How Hermès Birkin Bags Are Made
Hermès Birkin bags are the most highly coveted luxury handbags in history. These investment collectibles retail from $8,500 to over $300,000 in price. A Birkin is even considered a better investment than gold or stocks. The extraordinary demand for the Birkin results from three driving forces: exceptional quality, deliberate scarcity, and flawless style. Today we’ll explore the first point as we discuss how Birkin bags are made.
How Many Birkin Bags Are Made in a Year?
Hermès is arguably the world’s finest leatherwork atelier. There are over eighty models of Hermès bags, and the highest demand is for the Birkin. So, how many Birkin bags are made in a year? The true number is a closely guarded secret, with estimates ranging from 12,000 to 70,000 bags. What is known for certain is that the supply is far lower than the worldwide demand, which drives prices ever higher. This strategy of deliberate scarcity heightens the exclusivity of the Birkin and reinforces its appeal.
Who Made the Birkin Bag?
Have you ever wondered who made the Birkin bag? The history of the Birkin bag begins in 1983 with fashion icon Jane Birkin and Jean-Louis Dumas, who was the artistic director and CEO of Hermès at the time. The bag's initial inspiration and rough design took place high in the skies over Paris on a late-night flight. Then, the highly-skilled Hermès artisans worked to perfect the design, and the Birkin bag was born.
What Are Birkin Bags Made Of?
Birkin bags are crafted from the finest luxury leathers that Hermès manufactures. Most are made from a form of calfskin. Still other bags are crafted from exotic skins like crocodile, alligator, ostrich, and lizard. Hermès owns tanneries across the globe, so they can source the finest skins for their bags.
How Are Birkin Bags Made?
Each Birkin bag is made entirely by a single, well-trained, and highly experienced artisan. It takes over eighteen hours of labor to produce each one. The bag is then marked with an identifying code that includes the year of creation, the artisan who made it, and the workshop where it was produced. Let’s take a closer look at how Birkin bags are made, step by step.
Choosing the Skin
The construction of a Birkin bag begins with the skin. Artisans examine each skin in minute detail, looking for the smallest flaw. Mosquito bites or any tiny defect are marked and removed. Only flawless skins are taken to the next step.
Cutting the Leather
Once a skin is approved, it must be cut with extreme care. In most cases, the Birkin bag is made from a single skin. However, multiple skins may be required, depending upon the Birkin bag size and the type of skin used. In the case of lizard skin bags, four to five skins are typically needed to complete a single, small bag.
Stitching the Bag
When examining how Birkin bags are made, we must emphasize the stitching process. Every bag is stitched by hand using the saddle stitch. The company originated as the premier equestrian equipment manufacturer to the French nobility, and the stitch that was used then is still applied to Hermès handbags today. The skin is held in a wooden clamp while the artisan sews each perfect stitch using two needles. The intricate saddle stitch ensures that no seam can unravel, even if a stitch were to break. A waterproof, waxed linen thread is used for stitching.
A Birkin bag must look like it comes from a single hide, so if multiple hides are used, they need to match perfectly. Furthermore, each Birkin bag must look exactly like every other of its kind in size, shape, and detail. Whether producing a Birkin Retourne or a Sellier Birkin, each seam is shaved, sanded, and waxed to perfection. While uniformity in size and shape are required, variations in some leathers and scales on alligator and crocodile bags are expected. In fact, Hermès collectors have been known to reject a bag if they don’t like the scales on an exotic or if they find a togo leather bag too veiny (or not veiny enough)!
Creating the Handle
The handles of most Birkins are made with the same leather as the rest of the bag. Each handle is formed by several layers of rolled leather and can take up to four hours to fully fashion.
Placing the Hardware
Each piece of Hermès precious metal hardware is placed with meticulous care and attached by a process known as “pearling.” The touret, pontet, plaque, and clou are secured using tiny nails rather than screws. The sharp nail tips are then cut, hammered, and polished until entirely smooth.
Inspecting the Bag
Close attention is paid to how Birkin bags are made. Detailed inspections occur at every stage. When the bag is completed, it must be thoroughly examined once again by a workshop inspector. If the bag passes the inspection, it is stamped with the year, workshop, and artisan. Then, the bag is sent to the Hermès logistics department in Bobigny for its final inspection before it is packed in the iconic orange box and shipped to a boutique.
Any Hermès bag that fails inspection is destroyed. The brand will not tolerate or risk imperfections.
Custom-Made Birkin Bags
A custom-made Birkin bag is produced using the same process, but the buyer can specify the size, leather, and color in Sellier or Retourne style. Brand VIPs are the only people who get to customize a bespoke Birkin. Hermès Special Order Birkins are made in two colors, with the bag exterior in one color, and the interior, handles, sangles, and gussets in a contrasting shade. The hardware color and stitching color can be customized. The custom-made Birkin bag is typically delivered one year after the order is placed, but the process can sometimes take two years or longer.
How to Purchase a Birkin Bag
Now that you have an insight into how Birkin bags are made, you have some understanding of why they are so expensive. As part of the brand's scarcity strategy, purchasing a Birkin bag from an Hermès boutique is extraordinarily difficult. Unless you have established a relationship with a sales associate and spent well into five figures, you are unlikely to be offered an opportunity to purchase a Birkin bag. If you do get the chance, you will have no say about the size, leather, or color.
The difficulty and expense of getting an Hermès Birkin from the brand has created a vibrant community of Hermès resellers who buy and sell Birkins and other Hermes bags to the public. Madison Avenue Couture is the leading reseller in America. Here, you can choose the precise Birkin bag of your dreams without spending tens of thousands to prove your brand loyalty. Buy today and receive your bag tomorrow.