Why Are Birkin Bags So Expensive?
Even if you’re not an avid follower of Fashion Week or the haute couture world, you may have heard of the Hermes Birkin bag. This iconic accessory transcends trends and soars by records to become one of the most in-demand and luxurious fashion items in history. But why are Hermes handbags so expensive?
Why Are Birkin Bags So Expensive?
The dedication to the quality and craftsmanship of Hermes makes the Birkin bag so expensive. This globally-renowned fashion house, established in 1837, uses only the most sumptuous animal skins and other materials for its high-fashion handbags. Each Birkin takes at least 18 hours to create.
The craftspeople trusted with making a Birkin bag endure similar high standards for quality. An intensive apprentice model ensures the precise standards employed by Hermes artisans for more than a century hold firm.
This fashion house has generated six generations of elite artisans and trains more than 200 new handbag craftspeople each year. It takes five years of training before someone can begin making a Birkin bag. Each bag is stamped with the artisan’s initials. If the Birkin needs mending it is reunited with the original craftsperson.
This level of attention to detail results in a handbag routinely fetching tens of thousands of dollars. The most expensive Birkin sold for $440,000 in 2022, marking the highest price a handbag ever sold at auction.
History of Birkin Bags
The Birkin bag emerged from a chance 1984 encounter on an airplane between the then-leader of the French fashion house and a British actress and singer. However, the Hermes brand enjoyed a long and storied history before this twist of fate.
Hermes began as a leather goods store making saddles and harnesses for horses. These goods maintained such a high reputation Hermes quickly became a trusted name for effortless and sturdy gear. Today some of the same tools and materials used in the mid-1800s are still employed, like calfbox leather.
The history of Hermes includes several pivotal moments when the brand swam with the cultural current. Between both World Wars, the leader of Hermes witnessed the first zippers used by military vehicles and quickly patented the technology in 1922. As neckties became commonplace in 1949, Hermes developed their signature silk ties for men.
This high fashion manufacturer continues to soak up inspiration from everywhere. That fateful airplane trip in the mid-1980s became the basis for the most globally-recognized handbag in history.
The Birth of the Birkin Bag
British actress and singer Jane Birkin boarded a flight from Paris to London in 1984 and serendipitously sat next to Jean-Louis Dumas, the design lead for Hermes during this period. Birkin struggled to board while balancing her overflowing handbag. The actress was a young mother at the time and needed a stylish accessory that could hold baby bottles and other necessities.
Birkin and Dumas quickly bonded over this conversation about purses. The talented Birkin began sketching a version of her dream bag immediately during the flight. Her ideal accessory provided ample room for the necessities of young mothers while also looking sophisticated and elegant.
Purse trends in the 1980s tended to be much smaller, from the Bermuda bag to fanny packs and even Hermes’ Kelly bag. Birkin touched on the desire for working women to be able to do it all without sacrificing fashion. Because Hermes holds a keen ability to transition with the times, Dumas took Birkin’s sketches and vision seriously.
Within the year, Dumas invited Birkin to Hermes headquarters to receive the bag she inspired, in exchange for the designer attaching her name to the purse. As history shows, the actress agreed and this iconic bag was born.
Evolution of the Birkin Bag
The constant innovation behind Hermes means even their signature items experience updates. Many of the aspects of the Birkin remain the same, from the practical feet keeping the expensive handbag off of surfaces to the practical flap top and lock closure. However several design aspects of the Birkin bag endured important changes.
The original Birkin bag boasts a staggering volume inside, true to the original intention of the design. An original Birkin stretches 40 centimeters wide and includes a large zippered pocket and a large open pocket. This largest style is now referred to as the “travel Birkin.”
More sizes of Birkin are available today for delightful versatility. This handbag now offers 25, 30, and 35-centimeter-wide options for fashionistas willing to invest in this timeless accessory. Birkins are called the Birkin 25, Birkin 30, and Birkin 35 to easily communicate the size of the purse.
Part of what makes the Birkin bag so desirable is the near-limitless versions of new and innovative finishes for this handbag. Birkin hunters have their choice between several different types of leather and exotic animal skins.
Classic Birkin bags feature leathers consistent with the original 1984 models. The first Birkin arrived made from calfbox leather, the oldest and most popular leather choice from the nearly 200-year-old clothier. Calfbox leather feels smooth and luxurious and ages with perfection.
Over the years, different leathers have been introduced. Each material contains signature features. The Togo leather looks much more matte than the shiny calfbox version and is scratch-resistant.
Clemence leather Birkin bags lose their rigid shape and appear more casual over time, while Epsom leather maintains an ultra-rigid frame. Epsom leather is also waterproof, like the durable Fjord leather option. If you love vibrantly-colored Birkin bags, research the Evercolor leather for the wide palette of “forever” colors and supple leather feel.
Those willing to invest more in their Birkin should explore the ultra-luxurious exotic animal skin options. Bags in ostrich, lizard, crocodile, and alligator skin patterns fetch the highest prices and are available in a shiny or matte finish. Crocodile Birkins rank as the most expensive exotic animal skin choice on the market.
Elite customers can fully customize their Birkin bags by selecting two colors and the perfect leather or animal skin. Designers can also choose specialized clasps with diamond accents and fresh styles of key closure.
These Birkin bags can maintain the classic style or stretch the limits of the Hermes brand with colorful and eye-catching designs. The ultimate fashion status symbol is the custom Birkin bag!
The price tag for a custom Birkin averages around $30,000 to $40,000 for a standard option and can soar to over $100,000 for exotic animal skins and diamond accents.
While carrying a one-of-a-kind Birkin bag displays an endless cache, only the most high-profile customers receive an invitation to customize a Birkin. Many years of devoted shopping at Hermes combined with global celebrity or royalty status may help you get in line for an HSS, or “horseshoe stamped”, custom Birkin bag.
Can I Purchase a Birkin Bag?
Even if you have an extra $10,000 lying around, it is not easy to purchase a Birkin bag. You cannot purchase a Birkin bag from the Hermes website or simply walk into a store and buy one.
If you decide to visit a Hermes boutique in person, there is no guarantee a Birkin will be in stock. Sales associates decide who is worthy to be invited to a private room to view any Birkins available on-site.
Fashion insiders encourage handbag hunters to befriend the staff at Hermes stores to get the inside scoop on snagging a bag. Be sure to wear as much Hermes as possible when visiting to demonstrate brand loyalty.
Those interested in a custom Birkin will experience even more hurdles. Only VIP customers enjoy the privilege of being invited to design their own Birkin. A long history of shopping with the brand and usually a household name are required to get your hands on a custom Birkin bag.
While buying a Birkin from the Hermes website is not an option, some official vendors can sell these luxury bags online. Be sure to vet each seller to understand the authenticity of the products available. Birkin collectors rank as some of the most competitive in high fashion circles so be prepared for a long and expensive journey.
How to Style a Birkin Bag
If you finally get your hands on a Birkin bag, the next important question is how to wear the iconic handbag with your outfits. One of the best aspects of a Birkin bag is its versatility across seasons and ensembles.
This handbag provides the perfect polish for any formal outfit. While this bag ranks much larger than a clutch or other typical evening bag, its signature shape and high-end finishes make it appropriate with an evening gown or tuxedo.
Feel free to wear your Birkin bag during all seasons. The elegance of a Birkin bag pairs well with a classic trench coat in the spring or a sophisticated wool peacoat during cooler months. Many of the leathers feature waterproof and scratch-resistant finishes, making them a durable, all-weather accessory.
Choose a Birkin bag when getting dressed for an important interview or work gathering to add a sleek and confident accessory. This handbag also serves practical functions, effortlessly carrying vital papers, portfolio items, and your resume wherever you need to go.
Evoke the origins of this historic handbag by carrying a Birkin bag on an airplane. This large and versatile accessory makes it a no-brainer choice for a carry-on bag. Remember, this purse was originally designed to accommodate baby bottles and other necessities of working, professional women and mothers.
This alluring handbag comes in a massive variety of colors, leather, and finishes. The Evercolor leather line carries the full rainbow, from magenta pink to kelly green and vibrant yellow. While a specific color or leather combination may be difficult to get your hands on, collectors should allow themselves to be swept away by the volume of options.
A Birkin bag can accompany even the most basic errands. When you pay this much for a signature piece of fashion history, you can (and should!) wear it everywhere! Pair a Birkin bag with your high heels or your most casual outfit to run errands, go to the gym, or run the kids to school. The clean lines and timeless silhouette of this bag make it the perfect accessory for every occasion.
Even if you can’t get your hands on a custom Birkin, there are ways to spice up your handbag and make it unique. Consider tying a silk scarf around the signature rolled handles or attaching a keychain to the lock detail.
Caring for a Birkin Bag
It’s not just purchasing a Birkin bag that presents hurdles. Owners must understand the long-term care needs of this piece of wearable art.
Exotic animal skins require specialized care to maintain their appearance and value. Crocodile and lizard scale purses must be groomed in the direction of the scales. These purses should never be exposed to water, oils, or perfumes.
Every variety of Hermes leather contains its approach to handbag care. Keep a dry microfiber cloth handy to gently wipe the outside and inside of the bag clean. Always allow damp handbags to dry naturally and away from direct light or heat.
To maintain the optimum shape and color for your Hermes Birkin bag, do not wear this bag every day. Natural products, whether they are leather or exotic animal skins, need time to rest in proper storage.
Empty the bag and store it in its dust bag for optimum safekeeping. Stuff the bag with acid-free tissue paper or bubble wrap to help it keep its shape. Store the Birkin bag upright and make sure the handles are never compressed.
Allow for some air circulation within the storage bag or box. Keep your Birkin bag in a dark space that maintains a consistent room temperature.
Why Are Birkin Bags So Expensive? Closing Thoughts
Only a few historic fashion accessories rank higher than the eye-popping extravagance of the Hermes Birkin bag. The unbeatable craftsmanship and high-end materials used to produce these purses help Birkin bags fetch at least $10,000 each. Explore the endless colors and material options available in the Birkin bag for the day when it may finally be your turn to own this piece of fashion history.