Why Birkin Bags Are So Expensive | So Expensive

Narrator: Hermès
Birkin bags are some of the most expensive
bags in the world, ranging anywhere
from $9,000 to half a million dollars. The bags embody
absolute luxury. – A Birkin bag? – You’ve heard of it? – Of course. That’s a very nice purse. Narrator: The exclusive
accessory’s even considered by some to
be a better investment than gold or
the stock market. And the world’s
most expensive bag is an Hermès
Himalaya Birkin bag that sold for $500,000. So what is it that makes
Birkin bags so expensive? The story of the bag begins
with its namesake: Jane Birkin. On a flight from Paris to
London, the English actress happened to be seated next
to the chief executive of Hermès,
Jean-Louis Dumas. Pilot: Flight attendants,
please prepare for takeoff. Narrator: Jane was
known for carrying a wicker basket
wherever she went and used it for everything
from groceries to diapers. When she tried to fit
her famous basket in the overhead
compartment, the lid came off, spilling the
contents everywhere. Jane complained
to her seatmate that it was impossible to
find a weekend bag she liked. Dumas introduced himself
as the head of Hermès, and the pair spent the flight
sketching possible handbag designs on the back of
an airplane sick bag. A year later,
Dumas presented Jane with the Birkin bag, a spacious yet
sophisticated leather design perfect for everyday use. The Birkin’s pockets made
it highly functional, and the bag seals to prevent
anything from spilling. Hermès makes
the bags in France using premium materials like calf skin, alligator skin, and even ostrich skin. Each bag is made
entirely by hand. Although Birkins are one
of the most exclusive and sought-after bags
today, they actually weren’t all that popular
when they first launched. It wasn’t until the
’90s that the Birkin became one of the
it-bags of the era. Now they’re the
ultimate status symbol. Victoria Beckham
reportedly has a collection of over 100 Birkins,
estimated to be worth over $2 million,
and Singaporean socialite and entrepreneur
Jamie Chua is considered to have the world’s
largest Birkin collection with over 200 bags. But you can’t just walk
into Hermès and get one. While there used to
be a wait list, nowadays all you can do is hope to be
important enough or spend enough to be
offered a Birkin bag. And if you’re
offered one, don’t expect to be able to
choose the color or size. Hermès also places limits
on how many Birkin bags a client can
purchase per year. This dedication to preserving the exclusivity of the bag has certainly paid off,
and the disparity in demand and access has created a
thriving resale market. A 2017 study
revealed that the value of Hermès Birkin bags has increased 500%
in the last 35 years, an increase of 14% per year. One of the most
coveted models comes from Hermès’
Himalaya collection, which comes in three sizes. Often referred to as the
holy grail of handbags, the white Himalaya Birkin
bag features 18-karat white gold hardware and
more than 200 diamonds. The 35-centimeter model
in particular is very rare and has sold at record
prices year after year. Most recently in 2019, it sold for over
half a million dollars. Professional sports betting
consultant David Oancea, also known as Vegas Dave, made the record-breaking
purchase. David Oancea: The reason
I bought the Birkin bag is I love breaking records. I broke all the sports
betting records, I wanted to break the
most-expensive-bag record. I’m all about raising the bar. Also, it’s about
supply and demand. The only other
one in the world is by Steve Harvey’s wife, so there’s only
two in the world. Not even Kim Kardashian
has this, so I actually bought it for content,
believe it or not, so I could take
videos with it, pictures of it, getting
people to talk about me. Narrator: The
record-breaking sale actually took place over social media. Oancea: Sale was
pretty easy. I posted on social
media, I have about a million followers, that
I’m looking for a bag. This lady hit me
up, Privé Porter. She messaged me, said
she’d get me the bag. I realized it was
the most expensive bag. She said it would
break the record. And this is for
sure the record, $500,000? – Absolutely, most
expensive bag ever sold. Oancea: We closed this deal
in about three to four days, really, really fast. I actually do use the bag. Most people think I’m crazy. They put it away
like in a safe, and they never
touch it again. I’ve taken it out twice,
once to a night club in Vegas as a great piece of content. It’s definitely worth
the cost ’cause you could offer me a million dollars
cash, and I wouldn’t sell it. My asking price is $2 million. If not, I’ll just keep
the d— thing. Narrator: It’s also
made with white or albino crocodile skin,
which is extremely rare. The costly skin is
painstakingly dyed to emulate
the snowy appearance of the Himalayan
mountains. Mason Howell: The high
retail value and resale value is because these
are pieces of artwork. These artisans
train years and years to make one
of these bags, and they may even
train 10 years before even they’re
allowed to make a Birkin. Narrator: Another reason
for the bag’s high price of course is the
limited availability. The total number of Birkin
bags Hermès produces each year is a
well-guarded secret, but it’s estimated
that there may be around
200,000 in circulation. And for the
luxury resale market, Birkin bags are
a hot commodity. Online retailer Privé Porter uses Instagram
and WhatsApp to sell the bags online, and luxury
reseller The Real Real has hundreds of Birkins
available at any given time, many of which
are priced well above the
original retail cost. Howell: The Birkin
bag does retain and sometimes
exceeds its value. It really does depend on
the leather, the color, the size of the bag,
you know, the hardware. There are so many factors
that go into pricing a Birkin that it could really vary. However, if you do buy a
Birkin, let’s say in 2004, and maybe the retail at
that time was $5,000, you most likely will
be able to sell it, even if you have worn
it so many times, for $5,000, $6,000. Narrator: Even as resellers
like The Real Real and Privé Porter
have made more Birkins available than ever, the prices
haven’t gone down. Howell: If you go to
Hermès, you may not always get the exact color,
size, that you want. Here, we have almost
every single option, and if that means you have
to pay a small premium, people and our clients
are willing to do so. Even though that there
has been such a saturation of these bags, not one
bag is the same. So let’s say an Etain Birkin
35 with gold hardware, we only have one right
now, and if it’s sold, we may not get
another for a while, so someone’s looking for
that, and they’d be willing to pay an extra maybe
$10,000 to get that bag as soon as possible, and all
these bags are handmade, artisan craftsmanship.
It’s a piece of artwork. Not one is the same,
not even one stitch. Narrator: So if you have an
extra $10,000 lying around, it could be worthwhile
to invest it in a Birkin. Just make sure that you’re
not falling for a fake. From Canal Street
in New York City to websites like eBay,
the counterfeit market is full of luxury knockoffs, and Birkins are no exception. Back in 2012, Hermès
sued several websites for selling fake products and won $100
million in damages. That same year, French
police cracked down on an international crime
ring that was manufacturing counterfeit Birkin bags. The crime ring reportedly
included actual Hermès employees. Only two employees
were arrested, but Hermès believed that
several other employees could have been involved. And despite all their
efforts, fake products continue to
flood the market. The quality of
counterfeit bags has also vastly
improved over the years, making it difficult to tell whether a bag
is real or fake. However, there
are a few tricks to spotting a fake Birkin. Howell: The handle
should never be too long. If they look too long,
longer than the bag, then it is
most likely inauthentic. The hardware shouldn’t be
too shiny or protrude out, and the feet, another big
thing, it’s one of the best things I always
check, is that the feet should never screw off.
They are hammered in. The leather itself should feel
very supple, very luxurious. Narrator: And if the price
seems too good to be true, it probably is. While many other handbag
styles have come and gone, it looks like the Birkin
is here to stay. And the bag has become
synonymous with status in a way that many other
luxury goods have yet to. Despite its popularity, the bag features
no prominent logos and is only recognizable
to people who already know what it is. In Birkin, Hermès has
created something that feels inaccessible
and thus highly exclusive. As for whether the Birkin
will always be so expensive, only time will tell.

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