Why is the Hermès Birkin Bag so Expensive?

Created in the 80s, the Hermès Birkin bag had a fairly low-key debut. Hermès is known for its quality handbags, but the interest really began as the Birkin was seen in the arms of certain celebrities and fashionistas. This power of influence forever changed its status.

From its modest debut, the Birkin bag managed an unprecedented rise to success and entered a level of popularity that has yet to be rivalled. With recent sale prices ranging from $10,000 to $300,000, the Birkin is one of the most highly desired handbags in the World. And it’s one of the best designer bags to invest in.

So why is the Hermès Birkin bag so expensive?

1. The Minimalistic Design

Simple is often iconic, and the rectangular, angled shape of the Birkin carries the typical elegance of a Hermès handbag, but in a much more sleek and relaxed manner. It’s a classic silhouette that lends itself to being reimagined in endless colours, materials, sizes and decorations.

2. The Materials

We’ve previously delved into the leathers that Hermès use and like the leather used by Louis Vuitton or the classic Saffiano leather used by Prada, Hermès uses only the very best. Each Hermès leather is named and applied to specific products to maximise their luxurious appearance or durability.

Some of the most expensive Hermès Birkin bags ever sold have been created with diamonds and exotic skins and hides. The unique texture or appearance of these exotic skins adds to the rarity of an already highly coveted handbag. The Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin is currently the most expensive Birkin bag, with a 2016 auction lot at Christie’s reaching 2,320,000 Hong Kong Dollars, or just over £225,000.

A Himalaya Birkin bag being auctioned in Hong Kong | Photo by Leirus Yat Shung on Wikimedia Commons

3. The Hermès Artisans

Hermès is world-renowned for the craftsmanship and quality of its products. From their collections of dog leashes to coin purses, Hermès’ entire reputation lies in the technical skills of their craftspeople. Because of its popularity, the Birkin bag is likely held to even more thorough and exceptionally high-quality standards.

4. The Sky High Origin Story

The naming and design of the bag were influenced by Jane Birkin — a famous English singer and actress. On a flight from Paris to London in 1983, Jane happened to sit next to Jean-Louis Dumas, the Hermès chief executive at the time.

Jane Birkin | Photo by Roland Godefroy on Wikimedia Commons

They discussed her search for a designer bag that met her style but also matched her needs in terms of usability. After some brief sketches, the idea of the Birkin bag was officially conceived, and it was created the following year and named in her honour.

5. It-bag Status

The Birkin bag had a relatively unremarkable performance in sales when it first debuted in 1984. However, interest gradually escalated as it began to appear on the arm of celebrities and notable public figures in the 90s. The Hermès Birkin soon entered fashion history as an official Vogue ‘it-bag’, and it achieved cult-like status.

6. Exclusivity & Availability

With this intense surge of interest, you would assume Hermès would ramp up production to maximise this increase in demand and desirability. Instead, however, the Hermès brand strategy is the complete opposite.

Many key luxury brands had discovered that wide availability can taint the desire and exclusivity of a product and even a brand as a whole. Dawn Mello, hired by Maurizio Gucci, famously minimised the Gucci product collection to heighten the exclusivity of the brand. Gucci closed stores and removed products to lessen their availability and reestablish exclusivity. In a nutshell — Why is the Hermès Birkin bag so expensive? The exclusivity.

How to buy a new Birkin bag

Today, to get your hands on a new Birkin bag you have to enquire directly online or in-store. The entire buying process is shrouded in mystery, from the ever-escalating retail price to the step by step process of how to actually get the bag in your hands.

Why is the Hermès Birkin bag so expensive? Because the extreme exclusivity at stores further heightens the desirability and luxe appeal.
Hermès store front | Photo by Olena Kamenetska on Unsplash

It’s generally accepted that you have to add your name to a waitlist, where regular customers are prioritised. There is also a policy that limits the number of Birkin bags a client can buy within a year. So even wealthy celebrities are restricted. Exclusivity at its highest level.

How to save money on a Birkin bag

While the Birkin bag is highly desirable, its exclusivity can make it elusive. Often the best way to get your hands on a Birkin bag is to peruse the luxury secondhand market and find a pre-loved Hermès Birkin bag instead. 

A Birkin bag with standard calfskin box leather will also cost substantially less than a Birkin bag created with exotic skins. The secondhand Hermès market changes often, you’ll never know which colour or material is likely to appear. But if you find your dream Birkin bag you’ll have to move quickly, as they do not hang around for long.

A pink Birkin bag | Photo by Yvette Ilagan on Flickr

Why are Hermès bags so expensive? 

While the Birkin stands out as an exceptionally pricey bag, the first thing to note is that the entire Hermès range is by no means inexpensive. It’s not only the Birkin bag that comes with a lofty price. The Hermès brand is one of the oldest designer brands still trading, therefore it boasts an impressive heritage and an extraordinary back catalogue of products to match.

There’s a certain charm about the idea of a brand with such a long history. Think Birkenstocks, the shoe brand which can trace its heritage back to 1774, or Fortnum & Mason, founded in 1707. That extensive heritage gives customers a sense of stability and confidence in the products that these brands produce.

Featured Image: Photo by Wen-Cheng Liu on Wikimedia Commons


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