If you have decided on making an investment in a handbag, the next issue will be how best to buy a piece, and where. Our advice is spend time and money in an Hermes boutique, dress and accessorise to impress, and be prepared to return every day for a week. Or two or three weeks. And be aware that if you do get the chance to buy a Birkin or Kelly, you will be given one option only; you cannot choose your colour or leather. Should you declare the bag unsuitable for you, there is little likelihood of being offered another model. So the alternative is to buy from a well reputed reseller or auction house.
When choosing the ideal investment, the first consideration should be the timelessness of the piece. You need a size and a model that is always going to be popular. And if you are worried about what makes an item popular, consider the usefulness of the bag. A handbag that is easy to wear now is likely to be highly wearable in 5 or 25 years’ time.
The item should be in very good condition. It can be used, but make sure there are no tears or cracks in the leather. Zips should work seamlessly after many decades. Classic colours and models are super, as they will be recognised in years to come, and limited editions and bright colours will fetch higher returns in a connoisseur market.
Handbag sizes vary year to year, so investing in a wearable, mid-range size is advisable. In terms of leather, the most desirable right now is the very expensive crocodile (a Hermes Birkin crocodile in size 35cm is currently above £40,000 in the store, but only VIP clients are allowed to buy one, and that can take years of investment in other Hermes goods…). But crocodile bags are fragile and need care and attention, so are not for all of us. My favourite is the ostrich, which is ridiculously hard wearing and maintains its shape, but seen less and less these days, which could make it a good investment piece.
Hermes produces calf leather bags in numerous varieties: the best known is togo, which is natural young bull calf leather. It is pebbled and scratch proof, but some of the bags in this leather will sag over time, giving it a more casual look. Epsom is very popular in Asia, because it retains its shape for many years. It is a stamped leather, so not as resilient as the togo. Other varieties are taurillon clemence, which is pebbled like the togo but softer, and swift leather – currently used for smaller bags – which is very soft and smooth. Swift leather will scratch, but many of the marks can be removed. It’s always worth remembering that these leathers are all of extremely good quality and durable, so can be cleaned at home. If you a little hesitant about scrubbing your treasured piece, bring it to us for gentle cleaning, or take the bag to Hermes and put it into the spa. They will clean it and spruce it up amazingly, at a very reasonable cost.
And finally, perhaps most importantly, buy a bag you like. It is after all, a passion asset, so make sure you are at least fond of the item. In terms of maintenance, decide whether the bag is to be worn or carefully kept in a pristine condition. In either case, make sure you look after it. We see bags which have been thrown into the back of a closet for years, and kept crumpled under shoes and boots. Even the very strongest leathers will begin to alter in shape after months or years of reshaping.
The best places to buy are reputable resellers and auction houses. London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong have a selection. Europe probably has the most reputable and reliable selection. You should really try to see the item before bidding. There are online authentication services which can provide guidelines and help on what you are buying, but beware, authenticating through photographs is not always completely reliable. It is always best to visit premises and meet the people who are going to sell or examine your bag.
Lilac Blue London Ltd