Since playing a pivotal role in a much-loved Sex and the City episode, the Hermès Birkin handbag has become the world’s most coveted luxury item. Tracking down the obnoxiously expensive arm candy, however, has proven much more difficult than tracking down the pennies to pay for one.
One day, bleary-eyed and half-asleep, I was in line for coffee and inspecting the stain on my shirt that I’d just noticed. A woman swiftly slid in front of me, as if I were invisible.
“Sorry, sweetie,” she said. “I’m in a hurry.”
Firstly, I’m not your granddaughter and secondly, I’m supposed to be at work in… four minutes ago.
“No worries, go ahead.” I suck. But in my defence, my attention, or lack-thereof, had been diverted to the monstrosity of bright orange leather that hung from her forearm. ALL HAIL HOLY BIRKIN!
I would later learn that the colour was called “feu”. At that moment, however, I was consumed by stress, love and longing (I think I even drooled a little, creating a friend for the stain already upon my blouse).
Then I got annoyed. As Birkin Lady ordered her half-strength, almond milk latte, the kind woman behind the counter politely asked, “If you don’t mind, I was wondering how much you paid for your gorgeous handbag?”
Birkin Lady pretended to check her non-existent emails and told the kind woman behind the counter, “More than anyone who worked in a café could afford, darling.”
I shouldn’t have been shocked at her rudeness, since she’d already jumped the queue. But now I wanted to know the answer as well. When I eventually got to work, I did some research on the fabled leather item.
I was aware that they were expensive. I knew Victoria Beckham had lots and I knew Kanye had let his infant child deface one for his wife, but I stumbled upon some almost unfathomable information about the piece Samantha Jones used her celebrity connections to covet.
The fashion house’s pricey tote was named after English film star and songstress Jane Birkin, who met the Hermès chief executive on an Air France flight in 1981.
The bag’s superior craftsmanship, ridiculous price tag and limited supply has enabled it to remain one of the world’s most desirable and unattainable items. In fact, the waiting list can be up to 15 years. Which means anyone who put themselves on a waiting list following the airing of that Sex and the City episode would probably only be collecting their bag today.
I knew there had to be a way around this, though, so I trotted on down to the Hermès store, telling myself on the stroll how important, wealthy and hoity-toity I was.
Despite the stain, my outfit totalled almost $5000 (a rarity, believe me), yet somehow I still managed to look like a thief.
“For you? We don’t carry her, miss,” said the salesperson.
Her? Come on. I’d pretended to be interested in an ugly scarf just to ask this question.
The waiting list would take me “five years minimum” and that was “still no guarantee”. The sales assistant proceeded to chuckle at my stupidity to think that I would be the recipient of an item for which I paid money. Come on, Emma. You should be smarter than that.
I was baffled by the fact that I had to develop a strategy, play a character and attempt to prove my self-worth while contemplating (or pretending to contemplate) emptying my pockets (and bank account, and savings) for a bag. Now I was really determined to track this so-far unattainable piece of modern luxury down.
I’d heard people describe their handbags as investment pieces but I had just assumed that that was a way to help them justify their extravagant purchase. Much to my astonishment, however, Time Magazine proclaims it is now wiser to invest in a Birkin than in gold.
As fashions change and things go out of style, it’s out with the old and in with the new – or older in this case. Someone’s $10,000 trash can actually become someone else’s $20,000 treasure.
Buying something preloved may remind you of the suspicious stain on the couch your friend once “got for a great deal!” But with a preloved Birkin, you’re carrying history.
Take the Chanel Jumbo Flap bag as an example. In 2006, the butterfly-soft lambskin piece retailed for $1795 USD. In 2014, the bag retailed for $5500 USD.
Despite being unable to view a single bag in store, I spent that evening trawling consignment and preloved luxury item websites. After adjusting the search bar to configure the bags from “Price Low to High”, I found THE bag. The Hermès Kelly 32cm bag in So Black with Black Box Black Hardware. The bag was listed for $38,800 USD.
When my boyfriend questioned my need for such a ridiculously expensive “glorified grocery bag”, I gasped and snapped, “It’s an investment!”
Oh no. I was one of them.
And what about the embarrassed barista from the coffee shop that morning? Once I finally reached the front of the line, I felt the need to comment on the woman’s behaviour.
“Some people are so rude. Nice bag though, right?”
As the barista attached the lid to my coffee with a slight smile, she looked up at me and said, “Yeah, I’ve got two investment pieces.”