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Your Christmas Shopping is in the Bag

by Trish Utter

What can you get that special person in your life for Christmas? Well, how about a handbag, maybe go all out and buy the best of the best, an Hermès, but which one?

Some of you may have noticed the handbag of choice on the TV show, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, or the bag the girls in the TV show, Sex and the City would fight over. All were bags by Hermès. Victoria Beckham is said to have over 100 Hermès bags and the Kardashian’s own many.

The two infamous handbags that the French fashion house of Hermès put out are, the Kelly and Brikin bag. Hermès started in Paris, France, in1837 as a harness maker and became well known for their saddles but now the fashion house is famous for their handbags. In fact, the bags have reached such high status that in many fine dining establishments in Monaco and other international fine dining locations the Hermès bag gets a seat of its own!

The Kelly bag was designed in 1923 by Émile-Maurice Hermès and Ettore Bugatti, yes the guy who designed the famous Bugatti car! The bag was for the wife of Hermès and was named, Sac à Dépêches.

One of these bags was purchased by Alfred Hitchcock as an accessory for the movie, To Catch a Thief, and used by the star actress, Grace Kelly. She loved the bag so much that in 1956 she was photographed with her husband, Prince Rainier III when she was pregnant, covering her baby bump from the paparazzi with the bag. From that moment on the bag became known as the Kelly bag and officially remained in 1977.

In 1984 the Brikin bag was named after bohemian English actress Jane Brikin. She had sat next to Jean-Louis Dumas. Dumas, who was Hermes, Chief Executive of Design, on a flight from Paris to London. She had put her straw tot in the over head compartment of the plane but the contents had fallen out,  pilling onto the floor. She had told Dumas that she found it impossible to find an elegant bag large enough to hold everything. Jane then drew a design on the back  of a paper sick bag along with the help of Dumas, of a bag that would be practical but one that would also be stylish. Three years later and the Brikin bag was the hot bag of choice. There are many colors including over 20 shades of blue!

To this day, Jane Brikin receives a royalty check of approximately $55,000 per year from Hermes which she gives to charity each year.

Each Hermès artisan goes through three to four years of training before they can lay their hands on a hide, and then it takes about 18 to 25 hours to handcraft each bag. All the artisans have their own set of tools. Each bag is stamped and coded with the artisan’s name that made it.

Kelly bags start around $11,500 and have gone as high as……$2 Million for the Kelly Rose Gold bag made of solid rose gold and embellished with diamonds! The price of a Brikin starts at around the same price as a Kelly bag and has been as high as, $1.4 Million for the Brikin Ginza Tanaka bag, made of solid platinum and adorned with a rare 8-caret diamond! Famous auction houses such as Christies and Sotheby’s often auction Brikin and Kelly bags off to the well healed buyer.

On most of the bags the hardware is either, gold plated or palladium metal, however some are made from 24K gold and incrusted with real diamonds. The bags are known for their signature locks. Each bag has its own lock and after the year 2000 each lock is now engraved with its own serial number. Hermès has changed the style of the lock many times. The leather pouch, or clochette, that covers the key is made from one piece of leather, which is an important feature if you are checking on its authenticity.

There are many choices of material for the Kelly or Brikin. The most popular is Togo leather which is soft, but they have a huge array of others like goat skin, crocodile and ostrich and more.

Some financial analysts have said that buying one of these luxury bags is a better investment than stocks or gold. Prices on the bags have rocketed up. Most have leaped up as much as 25%! BagHunter reported that there was a 500% increase in value over the last 35 years and that the bags have never lost value which makes them one of the best investments!

The Economic Times stated that, Hermès Birkin bags are a better investment option than the stock market! Exotic skin bags and rare bags obviously increase.

The Brikin bag that the girls fought over in the show, Sex and the City has more than tripled in value! Guilt free shopping as you know you are investing. If you own one of these bags and they need repair Hermès will look after it for life, they will even give it their spa treatment if it needs one to help it look new again.

Now, you have the hard task of deciding on which of the two bags you would like to purchase as a gift but take this into consideration. If the recipient likes casual attire we recommend the bohemian style of the Birkin, which will also save you a few hundred dollars, ha, ha! But no matter which of the two bags you give, it will be a gift that will become a very valuable heirloom.

So now you want to buy one or two…right? Well, it’s not that easy. There are actually books and websites on how to acquire a Kelly or Brikin bag. You can’t just walk into an Hermès store and ask for one, heavens no! It’s sort of like buying the exotic Ford GT automobile. You have to apply for one by getting on an elusive waiting list, and there is no guarantee you will even get on the list! And once the bag comes in it might not be exactly what you had ordered, but of course after waiting a year you might not care. Hermès stores only order these exclusive bags twice a year and then there is a wait of six months to a year before the stores receive them.

So now with the holidays fast approaching you must be in a frenzy to buy one. Buying one from Hermès for the holidays for this year is too late. If you go online there are many resale options but be really careful as there are many fakes.

One way to authenticate an Hermès bag it to look at the logo that is front and center on each bag. It is always embossed onto the leather, just below the stitching. Sites such as BagHunter.com have guides on authenticating which is very helpful.

Here are some sites where you can purchase pre-own and authenticated bags: TheRealReal.com, BagHunter.com and Tradesy.com and this site sells them and also clearly shows how to identify a fake, Lollipuff.com

Happy Holidays!