In the world of accessories, the Hermès Birkin bag stands alone.
The iconic purses, which can cost anywhere from $US10,000 to $US150,000 depending on size and material, have attained cult status, in part because it’s nearly impossible to get one, even if you have money to spend.
Wednesday Martin detailed the “game” and emotional roller coaster she went through to obtain one of the bags in “Primates of Park Avenue,” her newly released memoir about the particular breed of moneyed motherhood on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
First, a bit about the bags, which themselves are the stuff of legend. Originally designed for actress Jane Birkin in 1984, they are produced in such limited numbers — 2,500 per year, according to Martin — that they have become a status symbol, indicating not only that the owner has the financial means to own such a purse, but also that she is powerful enough to get one.
So how does one actually procure a Birkin? Unless you are (or are married to) someone extremely rich and famous, or have a connection at Hermès, you literally have to prove your loyalty to the company,
Michael Tonello, author of the tell-all “Bringing Home the Birkin,” told Business Insider.
“They no longer use the term ‘waiting list,’ but they say they encourage people the ‘establish a relationship’ with a sale person who will help them try to get a Birkin,” Tonello said. “It’s essentially code for ‘spend money in the store, and you’ll get a Birkin.”
In Martin’s cloistered world, the “waiting list” is still very much real, and very hard to avoid. She writes:
As is the case with so many Manhattan ‘gets,’ asking and being rebuffed were part of the Birkin game, as was waiting, being put on the wait list, and being told the wait list was closed.
Of course, it was humiliating and stupid to be told that a wait list was closed, like some kind of nightclub you weren’t important or fabulous enough to get into. It was absurd to have to wait at a velvet rope of sorts for the privilege of plunking down at least $US10,000 for a bag.
In the end, Martin gets her coveted Birkin after her husband is able to procure one while on a business trip to Tokyo. And she uses it, nearly constantly, as a literal and metaphorical shield.
But the cruel twist? The heavy, metal-laden purse eventually took such a toll on Martin’s arm that she had to “retire it” or risk permanent damage to her nerves.
“Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir” is available for pre-order at Amazon.
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