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Featured Brand: Hermès
Described as practical, stylish, and highly desirable, the Hermès Birkin bag has been an icon of the fashion world since it first appeared in 1984. Today, you’d struggle to find a second-hand one for less than their recommended retail price. As a certified Veblen good, the tote bag is inspired by the legend of French cinema and song, Jane Birkin.
But why are Birkin bags so expensive?
Double-handled, colour-dyed, and saddle-stitched, they’re among the most sought-after bags today due to their hand-crafted nature and high durability. Available in a wide range of colours, Birkin bags are also known for being both versatile and highly fashionable. On top of that, they’re very difficult to procure, making them even more pricey.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at why Birkin bags are so expensive and where you could buy one of these status symbols for yourself.
Hermès was already a mainstay of French chic by 1984. Having been founded back in 1837 (as saddlers or saddle makers initially), the fashion house truly took the bag world by storm in the latter part of the 1900s. In the 1950s, Hermès solidified its reputation with the Kelly bag and its association with fashion icon and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly.
Fast forward a few decades to 1984, and the then-CEO of the company, Jean-Louis Dumas, is sat next to the former muse and partner of Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin, on a Paris-to-London flight.
During this chance encounter, Birkin’s straw bag burst open. This led to Birkin explaining to Dumas her need for a stylish but practical leather weekend bag.
Greatly inspired by this spontaneous interaction, Dumas made some tweaks to an old Hermès design, the Haut à Courroies bag. Several additional compartments were added to the original 1900 design, including a compartment for baby bottles.
While she was initially fond of the design, Jane Birkin eventually stopped using the bag. Despite its size, the singer claimed that the bag still wasn’t big enough for the items she needed to carry.
Despite this, the Birkin bag became one of the world’s most sought-after accessories; particularly around the late ’90s and early ’00s, when models like Kate Moss started supporting Birkins.
Since then, a large selection of limited editions has been released, including the Birkin 35 Epsom Rainbow Sunset.
Despite being one of the most in-demand and highly-priced bags on the market, it’s impossible to put an average price on a Birkin bag. For one, the new and resale market for these bags can be extremely volatile.
Hermès Birkin bags are also considered to be “Veblen goods,” a phenomenon that sees the price of a product rise with the demand. The wealthy are more than happy to pay extra for a Birkin bag than the standard asking price, which naturally drives the prices up over time.
Additionally, Birkins come in a range of different styles, colours, and sizes, and each design has its own price range. Where you shop also greatly impacts the cost of this iconic bag – more on this later.
So, roughly how much can you expect to pay for a Birkin in the UK?
Generally, a Birkin bag ranges in price between £7,850 and £244,420. This is a massive window, but as close as you’re going to get with a rough estimate (with all bags, sizes, and colours included).
You could potentially find a Mini Birkin (the smallest Birkin is a 25) for a retail price of £7,850. The average price of a Birkin 30 is £9,120, while a Birkin 35 is around £10,135 (all prices verified at the time of writing).
These prices can increase exponentially, though, depending on the type of leather used or the number of Birkins in a series.
Certain leathers are no longer used to manufacture Birkin bags. For example, Hermès discontinued Courchevel leather in 2004 and introduced Epsom leather. As a result, Courchevel leather Birkins sometimes sell at auction for thousands more than their Epsom counterparts.
A Birkin bag can be identified by its touret, flap top, rolled handles, and clou “feet.” Although these defining characteristics have remained the same over the decades, the Birkin bag has been successfully reinvented many times. Some of these reinventions have been long-term additions, while others have been limited runs.
Those in the latter category have gone on to become very expensive Birkin bags, especially when these rare Birkins are produced with particularly rare materials. Some of the most expensive Birkin bag designs include the following:
Over the last decade, the white Himalaya Birkin bag has become known as one of the most expensive bags in the world. As of 2023, the Himalaya is the record-holder for the highest price paid for a Birkin – ever.
The primary material, Niloticus crocodile skin, drives the price of the Himalaya bags towards extortionate levels. This skin is dyed white and grey, which creates the appearance of the Himalayan Mountains.
As with any Birkin bag, the Himalaya Birkin bag has increased in value massively since its release. The size 30 came out in 2008, and the 35 followed in 2009. The 25 Himalaya was later released in 2012.
The most expensive Birkin bag ever sold was a Himalaya 35, which fetched $500,000 at an auction in 2019. The hardware on this bag was made of 18-karat white gold and featured more than 200 diamonds.
The other sizes of the Himalaya are also highly sought-after. For example, a Himalaya 25 fetched $345,000 in September 2022 at a Sotheby’s auction.
The Sac Birkin Faubourg is not only one of the most expensive Birkins, but also one of the most easily recognisable. Its design is inspired by the facade of Hermes’ Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré shop in Paris. Matte alligator leather serves as the main material, which includes the top flap and skin handles.
The window design captures the charm of the storefront, while the shopping bag crochet adds a nice touch.
The Sac Birkin Faubourg is also notable for being the first 20cm-sized Birkin ever made! Since its release in 2019, many other handbag styles have been released in this size.
This limited-edition model now sells for upwards of $240,000.
The Metallic Birkin was first released in 2005 and caught the attention of the fashion world with its distinctive silver and bronze colours. The leather is heavily dyed to create the appearance of real metal. Palladium hardware is used for the silver option and the bronze option comes with gold hardware.
In 2021, the silver edition sold for $126,000 at Sotheby’s New York auction.
The Diamond Birkin pairs vibrantly coloured crocodile skin with white gold hardware. Available colours include emerald green, red, brown, pink, and black. They’re also available in a range of sizes, including 25, 30, 35, and 40 cm.
Despite the wide range of available colours and sizes, the Diamond Birkin is still considered a rare bag. So much so, that its selling price can be well over £200,000.
Hermès Birkin bags are stylish, elegant, and iconic – not to mention the ultimate symbol of absolute luxury. But is this enough to justify the high price of the entire Birkin-inspired range? Many other highly respected French fashion houses produce and sell leather bags at a much more affordable rate.
So, why are Birkin bags so expensive? There are several reasons:
Since starting in 1837, Hermès has done little to alter its production process. Although the company has switched its focus from horse saddles to handbags, its dedication to detail and craftsmanship has remained the same. No part of Hermès’ production line is completed by machines – all Birkins are made by hand by master artisans.
This is partially why Birkin bags are so exclusive. It may take the craftsperson several days to complete just one Birkin bag. After the bag has been constructed, it undergoes a vigorous testing process to ensure its durability.
Overall, the Birkin production process is long. This lengthy manufacturing period partially explains why these bags are so expensive.
Crocodile skin is the most expensive exotic skin on the market, which explains the high price of the Diamond and the Himalaya Birkin. But what about the other Birkin bags Hermès produces?
Hermès standard leathers are also expensive and include Box Calf, Clemence, Epsom, and Togo. Hermès also uses Barenia leather for some bags, which is the most expensive and rare of all its leathers.
Besides the main materials, many Birkins come encrusted with diamonds and feature white gold hardware. This, too, increases the value of Birkins massively.
As we’ve mentioned, Birkins take days to make. They are not mass-produced and limited editions are normally released in small numbers. Only a set number of is produced each year, regardless of how many orders were received by Hermès.
When you buy a Birkin, you’re essentially paying for a limited edition bag. The bag you buy probably won’t be available next year. This limited availability vs. the high demand is a huge contributor as to why Birkins are so expensive – especially on the resale market.
There are only 10 Hermès boutiques in the UK. When you compare this to other major fashion houses, it’s an extremely limited number.
Not only that, but these 10 Hermès boutiques are inconsistently stocked. Birkins arrive at random times and in random orders. The style, size, and features of in-stock Birkins varies massively.
The unpredictable and exclusive nature of Birkin distribution contributes towards the rising price of their bags.
Singer Jane Birkin isn’t the only celebrity associated with Birkin handbags. Kate Moss, Pippa Middleton, Kim Kardashian, and Victoria Beckham are all known collectors of the iconic Hermès bag.
Not only does that mean that many Hermès bags are snapped up early by mega-celebrities, but it also increases their value. These celebrities influence the demand for the bags.
When it comes to reselling Birkins, owners of the bag type can easily increase the asking price due to this massive, celebrity-influenced demand.
Hermès doesn’t invest much money in promoting Birkins – or any of their products, for that matter. They’re a product-led company. The bag’s influence and celebrity status decreases the need for major marketing campaigns.
Their lack of marketing makes Hermès a more desirable brand, putting them a notch above the premium brands who invest lots of money in advertising. This unique approach gives Hermès an elusive, untouchable quality.
Plus, marketing is better suited for mass-produced products. It wouldn’t make sense to advertise Hermès’ limited production levels as widely as other brands’ products.
Hermès has maintained a great reputation thanks to its commitment to quality, craftsmanship, and design. If they were to mass-produce an item, the quality and respect they receive would soon start sliding. This reputation works in their favour when it comes to selling bags.
Hermès uses celebrities much the same way that other brands use widespread advertisement campaigns. The company relies on a Kardashian being seen supporting a Birkin bag, or it being shared on Instagram by a celebrity. This alone is enough promotion for the Birkin.
This makes a lot of sense when you consider the fact that the Birkin and the Kelly were named after celebrities. The company grants influential celebrities bags from their range to make them more desirable to the general public.
People of a certain amount of wealth like to flaunt their fortune with status symbols. Thanks to celebrity influence, Birkin bags have become the ultimate status symbol of the fashion world. People want to be seen wearing a Birkin or a Kelly.
This is evident in the sheer number of counterfeit Birkin bags that are made and worn every year.
Birkin bags will always be a good investment, as they’ll always increase in value. At the start of 2023, Hermès Birkin bags (and Kelly bags) increased in value by around 8-10%. To give you an even more impressive statistic: the resale value of Birkins has increased by over 500% since the 1980s.
Because they are so sought-after – and because they increase in value annually – you’ll always make a profit on Birkin handbags.
As we’ve mentioned, Birkins are sought-after, expensive, and limited edition. So, if you keep your Birkin in good condition, you’ll definitely be able to sell it for a higher price. Many people see Birkins as investment pieces rather than fashion accessories.
Buying a Birkin bag may be becoming easier for non-celebrities, but it is still a challenge. Anyone can go into a Hermès and inquire about a bag. However, stock will be limited and you’ll have to wait a while before your bag becomes available.
For this reason, the pre-owned market has become the most feasible way of buying a quality Birkin bag in a style of your choosing. However, you need to verify the bag’s authenticity before handing over the cash, as there are many counterfeit bags on the market. You need to find a trusted seller – such as Global Boutique.
Jamie Chua is the owner of the biggest known collection of Birkin bags. Chua is a famous YouTuber and socialite from Singapore, who is known to have over 200 Hermès bags, many of which are Birkins. Many would assume that Kim Kardashian owns the most Birkin bags, but she “only” owns 30 Birkins.
If you buy a Birkin bag straight from a Hermès boutique, you’ll only be able to buy two luxury handbags per year. This means you could invest in one Birkin and one Kelly, but no more. This two-bag rule allows Hermès to keep on top of orders and also maintain the exclusivity of their accessories.
From one perspective, the Birkin bag stopped Jane Birkin from using a wicker basket. It also changed the face of Parisian fashion with its tote bag design, rich materials, and expert craftsmanship. Several versions of this Hermès bag top the list of most expensive bags in the world.
Why are Birkin bags so expensive today? Because they’re still so highly coveted, exclusive, and stylish.
If you’d like to join the high society of Birkin bag wearers, check out Global Boutique’s current range of second-hand and new Birkin bags. If we don’t have the one you’re looking for, we can help you find it.
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