Hermes Birkin bags: A sound investment in fashion

Washington: December saw a new record for a Hermes bag being set at a Christie’s auction in London when a 2010 Birkin Himalaya model was sold for €260,899. The diamond encrusted platinum hardware Birkin beat the previous record, set in June, 2018 of €183,950.

The world record for a pre-owned Birkin bag was set in 2017 in Hong Kong, when a buyer paid €333,156 following a 10 minute bidding frenzy, reported The Irish Times.

According to media reports, when Rosmah Mansor, the wife of disgraced ex-Malaysian-prime minister Najib Razak was being investigated over money laundering charges, authorities found 272 Hermes bags in her sizable collection of 567, with a total estimated value of €11.5 million. She has since been convicted since then.

The Birkin was created in 1981, and is named after the bohemian English actor and model Jane Birkin.
According to reports, Birkin was famed for toting wicker baskets around Paris, sourced for £5 apiece on London’s Portobello Road. A night before she was about to take a flight, her then partner Jacques Doillon drove over her basket in a fit of rage.

On the flight the following day, she happened to be seated beside Jean-Louis Dumas, the chief executive of Hermes. Dumas asked Birkin what her ideal handbag would look like and using a pen and a sick bag as paper, she outlined the concept of the Hermes Birkin.

Reports say that Birkin receives an annual royalty of around €30,000 from Hermes, a sum she donates to charity. Furthermore, she only ever has one bag at a time, which she then auctions off to charity on receipt of replacement.

In 2015, Birkin asked the brand to ‘de-baptise’ the Birkin Crocodile bags until better practices in the treatment of alligators and crocodiles were implemented. The company seemed to comply with her wishes as she dropped the request later in the year.

Birkin bags do not come cheap. Starting at about €8,000 depending on the model, pelt and hardware, the costliest bag ever produced in the Birkin range was one embellished by Japanese designer Ginza Tanaka at an estimated cost of around €1.68 million. The bag was made entirely of platinum with over 2,000 diamonds.

In fact, reports say that Birkins are in fact a better investment when compared with returns from gold or stock market investments. A research by say the annual return on a Birkin was 14.2 per cent, compared with the S&P average of 8.7 per cent a year and gold at -1.5 per cent.

Hermes has an international waiting list for a Birkin, which can go up to six years, in turn, increasing its exclusivity and desirability as a collector’s item.

Speaking to The Irish Times, owner of Siopa Ella, Ella de Guzman, the pre-owned designer store based in Temple Bar said that they had sold 13 Birkin bags in the past eight years. The 2017 model which normally retails for about €8,000 fetched €14,450. Guzman says that in part, the price is based on the demand. Some people do not want to wait years and are willing to pay a premium.

Furthermore, Niall Dolan of Dolan’s Auction house in Galway says that having Hermes, Gucci and Chanel handbags in auctions always create significant interest among people who would otherwise shy away from them. The auction house sold a Hermes bag (not a Birkin model) at a sale in 2018 for €4,000; the estimate was €2,800.

James O’Hallorn of Adam’s on St Stephen’s Green cautions that they would not get involved in selling a Birkin without all the documentation and would not recommend anyone buying one unless they are sure it is not a fake. Adam’s sold a Hermes Pullman model from the 1930s in 2011 for €4,000 – the estimate of which was €1,500.