from their years-long wait­ing lists and in­sane prices. De­vi­at­ing from other fash­ion houses, Birkin does not hand out free stuff to pub­lic fig­ures—a fact which has gained the brand sig­nif­i­cant no­to­ri­ety. Even Jane Birkin her­self, re­counted pay­ing for four of her name­sake bags. Re­gard­less, celebri­ties and pub­lic fig­ures love Her­mes. Celebri­ties such as Lind­say Lo­han, Kim Kar­dashian, Jes­sica Simp­son and Jen­nifer Lopez are reg­u­larly spot­ted with their Birkins in pub­lic—with a few com­ing up with rather in­no­va­tive uses for their pieces, Lady Gaga’s sketch­pad Birkin and Vic­to­ria Beck­ham’s di­a­per tote be­ing note­wor­thy ex­am­ples. It is ru­mored that the lat­ter owns over 100 Birkins, in a col­lec­tion val­ued at a cool USD 2 mil­lion. Even the first lady, Me­la­nia Trump, has been spot­ted with six dif­fer­ent Her­mes bags since mov­ing into the White House. The bag’s value was an­a­lyzed over the course of 35 years, and the re­sults were con­clu­sive. Birkins con­sis­tently had a bet­ter re­turn on in­vest­ment than gold, and the stock mar­ket recorded a 14.2% in­crease in value per year! As the value of a Birkin bag in­creases; and show­ing no signs of slow­ing down, it may in­deed be wise to pur­chase your own Birkin; that is, if you can find one.

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