Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Birkin and Hermès

PARIS: What would you do for a Birkin bag?

Even the world's richest women beg, steal or borrow to lay their hands on the elusive handbag made by Hermès, which officially has a waiting list of two to three years.

No doubt they will be salivating over the new creations the French fashion house unveiled on Saturday in its autumn-winter ready-to-wear show, held in a tent beside the Eiffel Tower.

They included the So Kelly, an oblong variation on the classic Kelly bag, and the Gypsy, a unisex shoulder bag modeled by Jean Paul Gaultier, who designs for Hermès.

"That Birkin on your arm tells other women your place in society," said Michael Tonello, who recounts his adventures buying and selling Birkin bags in his forthcoming memoir "Bringing Home the Birkin" (William Morrow).

"It sort of suggests to them that you are successful, that you have money, that you are someone, or else Hermès wouldn't be selling you this bag," he added.

Celebrities that have adopted the handbag, named after British actress Jane Birkin, include Eva Longoria and Katie Holmes. Victoria Beckham is said to own 100.

Though prices start at more than $8,000, hundreds more women languish on the waiting list. So when Tonello found a way of bypassing the wait, he rocketed to the top of every socialite's Rolodex.

"I began to feel like I was a drug dealer," he told The Associated Press. "You know, there are people that will do almost anything to get one of these bags."

Tonello spent nearly a decade traveling the world snapping up Birkins - he says he once purchased 140 in three months - and reselling them on eBay for a tidy profit. He said he stopped because the activity was taking over his life.

Officials at Hermès declined to comment on the book, due to be published in the United States in April, and on the thriving secondary market for its high-end goods.

From the International Herald Tribune 3.2.08

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