Birkinomics: are these handbags a better investment than bricks and mortar?

birkin bag at christie's Hermès Birkin handbag with diamonds and crocodile leather


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Birkinomics: are these handbags a better investment than bricks and mortar?” was written by Laura Craik, for The Guardian on Tuesday 13th June 2017 17.10 UTC

News that Christie’s has just sold a Hermès Birkin bag for £155,000 will come as a vulgar surprise to those who think spending more than £19.99 on a single fashion item is completely cuckoo. To the outsider, fashion’s built-in obsolescence makes the idea of investing in anything seem misplaced since, thanks to its six-month renewal cycle, no sooner is your purchase “in” than it is “out” again. But if a fool and her money are soon parted, the adage doesn’t apply to Hermès.

Like art, vintage cars and fine jewellery, a Hermès bag could turn out to be a wise investment.

That the blue crocodile Birkin, embellished with white gold and diamonds, attracted a worldwide bidding frenzy will come as no surprise to any seasoned fashion-watcher. In the pantheon of designer handbags, nothing tops the desirability of Hermès, the luxury status of which has been unassailable ever since Grace Kelly popularised the brand in the 1950s. While the patronage of Jane Birkin, Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham – once said to have owned more than 100 Birkins – has ensured demand remains buoyant, Hermès’s true covetability lies in its craftsmanship. Each bag is made by a single, highly skilled artisan, and takes upwards of 18 hours to complete. Only the most expensive skins and leathers are ever used.

With domestic financial stocks such as banks, housing and real estate expected to be weak in the wake of the election result, novices interested in ditching fintech for fashion should do their homework first. A report last year by the luxury resale site Vestiaire Collective played up three key metrics of a canny fashion investment: quality, durability and rarity, with bags providing the most lucrative returns, recouping an average of 75% of their original retail value, depending on the brand.

According to Vestaire Collective’s founder, Fanny Moizant, the bag brands that consistently perform best are Hermès, Goyard, Saint Laurent, Céline and Chanel.

“The Chanel Timeless has been our bestselling bag since we launched in 2009. If you sold one you would regain almost 80% of its original retail price,” she says. Moizant also tips current It-brand Gucci as a canny investment, and claims its Dionysus bag is retaining up to 90% of its original £1,020 retail price. Other factors likely to increase value include the arrival or departure of a creative director, as well as more practical issues such as keeping your pieces in their original storage, complete with dust bag and authenticity card.

Every good capitalist knows that things are only ever worth what someone is prepared to pay for them. And in the case of Hermès, that turns out to be rather a lot.

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