Hermès Bags: To Buy or Not To Buy? The Question is Investment
Should I invest in an Hermès Kelly or Birkin bag?
Now, that is the twofold question! Should I, and which one?! In order to help you, we are going to look at these incredible bags in much greater depth, and then bow out gracefully, leaving the difficult decision making to you, dear reader.
The Hermès web page of women’s leather goods displays a multitude of quasi lozenge-shaped purses, minis, midis, backpacks, bags, and clutches in incredible, confectionary-bright colours, and a dizzying array of size options. All at an eye-watering range of prices. The depth of devotion to Hermès accessories is real.
The tradition of Hermès bags as an iconic symbol of luxury, style, and status reaches back beyond their current style iterations, to their famous namesakes, Princess Grace [Kelly] in the 1950s, and to the actress, Jane Birkin, who met Hermès CEO, Jean-Louis Dumas, during a Transatlantic flight in 1981. According to couture-lore, Birkin and Dumas spent the flight sketching out the design for the bag, together making fashion history.
Artisanal, handcrafted, and utterly exclusive. These pieces of wearable yet functional art make a financial statement, as well as casting an aristocratic wave in the direction of fashion. These two bags have important differences, which will influence any decision-making process, unless the bag is destined for a solitary life, confined to a vault or strong room.
What you get with both bags, in somewhat unequal measure, is the iconic, luxury status. The Kelly bag has a single, grasp handle, and a shoulder strap. It is designed to be carried shut, using the flap-and-clasp. It is available in more than ten different sizes, however the most commonly seen are the 28 cm, 32 cm and 35 cm bags. The Birkin bag has two handles, no strap, and can be carried in the crook of your arm without needing to close it and comes in four main sizes: 25 cm, 30 cm, 35 cm, and 40 cm. As far as desirability and costs go, Birkin defiantly pushes Kelly into the shade, with its exclusivity, materials, and unique designs receiving the greatest accolades, and the higher price tags.
Both bags can be utilised in whichever way their owners chose, be it casual chic or formal. However, the style of the Birkin does have more of a relaxed, daytime feel to it, whilst the Kelly is more of an evening centrepiece. Either way, you are sure to have people eyeing them eagerly and making them the hot, and envious, topic of conversation.
Entry-level prices are difficult to quantify as a result of the shifting secondhand marketplace and the potential difficulty of purchase through Hermès, however be prepared to start in the ballpark of $14,000 USD for a new Kelly bag and $16,000 USD for a new Birkin before you even start looking at custom ‘hardware’, exotic skins, and other personal touches. Whilst undeniably expensive, these pieces of art are designed to stand the test of time, and to be passed down through the generations.
Each year these Hermès bags are produced in a selection of colours and different materials--Hermès uses crocodile skin, ostrich leather, calfskin, and other materials according to the specific design, and each boasts individualised hardware. The clasps, padlocks, and assorted design ephemera are often the items that push the price into stratospheric figures, the use of diamonds, white gold, and other luxury materials really creating the headlines.
In 2015, a hot pink-- sorry ‘fuchsia’ --porous crocodile Birkin bag, with diamonds and 18K gold elements sold for $221,844. Following that, this year, the ‘holy grail of handbags’ broke the world record for the most expensive bag when it sold for $500,000 USD. The 35-centimetre, white Himalaya Birkin bag features 18-karat white gold hardware and more than 200 diamonds.
Getting your hands on an Hermès Birkin bag has become the subject of couture mythology. There have been stories of endless ‘waiting lists’, of people in shops being told that there are no bags available, only to see the next customer receive treatment to the contrary. It appears that in an Hermès store on some parts of the planet, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. It may well be easier to purchase a Kelly bag, however, for many people the sheer determination and opportunity to receive an invitation by Hermès to purchase a Birkin bag makes the whole process worthwhile. After all, as Hermès well know, exclusivity is everything.
You could consider buying from any number of second-hand dealers and due to the continued return-on-investment that Hermès Birkin and Kelly bags command this might be worth your while. However, the difficulty in obtaining these accessories can also drive up the price as the number of Hermès devotees, unwilling to wait, increases. The large sums of money involved have encouraged the attempts at fake options in the global marketplace so if pursuing the second-hand option then caveat emptor--"let the buyer beware".
According to Business Insider, the Birkin bag is maintaining a steady 14% increase on initial purchase price, making it a more lucrative investment than gold or the S&P 500. This appears to be an ongoing trend, however, the winds-of-change in the fashion world may be considered fickle, and so, one never knows. Purchasing the item as a financial investment rather than as a functional accessory item is certainly a possibility, but purchasing for the love of the style and artistry will ensure that it remains a worthwhile emotional investment, should there be a downward swing in its value.
The most coveted pieces, regardless of the hardware, are those with the greatest exclusivity. The limited colour runs like the fuschia pink, or the intricate and often quirky designs command more attention simply because they are limited. Exotic skins also turn heads, and in a world where style and exclusivity reigns, Hermès creates that currency. Crocodile skin is the most sought after leather, as a result of its high, ethical standards of production and the decades it takes to achieve peak usability. For long term investment and resale, black, gold, and etoupe are classic colours which will weather fashion’s stormy skies.
These questions are yours to ponder. The fact of the matter is that the design of both bags is undeniably beautiful. The creation and execution of these artisanal pieces are nothing less than masterful. It takes many long years of apprenticeship before Hermès bestows the title of ‘artisan’ on its staff, and then allows them to work their magic on each individually created piece.
The purchase of any of these bags will create a statement-- whether it is worn, displayed, or known to be somewhere in your possession-- however, the definition of what makes a positive investment is, and should be, a financial, personal, and emotional one. Choose what fits your personality, your life and your dreams. As well as your bank balance. As a popular meme says, “All you need is love. But a Birkin never hurt anybody”.