In a memorable episode of Sex and the City, actress Kim Cattrall’s character, Samantha Jones, vows to purchase an authentic Hermés Birkin bag within a week–a nearly impossible task as she soon discovers. Apparently, there is a waiting list of up to five years to purchase one. There are even waiting lists for the waiting list! Still determined, she says, “When I have my Birkin, I’ll know I’ve made it.”
Many women have shared this sentiment since Hermés first introduced the luxury bag in 1984. Its namesake and inspiration is actress Jane Birkin (pictured below) who fortuitously met Hermés chairman Jean-Louis Dumas one day on an airplane. Legend has it, the two struck up a conversation when her basket weave bag fell apart and Dumas offered to help her collect her things. The friendly chat sparked the idea for what would soon become the “most coveted bag in the world,” according to Michael Tonello, author of Bringing Home the Birkin (one of many books on the bag) and the expert featured in the above YouTube clip.
What makes a Birkin bag so sought-after? One reason is they’re completely customizable. The bag takes 72 hours to two weeks to handcraft, but that’s only after all the materials have been gathered, which could take up to two years to find (only the finest, unscathed exotic skins are used). Among the leathers often to customers are togo, clemence, suede, crocodile and alligator. Singer and designer Victoria Beckham is said to own a pink Birkin made of ostrich skin (just one of 100 in her impressive Birkin collection). To top it off, each bag comes with a lock-and-key closure of your choice metal, from silver-colored Palladium or gold.
Another reason is the cost: Starting at $7,000. Rather than deter buyers, a price tag this high, believe it or not, fosters desirability, as most unattainable things do. You know, that impulse that made Adam want to eat the forbidden fruit? This paired with its intricate construction, timeless style, and the long waiting list, make this handbag the ultimate get.
The good news is it’s not totally impossible to own one. Vintage shops, flea markets, and eBay have made this treasure slightly more affordable and accessible to all. However, a price that’s too good to be true usually spells “knock-off.” Keep in mind, too, these bags make a worthy investment. Unlike a car or the U.S. dollar, for that matter, a real Birkin will rarely depreciate over time, but rather become more valuable with age. At the very least, it’s a solid investment in style for generations to come.