You are a power goddess with a lot of disposable income in your bank account. You love Birkin bags and are ready for your first. You go to an Hermes store and ask for one, only to be told they don’t have any in stock. Don’t call us, they say. We’ll call you. In the meantime, they put you on a “waitlist”. You never hear from them again.
Though there are some anecdotal exceptions, this is a common story when it comes to purchasing a Birkin. This mother of all It Bags is actually quite tricky to get your hands on. While Hermes announced – in 2010 – that they had actually abolished the notorious waitlist, fashion publications as late as this summer have written “tip guides” on how to obtain a Birkin through retail stores. These include establishing an excellent rapport with a sales associate, purchasing other items, coming back repeatedly, looking ‘deserving’ and even coming in with a man (yes, really). Shipments are spotty. Orders are backed up. It’s all very weird.
The Birkin Bag was created by Hermes in 1984 when Hermes chief Jean Louis Dumas was sitting on a plane next to actress Jane Birkin. Birkin was carrying an open straw bag. When she placed the bag into an overhead compartment, all her belongings fell out. Dumas was inspired to make a bag for Jane – one that had a padlock and was pretty much the opposite of straw.
Hermes has long defended the extraordinary price mark-up by stating that the Birkin is the ultimate in artisanal craftsmanship – which it is. But, even more than most luxury companies, they have been brilliant at creating false scarcity. They have done this mostly by controlling distribution. Hermes doesn’t reveal how many bags are created each year (an estimate in 2014 suggested that they released 70,000), doesn’t stock stores predictably for regular visitors and won’t sell to just anybody. This perceived scarcity has added a significant premium to the Birkin, making it a potent symbol of power and money.
So, you can shmooze a snobby sales associate, sit on a fake waitlist for months, enter the store with some rich-looking arm candy. Or you can just buy a Birkin without really trying. On Tradesy.
Get your Birkin Bags starting at 5k on Tradesy.