September 9, 2017
By Noelani Piters
YOU WON’T BELIEVE HOW LONG IT TAKES TO MAKE ONE BIRKINSHOP HERMÈS BIRKINS
It’s hard to imagine a fashion world without the Birkin. What would have happened if the fortuitous airplane meeting between Jane Birkin and the late Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas had never occurred? What It-bag would have captivated us with its clean lines, spacious interior and overall je ne sais quoi? What would have filled the void?
Luckily, we don’t have to speculate. Considering the thirty-year-old bag’s storied past and illustrious cultural history, its endurance as a status symbol is pretty much a sure thing. But while the Birkin is revered among fashion insiders, many luxury lovers may be unaware of the extent to which craftsmen go to create the elusive, exclusive bag. Read on to learn all the details of how a Birkin is made, and why your investment in one is well-founded.
On genuine Birkins, the keys will have a number that always corresponds with a number on the lock.
Pantin, a quaint town just north of Paris’s 19th arrondissement, is where all of the magic happens. Hermès’s Pantin workshop is one of four across France; other locations include Ardennes, Lyonnais and Lorraine, but only the Pantin workshop focuses on creating the signature bag. Though production time for a Birkin will vary depending on size, materials and embellishments, it takes a craftsman (or craftswoman) a minimum of 18 hours to create one bag. That may not initially seem like a feat, but the process of creating arguably the most recognizable handbag in the world is a rigorous one.
Hermès artisans train for a minimum of five years before they’re allowed to create a Birkin on their own. Why the lengthy training process, you ask? A heritage brand such as Hermès calls for traditional techniques, consistency and the utmost skill. A single artisan creates a Birkin — by hand — from beginning to end. Craftsmen practice leatherworking techniques that date back to the Middle Ages using tools like awls, needles and pinces-à-coudre, large wooden grips traditionally utilized for saddle-making. Artisans must also master the saddle stitch, a method in which an artisan pulls two needles through a hole in opposite directions. Once a bag has been stitched, the craftsman polishes the seams with beeswax until it reaches perfection.
Hunter Thompson, our Director of Authentication, inspects a genuine Birkin.
With all the work that goes into a Birkin, it’s no surprise that craftsmen feel a sense of ownership of the bags they create. Each Birkin is marked with a code that denotes the year it was created, the workshop it originated from and the artisan who made it. What if a customer needs to have their bag repaired? They can send their Birkin back to Hermès, where the bag’s respective artisan will mend it. All of the minute details, the hours of painstaking work and the years of training that go into a Birkin prove why it remains one of the most coveted and counterfeited luxury items on the market.
“We certainly see our fair share of inauthentic Birkins at The RealReal,” says Hunter Thompson, our Director of Authentication. “Some of them are really good. You can get the details right. You can get the measurements right. You can get the hardware close. But Hermès uses only the finest quality leather hides from their tanneries, and the texture and feel are unsurpassed.”
The exterior heat stamp will be printed in metallic foil and match the bag’s hardware.