Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Head Butler ® (Jesse Kornbluth) Rediscovers the Hermes Birkin Bag

Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag, plus Fake Birkin Bags

Michael Tonello

By Jesse Kornbluth 

Published: Dec 16, 2014

Category: Clothing
I can’t believe I’m doing this.
Head Butler is about authenticity. Great art forged by hard work. Artisanal craft. Creativity. Value. Beauty that will outlast you.
And here I am hawking Birkin bags.
Have I field-tested these? Of course not. Because, new, they can easily cost $155,000. And trust me on this, women who’d like a Birkin bag would very much prefer a new one. Oh, you can try the bargain route: “I wasn’t profligate, I bought it used, on consignment.” And she’d look it up — like this one for $12,000 — and try to adjust to discounted happiness.
I’m offering you fakes — for around $100.
As my forefathers used to say in the shops on the Lower East Side, “You want a blue suit? Hymie, turn on the blue light!”
Ok. I’ve combed the Amazon possibilities, read the reader reviews, culled the herd. Caveat emptor.
The favorite: Genuine Leather Shoulder Strap Tote Bag. “List price” was $306. It can be yours for a mere $106. Free shipping, even. The merchant says: “It is bag worth hundreds dollors.” But it was the best reader review that convinced me:
So if I could afford a multi-thousand dollar hand-made French designer handbag, I for sure wouldn’t be typing my own Amazon reviews. I’m not even sure I could bring myself to spend that kind of money on a bag anyway. But, I love the look of that iconic bag and I wanted to buy one that resembled it, but wasn’t a blatant forgery. I was leery of buying a Chinese no-name bag, because sometimes the quality is so bad, but I had trouble finding a leather bag that wasn’t a counterfeit. I was very pleasantly surprised by this bag. I am glad there is no branding, stamping or engraving that misrepresents who makes this…. If this merchant makes a Kelly inspired bag, I would happily buy that too.
Perhaps milady would like a Gator Italian Leather Hobo Tote Handbag. “List price” was $575. Yours for $130.
Why sell these at all? Because….
——-
Beyonce got some sweet gifts yesterday. Her husband, Jay-Z, was spotted shopping at Hermes’ plush Madison Avenue boutique on Christmas Eve. A spy reports, "Jay was in a private room of Hermes doing last-minute shopping. He had a guard standing watch outside. He spent $350,000 on Birkin bags, among other things." The buying binge took so long, Jay-Z missed his scheduled lunch at Nello, prompting the restaurateur to deliver his food to the store.
—New York Post, 12/26/10

Jane Birkin was flying from London to Paris in 1981 when she reached into her bag for her datebook and everything fell out. “I’d love a bag with pockets,” the English singer/actress told her seatmate.
Her seatmate just happened to the chairman of Hermès. He was a good listener. He had his designers make a bag with pockets, and he sent one to Birkin. Then he named it after her.
And then the fun began.
Everything at Hermès  is expensive. Like: a scarf at $725. Or a leather shoulder bag at $6,500. The datebook Jane Birkin used? It now costs $1,025.
The Birkin bag, however, was in another league. Not only was it expensive, you couldn’t get one. Why? Oh, because each bag required 48 hours of craftsmanship. You know: "This isn’t a bag, it’s a work of art."
Demand soon outstripped supply.
Well, not really. But that was the marketing line. And a genius one at that. Create a luxury item so special it doesn’t need a logo. Then make it scarce. Very scarce — at one point, Hermès announced there was a two-year waiting list. Which only made the Birkin more desirable.
It’s a venerable truth: Deny the rich what they want, and they’ll pay anything to get it.
It was only a matter of time — and technology — before Michael Tonello came along.
Our good fortune: Michael Tonello is a delightful writer, and “Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag” is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in years. (To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.)
Tonello’s outrageous story as a Birkin buyer — and reseller, or, as he liked to think of himself, “leather liason” — began with him living on Cape Cod and jetting off to exotic destinations for fashion shoots “with a can of hairspray and a powder puff.” He gets an assignment in Barcelona. He falls in love with the city. And moves there.
Money, how to make it. He took one of his scarves — purchased years earlier for $99 at Ralph Lauren — and sold it on eBay for $430. He sold a Truman Capote first edition for $1,000. He saw the excitement on an eBay board for Hermès scarves, so he sold one of his for a $400 profit.
And then a curious thing happened — people who didn’t get to buy his scarf wrote to ask him if he had more. He went to Hermès in Barcelona, bought two dozen and sold them for a “sizable” profit. He discovered that these scarves cost $30 less at the Hermès store in Andorra, so he made the two-hour drive and bought the first of a thousand scarves he’d purchase there.
Soon he was selling 30 scarves a week.
All because he saw a niche in the market.
All because Hermès didn’t yet have a web site.
Inevitably, one of his customers — who just happened to be songwriter Carole Bayer Sager — asked if he could get her a Birkin. He had no idea what that was, but once he found out, he was a bag-seeking missile.
How Michael Tonello cracked the code and was able to buy Birkins from Hermès is the centerpiece of the book. It is hilarious – if, that is, you are amused by the foibles of the rich and those who cater to them. It is tender — if, that is, you can be touched by Tonello’s burgeoning friendships with the women who became his best customers. It is even thrilling — if, that is, your heart rate jumps when a French colleague tries to rip Tonello off and Tonello must Take Steps.
“Bring Home the Birkin” is so much fun you will wonder: where’s the movie? [Suggested title: “The Hero Sold Hermès.”]

Bonus Video: Michael Tonello shares his "secret"



 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The [Incorrect] History of Hermes by CBS News

Rita Braver at CBS News can't get her facts straight. She states in this video, on CBS Sunday Morning, that Hermes bags "every stitch is hand sewn". This is not correct. While some bags do utilize hand stitching ("saddle stitching") the vast majority of Hermes bags use mostly machine stitching.



Friday, November 21, 2014

A Look Back at Jane Birkin

By the time Jane Birkin had a Hermès bag named after her in 1984, the British actress had already become a household name. She broke out with a role in the 1969 film Slogan, where she met — and sang a rousing duet with — Serge Gainsbourg. The two became a couple, and a magnet for paparazzi. Birkin was often photographed dangling off boats in off-the-shoulder white blouses, wide-leg trousers, and delicate gold chains. She became known for her effortless (and refreshingly minimal) style — and though she hailed from England, she left a lasting imprint on French style.  (Her daughters, Lou Doillon and Charlotte Gainsbourg, are, true to spirit, unfailingly on point.) From relaxed denim and crop tops to tennis shoes and perfect bangs, take a look back at some of Birkin's best looks in our slideshow.

 

REVIEWS

NBC-TV/Today Show
Summer Reading Round-Up


Bringing Home the Birkin
top 10 summer reads!

WATCH THE VIDEO:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/24775399#24775399

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NEW YORK TIMES
SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW

May 18, 2008
Bag Man
By CHRISTINE MUHLKE

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/books/review/Muhlke-t.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=michael%20tonello&st=cse&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

ONE STOP MEDIA / PRESS SHOP:

CBS / THE EARLY SHOW

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4044433n

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NEW ENGLAND CABLE NEWS
http://www.necn.com/Boston/Arts-Entertainment/Hes-got-the-book-on-Birkin-bags/1209994267.html

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BOSTON GLOBE

http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/fashion/articles/2008/04/17/bag_man/
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PUBLISHERS WEEKLY


http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6547849.html?q=%22michael+tonello%22
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USA TODAY

http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/fashion/2008-04-21-birkin-side_N.htm

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