A BAG TO DIE FOR
In the era of conspicuous consumption people go to great lengths in order to show off not only their social but also financial status. Many brands follow this demand by offering their customers a wide range of products that could be suitable and affordable for any pocket. However, there are brands which do not need to adjust to the voracious demands of the general public as they are already intrinsically coveted by virtually everyone thanks to their classic design and uncanny investment potential. One of such brands is Hermès whose signature bag, the Birkin bag, is one of the most recognized luxury goods on the planet.
Once in possession of the wealthiest celebrities and politicians in the world, the Birkin bag is more than accessible to the vast majority of people nowadays. It is one of the luxury goods that fall into the category of Veblen goods - types of luxury goods for which the quantity demand increases as the price increases, an apparent contradiction of the law of demand, resulting in an upward-sloping demand curve. A great number of people wish to be similar to the representatives of the most affluent circles in the world, that’s why those who have the means and do their best to keep up with the Joneses put their hands on the most desired Hermès bags to manifest their position in society.
But the question is - what made the Birkin bag such a symbol of luxury? As the story goes, in 1983, Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas was seated next to Jane Birkin on a flight from Paris to London. Birkin had just placed her straw travelling bag in the overhead compartment for her seat, but the contents fell to the deck, leaving her to scramble to replace them. Birkin explained to Dumas that it had been difficult to find a leather weekend bag she liked. As a conservative, in 1984, he created a black supple leather bag for her, based on a 1982 design. She used the bag initially, but changed her mind because she was carrying too many things in it, and the bag appeared to be very heavy in her opinion. Nevertheless, since the late 1980s, the bag has been a status symbol, though it has become much easier to purchase due to aftermarket resales.
Whether it’s all about the name of Jane Birkin or the magic of Hermès house or the meticulous process of production of one bag that lasts a few days with the aim to create a product with impeccable finish and luxurious look - nobody knows why it’s so incredibly popular but everybody knows why they should possess one.
Although Birkin bags have become more easily accessible these days and a whopping 70,000 bags are produced every year, they are still hard to get due to the unpredictable schedule of delivery to Hermès stores. As a result, customers seek opportunities to obtain Birkin bags by all the other means possible, such as resale markets. Hermès bags are considered to be a fantastic investment tool and it has been proven that their investment potential is not in any way worse than that of the stock market. Resold bags paradoxically very often increase in value, especially those made of exotic leathers in unique colors.
It goes without saying that an additional boost in the popularity of the Birkin bag is due to the influence of mass media and popular culture.
The Birkin bag is a major plot point of the Sex and the City episode "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda", in which Samantha is placed on a five-year waiting list for the bag. She is so desperate to obtain one that she falsely says the bag is for her celebrity client Lucy Liu. When Liu finds out she fires Samantha and keeps the bag for herself.
In his 2008 memoir, Bringing Home the Birkin; My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World'’s Most Coveted Handbag, author Michael Tonello, recounted his career selling used luxury goods on eBay.
In the Will & Grace episode "Last Ex to Brooklyn", Grace is gifted a Birkin by her husband's ex-girlfriend Diane, who works at Vogue. Will angrily says that he has been on a two-year waiting list for the bag.
Kim Kardashian made news in 2013 for a $40,000 Birkin, gifted to her by husband Kanye West, on which the artist George Condo painted a group of nude figures. Another picture showed Khloe Kardashian's child nestled in US$108,000 worth of the bags, which drew some unfavorable comments about conspicuous consumption from her adherents. Additionally, Kim's daughter was publicized while carrying a US$17,000 Hermes bag.
American first lady Melania Trump carried a Birkin bag during her summer 2018 trip to Scotland.
Rosmah Mansor, the second wife of Najib Razak, former prime minister of Malaysia, is claimed to have the largest Birkin collection in the world. In 2018, Malaysian police found a total of 272 Hermès bags, worth nearly US$13 million, after seizing the family's three apartments in Kuala Lumpur.
Other known larger collections of Birkin bags include: Singapore socialite Jamie Chua, who reportedly owns more than 200 Hermès Birkin and Kelly bags, and celebrity fashion designer Victoria Beckham, who reportedly has more than 100 Birkin bags.
If you are one of those people who are still in a quandary about whether to obtain an Hermès bag make up your mind as soon as possible and introduce one into your life. You will undoubtedly notice the benefits of having your Birkin or Kelly immediately. Moreover, in my opinion, it’s better to invest in one thing that lasts a lifetime and brings continuous joy rather than spend the same amount of money on many things of dubious quality and feel dissatisfied more often than not.