Back in 2001, when Samantha Jones famously tried to bypass the legendary Hermes waiting list during Sex and the City’s fictional “Birkin” episode, a saga exploded across the fashion landscape. The conversation following that season four installment continues today – could there really be a waiting list at Hermes to secure a Birkin? And do celebrities in fact obtain the handcrafted handbags gratis?
Jane Birkin, the English model and actress for whom the handbag was designed and named, is believed to have received complimentary Birkin bags in the 1980’s and 90’s. These bags were supposedly acknowledgement for the use of her family name. It has been reported that she receives monetary compensation, but she has publicly stated that it is donated to charity. For the rest of us that do not have a world-class handbag named in our honor, securing the elusive Birkin from a Hermes boutique remains a challenge.
Here’s some interesting math – 70,000 bags are hand crafted per year with approximately 17,000,000 millionaires globally (not to mention almost 2,000 billionaires and, in the not-so-distant future, the world’s first trillionaire). That creates quite a limited supply. While there is no requirement for collectors to prove accumulated wealth, the prices of the beloved bag can prove to be prohibitive.
Luckily, it is now possible to send your desired Birkin (including Hermes Kelly or Constance) directly to your front door, utterly dismissing the mythical list. What the writers of Sex and the City didn’t know was that Heritage Auctions would launch an entire category filled with the sought after handbags and accessories in 2010. These bags were obtained from the most prominent and influential collectors across the globe.
Technology has transformed auctions from traditional open outcry rooms, filled with enthusiastic bidders raising their paddles in competition, to an easily accessible online shopping excursion. It is now possible to bid on a desired Birkin through Heritage and have it delivered the very next day.
Even for those seasoned enough to obtain a Birkin directly from Hermes, a purchased bag may not necessarily be the preferred size, color, leather or hardware. Colors are often retired, in limited supply or even special order, which can make that dream bag virtually impossible to acquire. This simultaneously explains why auctions have become the go-to space. With additional options that include buy it now, seasonal trunk shows, and luxury boutiques, the reputation and transparency of an auction house is a reassuring option. A secret that savvy collectors know, and often don’t even share with their closest friends, is that private requests are accepted daily for even the rarest of requirements, which explains how the mysterious Limited Edition So Black Matte Crocodile 30cm Birkin appeared virtually overnight on the arm of a new collector.
So, the next time you find yourself in an enviable closet, one resembling the most breathtaking boutique with shelves that are lit with the precision of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, take stock in knowing how each meticulously placed Birkin may have landed in its exact spot…without ever being on a list.
Visit our luxury accessories department to view upcoming auctions and to browse our auction archives
Written by: Barbara Stone