True or False: Is there a waiting list for a "Birkin" bag? Behind-the-scenes tour at Hermès.
|The distinctive orange Hermès box that we all know and love resulted from a pigmentation problem during WWII. The original color was champagne.|
Designer shoes, jewelry or handbags - I can easily resist their siren's call. But wave a colorful Hermès scarf in front of my eyes and I'm like a bull in a ring, you've got my undivided attention. It's the one luxury item that I've allowed myself to buy in Paris. In an effort to justify my purchases, I've convinced myself that I would look rather pretentious walking around a small Swiss town in a pair of red-soled Louboutins, whereas I'll still be able to wear an Hermès scarf when we're transferred to a new destination. Let's just hope that it's not somewhere tropical!
After missing the tour of Hermès with the American Women's Group in January, I was pleased when WICE proposed an exclusive visit for ten lucky members. Shortly before the store on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré opened on Tuesday morning, our group was ushered inside by Michel, the man who normally receives VIP shoppers like kings, princesses and Kim Kardashian (his words, not mine!). If it doesn't seem like a big deal that we were allowed to enter the store outside its regular hours, tell that to Madonna because Hermès denied her request for a private opening at 11:30 pm when she was in Paris for a concert last July. But Madonna isn't alone. The store doesn't give special privileges to anyone, including the former President of France Nicholas Sarkozy, who had to shop from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm just like everyone else.
According to Michel, Hermès egalitarian approach occasionally leads to some interesting experiences for mere mortals. While we were standing near the scarf counter, he regaled us with the tale of a woman who couldn't make up her mind between two carrés. For thirty minutes, she vacillated between a blue and a red one while the sales assistant did her best to patiently offer advice. Suddenly, a distinctive voice said, "Take the red scarf. It's looks the best on you." Turning to thank the man, she found herself gazing into the eyes of American actor Bruce Willis. Guess which scarf she bought?
As we walked passed the main entrance, we noticed a line forming in front of the signature doors. On a regular day, the flagship store welcomes 1,600 eager shoppers. The number increases to 4,000 prior to Christmas. While many of the customers purchase jewelry, porcelain or ready-to-wear items, leather goods account for 50% of the sales. Even though most people associate Hermès with the iconic "Birkin" and "Kelly" bags, the company originally made saddles. Famous orders have included one for Ronald Reagan with two R's and another encrusted with diamonds and emeralds for a sheik. President Sarkozy also gave one as a present to President Bush.
Knowing that many women are desperate to get their hands on an elusive "Birkin" bag, I asked Michel about the infamous 2-3 year wait list. According to him, it's just an urban legend, at least in France. He assured me that the only way to purchase a Birkin is to show up at the flagship store first thing in the morning because they will sell a bag as soon as one becomes available. The only problem is that no one, including Michel, is able to predict when that will be. If you ever spot a crocodile slithering through a swamp in Mississippi, there's a good chance that it will be a Birkin bag or a 70,000 euro jacket in the future because that's the source of most of their skins.
For women who find it too stressful to decide between a piece of jewelry and a handbag, Hermès recently launched four different models of bags made of gold encrusted with diamonds and gemstones. At 1.5 million euros, Hermès has taken luxury to an entirely new level. As one of the women on our tour commented, it's not the kind of bag that you would want to forget in the back seat of a taxi! Of course, if you were carrying such an expensive item, you would probably have two bodyguards by your side at all times. It's definitely not a bag for me since I almost always travel by metro!
If you would like to buy a vintage Birkin bag or Hermès scarf, be sure to attend the Hermès auction at Artcurial on October 30, 2012. If you live abroad, you can participate in the auction online. Click here to read my post, "Trying to keep my paddle down at the annual vintage Hermès auction in Paris".
Other posts about Hermès: How to save money in Paris - go to the Hermès sale and Hermès, a tour of the special order workshops with photos by Kate of "Mais Oui Paris".
|Kelly Sac Bijou in rose gold and diamonds 1,160 diamonds (Total carat weight: 33.94). Price 1.5 million euros.|