No bag has held as firm or as long a grasp on “It” status as the Hermès Birkin, thanks to rumors of a decade-long waitlist and a line of celebrity fans, like Kim Kardashian — who has upwards of 20 of the boxy, structured totes, including one that daughter North West painted on — and “Real Housewives” like Kyle Richards.
But over the years, the style set has grown sour on the once-coveted item.
These days, anyone with a Wi-Fi connection and five figures to spare can score a Birkin at resale sites like trendlee.com. The once-impossible-to-buy find is even available at Hermès’ own stores, if you know how to ask — circumventing the so-called “waitlist.”
Although the Birkin was officially born in 1984, stories of the waitlist didn’t begin popping up until the ’90s, and demand went into overdrive after it was prominently featured on a 2001 episode of “Sex and the City.” The supposed waitlist reached a fever pitch in 2006, with news outlets reporting it had reached 10 years.
“The waitlist is a total myth,” scoffs Michael Tonello, author of “Bringing Home the Birkin,” which detailed his experience procuring Birkins to resell at a markup between 30 and 50 percent.
The secret, he says, is buying a lot of other merchandise first, then asking for the bag as a reward of sorts. It’s this strategy, he said, that allowed him to purchase millions of dollars of Birkins over the years to resell.
Meanwhile, although the bag is still selling, the fashion elites are snubbing it in favor of more limited-edition designer offerings — like Chanel’s $2,400 “hula hoop” bag, which came down the runway in 2012 and is now being resold at a 40 percent markup, according to Fanny Moizant, co-founder of the online reseller Vestiaire Collective.
And earlier this year, Mansur Gavriel’s popular leather totes and bucket bags, ranging in price from $525 to $1,195, spurred waitlists in stores from Barneys to Steven Alan.
“[Before], people would only see [a Birkin] in a magazine, or a global celebrity like Sharon Stone carrying one,” says Tonello. “Now every woman in New Jersey is carrying a Birkin.”
By Leah Bourne
photos from top: Kim Kardashian (from left), Sofia Vergara and Khloe Kardashian all tote around their Birkin bags.
Irina Shayk hails a cab in NYC, Birkin bag at the ready.
Bethenny Frankel sports her Birkin around town.