Some people need a simple bag to carry while they run their errands.
Others need a $500,000 Birkin bag.
While some Birkin bags fall to the $40,000 mark, there’s no question that Birkin bags are the most expensive bags in the world.
If you’re curious about buying such a bag, then you may wonder what makes them so expensive in the first place.
Here are 10 reasons Birkin bags are so expensive.
Why Are Birkin Bags So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
Birkin bags came from a need for better storage.
The famous story of its design stems from a flight shared between actress Jane Birkin and Jean-Louis Dumas.
When Birkin struggled to put her wicker basket bag in the overhead compartment, Dumas revealed himself as the CEO of Hermès.
They spent the flight coming up with ideas for a better solution to Birkin’s problem.
Later on, Dumas showed up at her door with a bag he had made specifically for her.
It featured a new design with practical pockets, an ability to seal, and a spacious interior.
This design changed the bag industry.
It’s also what makes Birkin bags so expensive.
When people buy a Birkin bag, they expect it to look incredible and take care of their storage needs.
In particular, the pockets are what make Birkin bags a Birkin.
They’re functional and actually offer plenty of space to keep certain items separate from the rest of the items.
The fact that it has multiple ways of staying sealed is another aspect of design that’s a home run for its buyers.
In the case of Jane Birkin, she never had to worry about the contents in her bag spilling out again.
Many people buy Birkin bags because of their reliable design, yet it costs money to make such a bag.
Each pocket takes time to stitch.
Each stitch must be precise.
The materials also matter.
They need to be strong enough to hold together in the event that someone crams a lot of stuff in the pockets.
When the pockets bulge, they still need to be able to seal and keep from breaking.
All these elements cost time and money to develop and make.
They add to the price of a Birkin bag.
Some Birkin bags use calfskin in their manufacture.
The calfskin may cover the entire bag, or it may be in smaller elements of the bag like the interior or the pockets.
Calfskin is a type of leather that comes from a juvenile cow.
They slaughter the juvenile, then shave off the hair from its hide.
They remove the hide next, then tan it.
At that point, they may process it a bit more to give it a different color.
Because calfskin comes from a living animal, it’s expensive.
Not just any calfskin will do.
The calf needs to have supple and healthy skin.
The reason they use juveniles over older cows is that juveniles have more elastic skin.
It gives the leather the suppleness that many people enjoy.
There are also fewer insect bites on a juvenile compared to an older cow.
Calfskin has a reputation for its durability, its soft texture, and its ability to be quite pliant.
When you press into the leather, it gives against your fingers.
It feels delicate even though it’s not.
That sort of tactile experience is something people love in their bags.
Using calfskin, however, is expensive because there are only so many high-quality juveniles born every year.
The juvenile also needs to have healthy skin, which means its owners need to take care of it.
That might mean a high-quality diet and other expensive treatments.
Processing calfskin is also expensive.
Since a bag needs a large amount of material, the price only increases from there.
You can expect a Birkin bag that is made of calfskin leather to be expensive.
3. Alligator Skin
Another type of leather that they use in their Birkin bags is alligator leather.
This type of leather also adds to the price of Birkin bags.
That’s because alligator leather is also expensive.
There aren’t that many alligators in the world.
While they’re not endangered, they only live in a few select environments.
They’re also considered a threatened species.
That’s why the federal government regulates their hunting.
Hunters can only kill a few alligators every year.
This helps keep their population down but not to the point of causing them to become endangered.
It also gives certain industries, like the fashion industry, the opportunity to use alligator leather in their products.
Birkin bags are one of them.
Alligator leather is also rare because it takes some time for alligators to grow.
They’re large and don’t reach maturity until later in life.
That also means that they’re unable to reproduce until later in life.
That’s why their hunting is so regulated.
Experts keep a close eye on the reproductive members of the population to ensure they’re still able to have healthy access to mates.
It also takes considerable time and skill to turn alligator skin into leather.
Their skin is already leathery by nature, but it needs additional processing to be usable in products.
Since working with this type of skin is unique, Birkin relies on experts in the field to harvest, process, and manufacture their bags with this type of leather.
That costs money and time.
With a limited supply of alligator leather to go around, you can be sure even the raw material costs a lot.
Since the manufacturer wants to make several Birkin bags out of leather, they pay a lot to get the material in bulk.
That makes the price of the bag expensive.
It has to offset the cost the company takes on to manufacture and produce the bag.
4. Ostrich Skin
Birkin also sometimes uses ostrich leather for their bags.
This is another extremely rare type of leather.
Only a few ostrich hides are harvestable every year.
The sheer process of turning the hide into leather is lengthy and difficult, too.
Whereas most types of leather take about 10 to 20 steps, ostrich skin takes 36 steps to turn to leather.
It’s lengthy and because it’s so difficult, few factories produce it.
It’s too costly for them to produce.
There are also health concerns.
Factories in countries that take their health regulations seriously will find producing ostrich leather more expensive than those with loose health regulations.
The primary concern is with anthrax and chromium tanning.
Chromium tanning, in particular, can lead to serious skin problems if the workers aren’t protected.
The factory thus has to invest in safety equipment to keep its workers safe.
All these production costs reflect in the price of ostrich leather.
If a Birkin bag needs a lot of ostrich leather, then it’s going to cost a lot of money to make.
To ensure they can maintain a profit, they increase the price of the bag.
It’s a luxury skin for a luxury bag.
Every single Birkin bag that leaves the store is handmade.
They only make a bag when they have an order for one.
The company only produces a limited number of bags every year.
Not only does this ensure they’re able to make all the bags by hand without becoming overwhelmed, but it also adds to the scarcity and desire to own a Birkin bag.
The company has a process in which the person making them stitches everything together.
Custom-made Birkin bags follow a slightly different protocol.
Only the best can make a Birkin bag.
That’s because every stitch counts.
If the bag falls apart or rips easily, then that isn’t good for the reputation of the company.
They invest in their workers and their materials to ensure that doesn’t happen.
That also means that their workers earn a lot of money handmaking the bags.
Since they’re not simply pushing it through a factory assembly line, it also takes longer.
That adds to the price as well.
While your Birkin bag is expensive, you can admire every aspect of its hand-stitched beauty.
6. Invitation Only
Originally, Birkin bags didn’t sell well.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that it began to grow a following.
Once celebrities and other fashion influencers started using them, it became the “It” bag.
Now, it’s a status symbol.
If you own a Birkin bag, then you have serious money.
As it grew in popularity, waiting lists formed.
You sometimes needed to wait years before the company reached out to you to take your order.
These days, it’s even harder to get your hands on a Birkin bag.
That’s because it’s almost an invitation-only type of situation.
If the company believes you have the wealth and status worthy of their bags, then they’ll reach out to you and make you an offer.
From that point, you can talk about the custom designs that you want.
You can also discuss the type of leather or material that you want to use in your Birkin bag.
Since it’s essentially an invitation-only purchase, it makes the scarcity of the bag increase substantially.
Birkin bags are expensive because almost no one can get their hands on one.
7. Precious Gems
The most expensive Birkin bag is the Hermès’s Himalaya Collection.
While it already carried an expensive price tag with the Birkin label on it, it also happened to use precious gems like diamonds and precious metals like gold in its design.
The Himalaya bag features 18-karat white gold and 200 diamonds.
The white gold and diamonds make up the hard pieces of the bag to provide structure, rigidity, and glamor.
The fact that they use expensive gold and precious gems to make their bags only increases the price.
They need to pay for those materials in order to use them in their bags.
If someone wants to use sapphires, diamonds, or other precious gems, then they can expect the price of their bag to be considerably high.
Not only does the company need to cover the cost of buying and importing the gems, but they then need to manufacture them and stitch them into the bag.
The maker of the bag has to take on the role of the jeweler.
The more expensive the materials used in a Birkin bag, the more expensive the bag is going to be.
8. Social Influence
The bag itself acts as a status symbol.
Only the richest people in the world own a Birkin bag.
That’s because few people can spend half a million dollars on a handbag.
Because of that, there’s a lot of social influence surrounding Birkin bags.
Taking pictures with it can earn likes and followers on social media.
Those who do own Birkin bags flaunt it.
Those who want to rake in the likes and followers strive to own a Birkin bag to also claim that status symbol for themselves.
When it comes to social influence, few people put a price on rising popularity.
Since it has almost a cult-like following and level of worship, the price feeds into itself.
The more coveted it is, the more people want it, and the more expensive the bag becomes.
9. Works Of Art
Many don’t consider Birkin bags as mere handbags.
They consider them works of art instead.
That’s because they’re made by master artisans.
These artisans train for 10 years before they’re allowed to start making Birkin bags.
The company doesn’t want just any seamstress to work on their bags.
They want masters.
You can only become a master through years of experience.
The quality of stitching and design, not to mention the materials used in its production, make them more like art pieces.
They’re better used for admiration rather than practical use.
Some do use them, but most prefer to keep them somewhere safe and where they can talk about it when they have guests over to the home.
Also like an artist, only a few Birkin bags are released every year.
The company keeps it close to its chest about the number they produce every year.
A general estimate is that there are only 200,000 bags in circulation since the bags were first made.
Just as an artist can only produce so many works of art in their lifetime, only a few Birkin bags are ever available for purchase.
10. Collector’s Item
A final reason Birkin bags are so expensive is that they’re collector’s items.
Since there are only a few available every year, it becomes a craze to snatch one while you can.
People naturally want to hoard things that have a lot of value.
One of the more famous collectors of Birkin bags is Victoria Beckham.
She reportedly has a collection of 100 Birkin bags.
The value of that collection is around $2 million.
Since they’re also seen as works of art, it only adds to their collectability.
The Himalaya bag, for example, uses albino alligator skin.
That skin is already extremely rare in circulation.
On top of that, the designers also carefully dyed the bag to make it look like the Himalayas.
With every bag having the same sort of beauty, it’s no wonder people are out to collect as many as they can.
The problem with collectibles is that it drives the scarcity.
Serious collectors will spend serious money to acquire Birkin bags.
As a result, there are fewer left in circulation for other people.
That drives up the price of those that remain.
Collectibles are also, inherently, more expensive because the producers know that people will pay extra money to complete their set.
It’s an itch to complete a set of any collectible item.
You can expect a Birkin bag to be expensive because there are a few people out there collecting as many as they can.
How To Save Money On Birkin Bags
Considering that resellers often increase the price of a Birkin bag by a significant amount, it’s difficult to find ways to save money on them.
However, you can consider these tips to try and save a little money when buying Birkin bags.
1. Choose Calfskin
If you receive an invitation from Birkin for a bag, then you should choose calfskin over other types of leather.
That’s because it’s the most abundant type of leather.
It’ll be a little cheaper than using either alligator leather, ostrich leather, or some other type of leather.
2. Buy From The Source
You’ll also want to buy from the company directly if you can.
Resellers will drive up the price by double if not triple the original amount.
It’s also safer to buy from Hermès directly since then you know you’re not getting a counterfeit item.
If you want the cheapest Birkin bag, then Hermès is your only source.
3. Buy Fakes
Finally, if you don’t have an extra $10,000, $40,000, or $500,000 to spend on a Birkin bag, then you can always knowingly buy a fake.
No one is going to know the difference but you or a specialist.
Birkin bags are the ultimate luxury handbag.
That’s why it carries a luxury price.
Consider the reasons above to understand why Birkin bags are so expensive.