Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Monday, September 5, 2016

100-pound stone-carved Birkin bag is still cheaper than the real thing

Barbara Segal’s handbags are so heavy, they would give any chiropractor a fit.
“You can’t carry them around,” the Yonkers artist says, “but so many women with Birkins just stare at [their bags].
“They’ll say, ‘My bag is a work of art.’ Mine, too!”
Segal carves her 100-pound versions of the Birkin — the iconic Hermès tote — out of stone like orange calcite. “[Stone] transforms it into an almost religious item of worship,” she says. “It’s turning [the Birkin] into a historical relic.”
Segal, a graduate of Pratt, got her start making product models for Avon Cosmetics in the 1980s. “I learned how to do [perfume] bottles with incredible precision, to a thousandth of an inch,” she says. “One day, I thought, ‘I bet I could make a striped shirt out of stone.’ ”

Segal next focused on bags — first Chanel’s quilted classics, then Hermès’ iconic totes.
Her biggest challenge? Authenticity. Thanks to Hermès’ notoriously elusive Birkin policies, Segal couldn’t find a bag, muchhttps://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=1351889051996049933#editor/target=post;postID=45103656107111318 less afford one. “They won’t even let you hold one in the store!” she exclaims. “Fortunately, the Internet is an amazing place,” she says, citing Malleries.com, a secondhand marketplace, as a trusted source for Birkin dimensions and high-resolution photos.
Her “bags” are true to size and bear immaculate detailing, including the status tote’s signature leather folds, tight stitching and even the lock  — which she carves from the same rock as the bags, then paints in metallic shades.
Segal acquires material from quarries all over the world — from the Grand Canyon region to Iran — and uses traditional carving tools, including chisels and stone cutters. A bag typically takes her three months to finish.
After she started tagging her Birkins on Instagram, galleries worldwide offered their services. Among them is Krause Gallery on the Lower East Side, which will display her “Black Candy” bag from Sept. 7 through Oct. 5 as part of its “Emerging to Established” group show.
Segal’s works run from $45,000 to $65,000 — a hefty sum, but a real Birkin recently sold for more than $300,000 at Christie’s. (Bought new from Hermès, the bags reportedly go from $12,000 to more than $200,000, depending on materials and customization.)
The fashion industry’s been biting. “I sold a Chanel piece to someone who works at Chanel,” Segal, a professor at the School of Visual Arts, confirms.
She even created a 3-foot-tall Chanel bag, from white Utah marble, that weighs a literal ton. “Moving it from my studio was a major ordeal,” she says. “It took four men.”
As for her art bags trying to convey any message about consumerism, Segal demurs. “I’m not trying to say if it’s good or bad — they’re . . . beautiful!”

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Addicted to Pawn: Why Designer Handbags are the new Gold

Kim Kardashian with Chanel bag

"It's a Chanel day bag - a timeless classic. If you had 50 in the shop, you'd sell all 50," says Nathan Finch, managing director of Pickwick pawnbrokers.
We are in the strongroom of his shop in north London, where he is showing off some of the hundreds of bags that customers pledge each year, in return for borrowing money.
Once it was mostly watches, gold or jewellery that people took to pawnbrokers. Now, designer handbags are the big growth area.
They are increasingly high in value - often worth thousands of pounds each, they are easily portable, and there is a seemingly limitless supply.
"For some women, it's a bit of an addiction. They get their fix from buying a bag. But like most cravings, it comes again," says Mr Finch.
"One customer brought 18 bags into our Dartford store."

The Birkin

Private jets

With celebrity endorsements from the likes of Cara Delevingne and Kim Kardashian, bags offer plenty of glamour.
But on a more practical level, you can use them to borrow cold, hard cash.
Yet some of those who pledge their bags are already extremely well off.
Debbie Wynter, who runs the pawnbrokers Suttons and Robertsons in central London, calls them "the ladies who lunch".
"One customer wanted to raise a loan so they could go on holiday on a private jet, in style," she says.

They may live in flashy houses in South Kensington, but sometimes they don't have access to ready cash.
However, often they are ordinary working women.

'Borrowing from myself'

Kim Baker, an office administrator from Kent, has three or four designer bags, which she regularly pawns at her local shop.
Her favourites are a Mulberry Bayswater, a Louis Vuitton Postman, and a Chanel clutch bag.
"I flip between the Mulberry and the Louis Vuitton because I don't like to part with the Chanel. They probably go in every couple of months, but they're never in there for long."
On occasion, she's been tempted to pledge one bag so that she can afford to buy a different one.
"Yes, I would pawn one to buy another one. It'll just come home until I put it in again."
She typically borrows a couple of hundred pounds at a time, to pay for holidays or school uniforms. And she prefers to take a loan from a pawnbroker rather than a payday lender or friends.
"Because it's my item, it feels like I am borrowing from myself, if that makes sense."

World record price

The bags that hold their value best - and therefore are the easiest to pawn - are the classic designs by Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
Two of the most valuable are the Birkin - named after actress Jane Birkin - or the Kelly, as carried by Grace Kelly in one of her classic films.

These are normally worth up to £6,000 each, but one exotic Birkin in pink crocodile skin is currently for sale on a French website for £167,000.
Admittedly it uses pink sapphires to fasten it, and white gold for the lock.
"There are certainly pieces that make sense at that level," says Matthew Rubinger, the head of handbags for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at Christies in Hong Kong.
"What's really interesting is that we are just starting to see these trends, as people move up from being casual buyers to collectors."
Last year Christies sold a pink Birkin with diamonds in it for £168,000, and three months ago they sold another (pictured above) for £227,000 - a world record price.
However, Mr Rubinger advises people not to invest in exotic designer bags unless they really know what they're doing.
"I wouldn't recommend anyone to empty their savings account."

Diamond-encrusted Birkin

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Monday, May 30, 2016

The most expensive handbag ever sold: Diamond-encrusted Hermes Birkin sells for over $300K

This Hermes signature Birkin is made with white matte Himalayan crocodile leather, and features hardware made from 18k white gold and diamonds. It sold for $300,168, making it the most expensive handbag ever sold.
(CNN) It's been described as a piece of "fashion history" by auction house Christie's.
A matte white Diamond Himalaya Niloticus crocodile diamond Birkin 30 with 18k white gold and diamond hardware, was sold by a private Asian collector for $300,168 on Monday, making it the most expensive handbag ever sold.
"The diamond pieces created by Hermes are exceptional, but none are nearly as iconic as the Himalaya," Christie's said in a press release prior to the sale. "It is believed that only one or two of the Diamond Himalayas are produced each year, globally, making it one of the lowest production runs for handbags."
The results follow last year's record-breaking $222,000 sale of a fuchsia diamond-studded Hermes Birkin, and further cement the bag's celebrated fashion credentials.
"Its rarity and exclusivity, the quality of leather and craftsmanship, its style and the ability to customize," all contribute to making this the most valuable bag in the world today, according to New York-based appraiser Helaine Fendelman, of Helaine Fendelman & Associates.
The fact they are instantly recognizable without a large emblazoned logo only adds to their appeal, she added, although clever marketing by Hermes also helps.
"By not telling ladies how many are manufactured in a year, the idea that these are scarce makes them more desirable. It is human nature to want what others cannot get," Fendelman said.
Both Christie's and Fendelman agree that even the most basic Birkins hold their price, making them a sound investment as well as an impressive fashion statement.
"I remember when I wanted to purchase a Birkin bag at auction for about $7,500 and my husband thought I had lost my mind," she said. "That same bag today sells for double that price, at least."
Interest in these aftermarket bags ("second-hand" doesn't have quite the same ring to it) has grown rapidly, and Christie's now includes an accessories and handbags section in many of it's major sales around the world.  
While many women used to bid on the bags for their practicality and style, the promise of increasing value has become an important consideration.
Winsy Tsang, head of sales for handbags and accessories at Christie's in Hong Kong, said the value of these types of auction items generally increase, and that although Hermes leads the way, handbags from Bulgari, Chanel and Gucci were also popular as investment pieces.
"They are certainly an increasingly meaningful asset class," Tsang added.
As for Fendelman's Birkin, much to her husband's relief -- and her own, in retrospect -- she missed out on the sale.
"Am I sorry I didn't purchase the bag? No, not really, because I would be afraid to use it every day for fear of ruining it," she said.

Counterfeit Switcheroo

Virginia woman pocketed $1M buying designer handbags, returning Chinese knockoffs in their place

Praepitcha Smatsorabudh is accused of purchasing expensive Gucci, Fendi, Burberry and Celine bags online and returning fake versions of the purses to stores.

A Virginia woman was bagged by authorities for allegedly masterminding an elaborate designer-purse scheme, netting over $1 million in profit.
Praepitcha Smatsorabudh is accused of buying high-end handbags online, then traveling to multiple states to make in-person returns at department stores with knockoff versions purchased from China.
Smatsorabudh would double her profits by selling the authentic Gucci, Fendi and Burberry bags — some with a whopping $2,000 price tag — on Ebay or Instagram to unsuspecting buyers, prosecutors say.
Investigators probed the woman's purchases between 2014 and the end of 2015. She was such a prolific scammer, they found, that she would make weekly purchases of the costly totes — and was even one major retailer’s top online customer worldwide, according to documents which do not identify the vendor in question.
The alleged cutpurse faces up to 20 years in prison on wire fraud charges.
The scheming Smatsorabudh, who is in her early 40's, would travel to at least 12 different states to return the phony bags, having sourced the most believable fakes from Hong Kong and mainland China.
In a September 2014 email to one of the counterfeit bag retailers, she allegedly wrote:
"The best fake bag I’ve ever seen! Can you send me more ... from this factory. They make bag IMPaCABLE!!!!" (sic),” according to court documents obtained by ABC.
Authorities believe the scam was so profitable that Smatsorabudh raked in seven figures from one department store alone. That retailer's fraud investigators alerted authorities and helped the Arlington County Police Department and undercover Homeland Security agents bust the woman, court papers show.
Smatsorabudh, who was born in Thailand, will be arraigned next week in a federal court in Alexandria, Va.



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