ENTERTAINMENT

From the diamond clasp to the hidden code, SARAH RAINEY has the ultimate must-have under control


Perhaps you'd rather buy 19 small family cars. Or an average house somewhere in the UK. Or even 115,500 bars of milk.

For an anonymous buyer, however, there was only one thing he wanted to spend his £ 231,000 on this week: a Hermes Himalaya Birkin bag.

Your purchase set a new world record for this "holy grail" of bags, making it the most expensive handbag ever bought in an online auction.

It comes after another Himalayan broke the record for a handbag that was sold at auction when it went for £ 305,000 in 2017. But can a handbag possibly justify such a high price?

Absolutely, his followers say – and as evidence they cite the amazing work that goes into making every Himalayan.

Here Femail breaks this blingy Birkin down by numbers. Is it enough to convince you that the Himalayas are really worth it?

Tamara Ecclestone is pictured above

Star style: Jennifer Lopez and Tamara Ecclestone. Experts say that lightening the bag towards its center is a particularly tedious process and can only be done by a Hermes craftsman. The lighter the final color, the more expensive the bag

Made from the skin of the rare African Albino Nile crocodile, it is carefully dyed to look like the snow-capped Himalayan mountains, with off-white and gray colors

Made from the skin of the rare African Albino Nile crocodile, it is carefully dyed to look like the snow-capped Himalayan mountains, with off-white and gray colors

Made a maximum of two per year

The Himalayas are the opposite of fast fashion – only one or two are made each year. And this rarity is accompanied by an enormous seal of approval.

Hermes apparently only offers Himalaya Birkins to its favorite customers, which makes their resale value particularly lucrative.

Why does the company make so few? It insists that it's due to the subtleties of the construction.

Made from the skin of the rare African Albino Nile crocodile, it is carefully dyed to look like the snow-capped Himalayan mountains, with off-white and gray colors.

Experts say that lightening the bag towards its center is a particularly tedious process and can only be done by a Hermes craftsman. The lighter the final color, the more expensive the bag.

So why specifically the Nile crocodile? Well, his scales are bigger than that of an alligator or saltwater crocodile. According to experts, this enables greater symmetry on the sides of the bag and uniformity in the middle.

It also has a matte finish so it doesn't reflect the light – which would be a distraction, according to experts.

Posh has one (and 100 other Birkin bags)

Victoria Beckham above, Tamara Ecclestone, Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian are all said to own one

Victoria Beckham above, Tamara Ecclestone, Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian are all said to own one

Due to the lengthy production process, buyers are only allowed to buy a certain number of Birkins per year – probably four.

A Hermes spokeswoman says this ensures "fair distribution".

It is therefore not surprising that the Birkin has become popular with actors, singers, models and It-Girls who like to show off their wealth – a normal Birkin bag costs from £ 5,000.

Some say that overall appeal has declined in recent years and newly earned celebrities and TV personalities have infiltrated the club of exclusive owners.

Caroline Stanbury, star of the ITV reality series Ladies Of London, has 15 and a cast iron statue of the bag in the hallway of her £ 8m house.

So it's no wonder that die-hard fans of the label are looking for a Himalayas rather than your everyday birkin – made from cowhide, ostrich leather or calf leather – to show how high the fashion pecking order is.

Victoria Beckham, Tamara Ecclestone, Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian are all said to own one. Posh is said to own 100 Birkins, a £ 1.5 million supply.

Hermes insists that the Birkin bag should be held on both handles with the monogrammed flap inward, although celebrities are showing the label to the world.

Only one worker works over each pocket

Each Hermes leather bag is handcrafted from start to finish by only one experienced craftsman in the company's workshops in France – which the brand quickly points out when it presses on the enormous cost of its bags.

Artisans still use the company's signature saddle stitching – a particularly hard-wearing type of sewing that should never fray – which was originally developed when Hermes was founded in the 19th century.

The company employs 3,000 people and it takes two years for a craftsman to be trusted to work on a Birkin bag.

It takes another four years to master working with expensive reptile skins.

The production takes at least 48 hours

"It takes about 15 to 20 hours to make a single Hermes bag," says former Hermes CEO Patrick Thomas.

However, this time only refers to a "normal" Hermes bag.

Depending on your skin and level of difficulty, creating more complex designs can take much longer – crocodile is of course one of the most difficult.

Some say that making a Himalayas can take 48 hours, others insist that it takes months for the bag to be fully finished. The skin is first cut with a template and then sewn by hand with linen thread.

The bag is then lined with bespoke goat leather that is always carefully dyed to match the exterior. It is likely that there are carefully painted scales on the inside of this bag.

Next, the metal lock and the lock are attached with a special hammer.

The craftsman then signs the bag with fabric ink and turns it the right way round.

Once the bag is finished, the code of the worker and the date of manufacture of the bag are discreetly stamped on the back of one of the straps.

From 15cm to 50cm … and a secret code

The design is named after British actress Jane Birkin after the then Hermes boss Jean-Louis Dumas saw in the 1980s on a flight from Paris to London how she tried to put her straw bag in the locker.

The bag is available in different sizes, from 15 cm in length to 50 cm in length.

Real Hermes fans refer to the bags in a special short form – "B25" for a 25 cm Birkin or "H30" for a 30 cm Himalayas.

Those who have been lucky enough to hold a Birkin say that the 25 cm (measuring 25 cm x 20 cm x 13 cm) are so small that they can only be carried by hand, not in the crook of the arm.

In general, the bigger the Birkin, the more expensive the price – a predictable formula given that the bigger the bag, the more skin, diamonds, or precious metal it takes to make it.

However, there are some surprises here.

While the most common Birkin sizes are 30 cm and 35 cm (the 30 cm fit for an iPhone, keys, a normal wallet, sunglasses and a make-up bag, and the 35 cm also fit for a small laptop), this is 25 cm -Model a special seal of approval.

A hard-to-find size, say fashionistas, is usually only offered to VIP customers and is more commonly available in Asia, where it doesn't overwhelm small frames.

Indeed, if you are taller than 5 feet 5, trailers say you need to choose a 35 cm model to ensure the best fit for your size.

Interesting to note that this week's record sales of a Hermes Diamond Himalaya were 25.

Perhaps a sign that the buyer came from the Far East.

It weighs a hefty 2 pounds when empty

Considerable weight considering how much stuff the average woman stuffs into her purse.

So much so that Jane Birkin said in an interview: “My Hermes Birkin bag really broke my arm. I love it, but I carry so much stuff around that I think it's part of the reason I have tendinitis.

"Now I have my sporran – £ 5 from Edinburgh. It is a delicious item that exactly meets the requirements. I told Hermes that if I were her, I would seriously consider the possibility of creating a sporran. "

About 245 sparkling diamonds and 100 g gold

This great price is not only thanks to the crocodiles. Each Himalayan bag is accented with palladium hardware, which can then be set with diamonds.

Birkin bags come with a tiny padlock and keys to keep your valuables safe (unless you're wearing diamonds, they're unlikely to be more valuable than the bag itself). The keys are in a leather clochette that is looped through the handle.

As with all other elements of the bag, the lock, keys, buckle and rivets on the bottom can be individually adjusted.

Earlier auctions saw 25 cm Himalayas with 18 carat white gold in their composition (103.27 g) and 145 diamonds.

And in 2016, a 30 cm Himalayas with around 245 diamonds and a total weight of 9.84 carats was sold.

Another Himalayan reportedly had a padlock with 40 round, brilliant diamonds, 1.64 carats in total, made from 68.4 g of 18 carat white gold.

An annual return better than gold

Some studies have shown that rare Birkin bags have achieved an average annual return of 14.2 percent over the past few decades – which outperforms both the S&P 500 stock index and the gold return.

80G- The weight of a coveted baby crocodile

Raising a crocodile from a cub to a handbag is a challenge to say the least.

It takes years to breed them, they are not cheap to feed, and it is terribly difficult to prevent them from being scratched by other crocodiles – reducing their value as a potential handbag.

A South African breeder, Stefan van As – a former investment banker and owner of Le Croc crocodile breeding farm and tannery, which sends about 5,000 Nile crocodile skins to Europe each year – said to a fashion website: "If I had known how hard it was, the deal was before I got there, maybe I'm not here today. & # 39;

This is because a cow can be left to fend for itself before it is killed for its leather, but the moment an 80g African Nile crocodile emerges from the egg, breeders need to offer it a quiet environment.

The pens are cleaned daily and the animals need a strict feeding routine. The same few dog handlers take care of them and mainly eat chicken and selected oils to improve their skin.

All of this promotes growth, reduces stress and prevents the crocodiles from biting each other.

However, it is still a dangerous business. One of Van As's farmer colleagues was killed by a crocodile after falling into the water.

A six-year waiting list?

Some experts claim that there is a waiting list of up to six years for the purchase of a new Himalayas, which reflects their so-called unicorn status among collectors. In fact, it has long been reported that Hermes has waiting lists for all of its Birkin models.

However, others insist that the idea of ​​official lists is a myth. "It could be something they once did to scare off buyers who didn't think they were serious," says Michael Tonello, author of Bringing Home The Birkin, a report on his life in pursuit of the coveted handbag.

It took him eight years to track down his own Birkin, who is not a Himalayan. "When a woman came in from the street and asked for one, she was told," No, but we will put you on the list. "That meant you didn't get a Birkin," he says.

In a recent email investigation when four London branches were contacted by Hermes, everyone said they had none of the bags in stock. "It just can't be true," says Michael. "If they want to sell you one, pull one out of the back room."

In response, Hermes said there is a waiting period of six to nine months for a normal Birkin due to the speed of production.

Three crocodiles are killed to make each Birkin bag

Activists claim three crocodiles were killed to make every Birkin bag. In 2015, the animal rights group Peta released recordings of crocodiles and alligators that were killed on two farms in the United States and Africa.

It was alleged that the crocodiles were intended for Hermes handbags and that the animals were "shot with a captive bolt gun or roughly incised while they were still conscious".

In response, Hermes said the footage was also shocked – but pointed out that a farm did not provide it with skins.

She said she found an "isolated irregularity" in the slaughtering process of a crocodile farm in Texas and warned the farm that if she continued to neglect her recommended practices, she would end all relationships.

It was later said to have a "deep ethical commitment to the fight against cruelty to animals".

It was alleged that the crocodiles were for Hermes handbags and that the animals were shot or roughly incised with a captured bolt gun while they were still conscious

It was alleged that the crocodiles were for Hermes handbags and that the animals were "shot with a captured bolt gun or roughly incised while they were still conscious".

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