Oh, the Birkin! No other "It" bag in history has the legacy, history, or prestige of this luxe handbag — to call it an accessory really is an understatement. The iconic Hermes Birkin bag is surrounded by mystique and mythos, due to the price, the craftsmanship that goes into creating one, the waiting list, the celeb status, and a variety of other things. The Business of Fashion sought to debunk some of the mystery that shrouds the Birkin and it's honestly psychologically fascinating.
You know the history. Hermes created the bag for Jane Birkin after the contents of her bag spilled out on an airplane, proving she needed something of proper size (and chicness) to tote all of her stuff.
But why, exactly, have Birkins maintained their unparalleled and unshaken air of mystery, beyond their obvious elegance? Why has their prestige status remained unrivaled?
It's a variety of factors, from the secrecy regarding how many are made and sold per year, the fact that we don't know how much the bag effects the Hermes bottom line, and of course, the all-important element of perception.
The piece explains how Hermes boutiques operate in somewhat independent fashion, but that's not what intrigues me most. It's the way that the Birkin continues to thrill and inspire lust.
Here are some key points about how the Birkin maintains its mystique, besides the fact that it remains a fabulous status symbol sans any loud and proud logos. Women want to carry a Birkin since it’s not ostentatious and carrying one conveys a message about her status to other women.
1. The Quality
In case you didn't know, the bag really is the gold standard in craftsmanship and timelessness. It is a classic shape. One person, who is highly trained and highly skilled, makes the bag and it takes nearly 20 hours to complete, from stem to stern; that person selects the leather or the skin to be used and puts the bag through quality control tests, according to BoF.
Hermes does not reveal how many Birkin bags it sells each year nor does it reveal the percentages, so we don't know how, exactly, production of the bag effects the bottom line. We don't know how many bags they make and the market isn't flooded with Birkins, so that secrecy further ups the ante of exclusivity, and it's yet another thing we don't know about the bags. So the mystique is maintained.
3. Fashion Darwinism
Marketing in print or online? Social media? Pft! Hermes does not make use of those channels to promote Birkins. As if! Instead, the bag's success hinges on the perception of its prestige. A Birkin is hard to get and therefore highly coveted, and that's all the brand needs to pack those waiting lists. It's like fashion's version of Darwinism. We usually always want what we can't have so we'll do whatever we can to get it.
4. Walk Ins Aren't Welcome!
You don't walk into a Hermes boutique, ask for a Birkin, inspect it, slap down a gold card, and walk out with one. No way, no how. The BoF story indicates that you have to have a purchase history or a relationship with an associate to get on the "wait list." It's all about relationships.
5. Going Through Customs
There is a way to get a Birkin with less of a wait time, according to BoF. If color or material is not of much importance, and you are simply all about having one, then your wait time will be slashed. Customized Birkins are also part of the appeal for those with the means to own one.
Essentially, the Hermes brand has cornered the market on supreme prestige bags and while there could be another brand to come down the pike to try and knock the Birkin off its perch, you can't mess with history and legacy when it's paired with some secrecy and perception. That's quite a cocktail for success.
Images: Getty (5)