Like so many other millennial women, my first encounter with an Hermès Birkin came through Sex and the City. Samantha Jones’ crazed mission to track down a bag—name-dropping Lucy Liu then losing her as a client in the process—proved one of the most memorable plotlines in the show’s history. “There’s a waiting list,” the Hermès staffer tells her. “Five years.” “Five years! For a bag?” she responds. “It’s not a bag.” he reminds her. “It’s a Birkin.” In the intervening decades the allure around Hermès’ cult handbags—the Birkin, yes, but in recent years the Kelly—hasn’t let up. In fact, the value of an Hermès Birkin has increased 500% in the last 35 years, with values expected to double in the next 10 years (per Bag Hunter). It’s because of these figures that investing in Hermès has been dubbed “a safer investment than the stock market”, with the number of women cloying to get their hands on a bag à la Samantha growing year after year.
So, why all the hype? Hermès have been making drool-worthy leather goods since the mid-19th century, when Thierry Hermès launched a workshop selling equestrian harnesses for the French aristocracy. Over the next 50 years, Hermès, his sons, and his grandchildren expanded the brand’s legacy into ready-to-wear and, in 1922, handbags (as the story goes, Theirry’s grandson Èmile-Maurice designed the first handbag after his wife complained she didn’t like any on the market). The popularity of Hermès bags quickly grew, aligning both European royalty and the biggest names in entertainment and show business. When a pregnant Grace Kelly was photographed hiding her baby bump behind the ‘Sac à dèpêches’ in 1956, it was swiftly renamed the Hermès Kelly, and became a cult phenomenon worldwide.
The story of the birth of the Birkin is similarly charming. In 1984, Hermès’ then-chairman Jean-Louis Dumas (who is now credited as turning around the then-fledgling fashion house), had a chance encounter with the French style icon Jane Birkin. He happened to be seated next to Birkin on a flight from Paris to London, and noticed that her signature ‘basket bag’ wasn’t big enough, and that its contents fell out when she tried to stow it in the overhead compartment for landing. Birkin told Dumas she couldn’t find an easy leather weekender bag—and he set about creating one, releasing the famed Birkin later that year.
Nowadays, both the Kelly and Birkin bags remain two of the most iconic and sought-after handbags in the world. This is, in part, due to their lofty price-tag, which can range anywhere from $9,000 to $500,000 USD per piece (in 2019 a Birkin from the ‘Himalaya’ collection featuring 18-karat white gold hardware and more than 200 diamonds sold for more than half a million dollars). It’s also due to their exclusivity. Even those who can afford a Birkin or Kelly bag can’t walk into an Hermés store and buy one. The brand is tight-lipped about the actual rules, but it’s widely accepted that you need to build up a purchasing history with other pieces from the Hermès store before being invited to purchase a handbag. This can take months or, more often, years. There is also no guarantee on preferred colourways or sizes. I’ve heard stories of people who lined up outside the Hermès store in Paris and marked their preferences as unlikely colours such as green, yellow, and pink, in a bid to get their hands on a Kelly or Birkin.
This combination of timeless good looks, impeccable craftsmanship and materials (the average Birkin takes between 20 and 25 hours to make by hand), and a sense of scarcity make the Hermès Kellys and Birkins the among the most coveted accessories on planet earth. Expert trend forecasters expect for each bag to retain a value of at least 14% year-on-year growth (though the condition of the bag will, of course, impact its resale value), and say that purchasing through the resale market is the “easiest and most sensible way to purchase an Hermès bag”. Get your hands on a piece of fashion history that you’ll love and cherish forever with PLC’s Hermès edit.
Subscribe now and enjoy access to exclusive items such as pieces under $200, client wardrobes, early access to certain Edits.
Plus, enjoy other benefits such as free shipping on domestic orders in excess of $300, and—most importantly—a premium member's price on all items. Learn More.
Become a Premium Member and enjoy the following benefits: