By Jill Radsken
Boston Globe Correspondent
The news of a bad batch of Birkin bags has created a minor le stink for the French fashion house Hermes.
A small number of the leather handbags sold within the last year have revealed a not so odor-able problem: a pungent stench similar to skunk or marijuana. The opulent bags sell for $20,000 or more.
“In the back of a car, or in the sun, or in a closed Hermes box, the smell becomes more concentrated,” said writer and Birkin expert Michael Tonello.
The Massachusetts native who authored “Bringing Home the Birkin” in 2008 about his years reselling the sought-after luxury bags, has heard from three Hermes devotees who have experienced the problem, which was reported earlier last week in the New York Post’s Page Six column.
“It’s either the togo leather, which is grainy, very pebbly looking, or the other leather is taurillon clemence. It’s also grainy with a pebbly finish, but a larger grain,” said Tonello, in a telephone interview from St. Helena Island in South Carolina, where he is writing the screenplay of his book. “Both are soft. They’re classic Birkins.”
Hermes has yet to comment on the scent-sational situation, which, Tonello said, is the way the Paris-based company likes to do business.
“I guess it’s part of their allure. They like to keep these stories, myths, urban legends perpetuated,” he said.
Tonello estimates that only a tiny fraction of Birkins — fewer than 100 — have odor issues. And while the problem may seem “a little silly,” he noted that a Birkin isn’t easy to replace.
“Some people save up for a long time and it’s a big purchase,” he said. “These bags are done as part of a season or collection. When those bags all ship out, they’re gone.”