The Times

27th January 2016

30cm Burgundy Birkin in Shiny Porosus with Gold

In 2016 the latest way to have a pension is in the form of a handbag…  Although not just any handbag. Hermes.

How come?  Consider the following:  in the 35 years since it was created, the Hermes Birkin has gone up by 500 per cent.   That’s a better return on investment than gold or the stockmarket…   Why has this happened?  In a nutshell, because even if you can afford them, they’re incredibly difficult to buy.

Step forward, Penelope Blanckaert of Artcurial, a French auction house.   “Our Monaco clients don’t want it to look used, because they don’t need it, they’ve just fallen in love with a model and they want it in pink”, says Blanckaert, who has worked for ten years to develop the vintage handbag auction market. According to her, second-hand is booming partly because of the rarity/waiting list factor, but partly because it’s a new way to consume.

Yet of all the handbag brands in the all the word, why Hermes?  “Because It bags change every season, but Kelly and Birkin are the must-haves,” says Blanckaert. “They give status.  They say: ‘I’m very rich, but I’m also very chic and I’m not a fashion victim.   I don’t wear a Balenciaga bag or the latest Yves Saint Laurent, I wear a Birkin.’”

Catherine Lecomte, of the Hermes Vintage Collector Fair, agrees. “These bags are timeless.  Whether you are buying vintage or new, my advice is to look for bags in excellent condition because resale value can be guaranteed.”

Any suggestion that the market could be celebrity-driven is met with a frosty response. Like buying as an investment, that would clearly be vulgar.  People who buy Kelly bags and Birkins are not impressed because Tamara Ecclestone and Victoria Beckham are fans.   “The bag helps the celebrity rather than the celebrity helps the bag”, says Blanckaert sternly. “It’s good for the celebrity’s image to have a Kelly or a Birkin, but the Birkin is already an icon.”

An icon worth paying through the nose for, but one that, if you flog it, may well take care of you in your dotage.  Look after your Birkin, and it’ll look after you.