Today’s luxury handbag market is heavily saturated, and it seems like new brands are popping up by the day. And yet, there is a name that maintains its position above all others no matter what. It’s the Hermès Birkin bag. The Birkin is so universally iconic that a Brooklyn, New York based art collective called MSCHF recently made headlines when they launched their 'Birkinstock' sandals. Made from deconstructed authentic Birkin bags, the Birkinstocks are priced at up to 76,000 US dollars — and people are buying them. (Liner note: the crew from MSCHF bought their Birkins second-hand on luxury re-sale websites like Vestiaire Collective).
If you’ve never heard of the Birkin bag, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Let this guide introduce you to the wonderful world of Hermès’ signature handbag. We are sure that, by the end of this article, you’ll be dreaming about a Birkin of your own.
The Birkin Bag quite literally came from the heavens. It was on an airplane in 1983 that Hermès creative director Jean-Louis Dumas met actress Jane Birkin as her overhead bag spilled onto the floor. Complaining that she couldn’t find a leather bag that she loved, Dumas immediately undertook a mission to create the perfect luxury bag, drawing sketches from his airplane seat. Birkin, as a young mother, implored him to keep functionality in mind and design a larger bodied bag with pockets and a top flap. A year later, Hermès launched the Birkin bag.
Jane Birkin was obviously the first celeb fan of the bag that claims her name, but the design didn’t become an immediate sensation among the larger public. Like so many must-haves, the Birkin attained its high status after it was featured on Sex and the City in 2001. Following that single episode, the waiting list for the bag tripled. And since then, its popularity has remained stratospheric. Victoria Beckham is reported to have over one hundred Birkins, the Kardashian-Jenner family are repeat customers and Drake even has a famous collection of Birkins for his ‘future wife.’
Hermès made history recently with the most expensive designer bag ever sold. It was, of course, a Birkin and it was claimed at an auction for 500,000 US dollars. The winning bidder was a man who carries the bag himself. Today, both women and men are after the gender-neutral design and immediate status elevation of the Birkin.
The Birkin bag is one of the most exclusive bags in the world because they are made in such small quantities. To purchase one at a Hermès shop, you must join a long waitlist and your chances are better if you have a personal connection with a Hermès insider. With such restricted availability for the Birkin, even A-listers can have a hard time getting the exact colour they desire. There is also a limit to the number of bags you can buy at one time. This is not your normal chic cotton bag or bucket bag. It is the embodiment of luxury, the ultimate status symbol.
Make no mistake, the Birkin isn’t only coveted because of all the hype. The bag itself is truly exceptional, which is why people line up to purchase one of their own. All Hermès bags are exquisitely made with an extremely high level of craftsmanship, but the Birkin goes a step further. Artisans must train for up to 10 years before they are allowed to craft a Birkin, as each bag is handmade by a single person. It takes an entire week to make just one bag.
Crafted with precious yet durable materials, the Birkin is also a highly practical carryall. Many Birkin owners actually wear theirs instead of storing them as collectors’ items. Even the namesake herself, Jane Birkin, makes her bags work for her, saying, ‘There’s no fun in a bag if it’s not kicked around.’
In 2019, handbags became the number one collectible investment. The Hermès Birkin appreciates in value as soon as it leaves the store. Since its release in 1984, it has never decreased in value, making it a smart and safe investment piece. Even business outlets like Forbes and Fortune have been paying attention to the Birkin craze. After extensive market research, it was determined that Hermès is one of the top luxury brands when it comes to value retention. The Birkin has even been known to sell above its retail value second-hand. Since it was first created thirty-five years ago, the value of the Birkin bag has increased an incredible 500%. That makes the Birkin a better investment than gold and its value is expected to double in the next ten years.
Of course, the increase in value depends on a variety of factors such as the material used and the condition of the bag. (Hermès does offer a conditioning treatment for bags that are showing signs of wear). But we don’t expect the demand for these bags to slow down anytime soon. In fact, with more and more men claiming their own Birkin as a status symbol, worldwide demand could even increase.
If you can find a Birkin from a limited collection series, your re-sale profit could be even higher. While neutral colours are timeless, Hermès is known for their exquisite dye mastery and precious leathers. It is possible to earn extra dividends when you opt for a Birkin in a unique colourway or exotic skin. Regardless of the model, the Birkin bag has long proven to be a solid choice for investment and its allure will likely continue to rise for decades.
Your first Birkin is likely to be one of the biggest purchases you’ve ever made. And as we’ve mentioned, new Birkins can take a very long time to acquire because of the waitlist. Besides the immediate availability, one of the main benefits of shopping a pre-loved Birkin bag is that you have access to a broad range of models. This is very different from buying directly from Hermès, when you are simply offered whatever is available when your name arrives at the top of the list. That said, if you plan on buying a Birkin for investment, every style has a high re-sale value.
To get into design specifics, the Birkin comes in four different sizes: B25, B30, B35 and B40. The B40 is the rarest size and is best for travelling. It’s also the most popular among men. The B30 is a versatile medium-sized handbag that is very practical for every day. However, the size that’s right for you depends on your lifestyle. Perhaps you’re more of a minimalist and only carry your phone, keys and wallet. The B25 ‘mini’ Birkin could be the bag for you (if you can find one. Like the B40, this size is rare).
Birkin bags come in many different types of leather and other animal skins. Choosing a durable calf leather like Epsom or Togo could be a good worry-free option for your first bag. As we’ve said, all Birkins hold their value well, but exotic leather styles can have the highest re-sale values because they are the rarest. Once you’ve decided on the material of your bag, another important detail is the hardware. Do you prefer palladium or gold? A lot of consideration goes into buying your Birkin, but the important thing is to find one you truly love.
Unless your name is Drake, it is virtually impossible to obtain a new Birkin off the shelf. So, for most of us, the second-hand market is our gateway to owning one. And that’s a great thing. Why? Because purchasing on Vestiaire Collective is the most sustainable way to shop luxury fashion. It also offers you a broad range of style options, so you can find your favourite leather, hardware and colour combinations. You might even be able to find a highly exclusive model or coveted vintage style. You never know what treasures will pop up on Vestiaire.
Even if you are lucky enough to snag a first-hand Birkin, that is just another way to join the exclusive club of worldwide owners. It doesn’t really matter how you acquire yours because the Birkin bag preserves its value regardless of where you buy it. That said, when you participate in circular fashion through Vestiaire, it is better for the planet AND it’s one of the easiest ways to get your hands on a Hermès Birkin. Once you do, we are sure you will love your purchase for the long term. But if you ever decide you are ready to part with it and move on to a different bag, Vestiaire is always here to help you re-sell your Birkin bag.
The highly coveted, extremely exclusive Birkin is in a league of its own both as a luxury item and as an investment piece. From its unique beginning in the airplane, to the present-day obsession, the Birkin bag is poised on top of the designer bag pyramid. And, if the past is any indication, it is there to stay.
We hope this guide helps you appreciate the work of art that is the Birkin bag. Whenever you decide it’s time to invest in one of your own, you can find beautiful pre-loved and authentic Birkin bags at Vestiaire Collective. Discover the selection, dream of your ideal bag, and when it pops up on the app, make it yours! You’ve really got nothing to lose. Happy shopping!