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HomeLatest News"Producing the Birkin": an excerpt from the memoirs of heavyweight lux hunter...

“Producing the Birkin”: an excerpt from the memoirs of heavyweight lux hunter Michael Tonello

Date: May 26, 2024 Time: 06:13:43

Counting on luck in my search for a Birkin bag, I called the Hermès stores; You might as well have asked me if your fridge was working fine (or if Prince Albert was being held captive). The seller from Madrid responded briefly and politely; all I heard from her was, “Sorry, Birkin’s not here.” My call to Barcelona can be called a milestone: for the first time I heard the notorious… (here the drum roll enters) “waiting list”. They said two or three years, but I signed up just in case. The matter did not progress. Subsequent calls to Marbella, Lisbon and Biarritz produced the same results. In response, I, as a rule, received one of the two answers already heard above. (The thought that in two or three years I would have my Birkin was beginning to soothe me.) Despite the failure, I planned a summer trip that would successfully combine business and pleasure. It’s time to go directly to the original source, to France.

With Le Monde d’Hermès at hand, I mapped out the itinerary for the trip. It was easy: first stop in Montpellier, then hop-hop, and I’m in Aix-en-Provence, which is very close to Avignon, from there not far to Marseille, then very close to Cannes, further down the road to Saint-Tropez, across the border and Monte Carlo (technically Monaco, but nobody cares), and this is on the way to Milan (I always liked Italian food). I printed out a MapQuest itinerary and put it next to my huge, travel-ready suitcase, packed to the brim.

I leave in the morning. In the middle of the night, I woke up in complete disarray: I dreamed of a 2-year waiting list at the border crossing into France. My first destination, the Hermès de Montpellier store, was in the Place de la Comédie. The old town square with a fountain has become home to the best boutiques in the city. The saleswoman, who didn’t look much older than a teenager, was sweet, but she instantly disappeared at the first mention of Birkin. She returned with a young man, presumably her manager, who offered her a consolation prize, a Kelly bag. He hadn’t heard of the Kelly bag either (another question for Google and Grace), but he was sure it wasn’t a Birkin. Pulling out my wish list, I went to buy some scarves. In something you must return the money spent on this trip.

The next stop is Aix-en-Provence. I read books by Peter Mayle and yet I was not prepared for such picturesque views. It reminded me of an episode of The Twilight Zone in which the protagonist was trapped in a Paul Cezanne painting…

It so happened that I was the main character. Here the store was very small, like a fitting room. I didn’t find Birkin after 17 seconds – that’s how long it took me to look through the whole range – and I got discouraged. If there was one, he was kept in Batman’s secret hideout in his basement. As I suspected, it was “Aucunes Birkins, desole” (“Birkin” no, sorry). With a resigned sigh, I handed them my wish list. Scarves, s’il vous braid…

In Avignon, an old walled city, the Birkin was as heavily guarded as the city’s perimeter. (Handkerchiefs, handkerchiefs, handkerchiefs… These handkerchiefs were starting to make me sick.)

Along the way, but not to the side, stubbornly, without retreating from my plan, I headed towards Marseille, a city in France second only to Paris in terms of population. Large loaded ships arrive daily at its huge port; one of them was supposed to have a Birkin. Full of determination and enthusiasm, I entered the Hermès store. His visit marked a new milestone in the history of my relationship with the brand: for the first time I left the store angry. As soon as I crossed the threshold, I turned to an elderly saleswoman for help. Hearing the word “Birkin”, another came up to me (it would be more correct to say: rushed). This woman seemed so unkind that the image of Leona Helmsley came to my mind.

The first one left instantly (not a fool). When I repeated my question to this probably self-proclaimed guardian of the “Kingdom of Birkin”, she gave me such a suspicious and mischievous look that I almost thought she had mistakenly said “Fendi Baguette” instead of “Birkin”. “Sir, this waiting list is already closed.” She managed to put so much disgust into those six words…

The only thing I couldn’t understand was why he hated me so much.

After all, I was at Hermès, right? I felt like I had ordered a Burger King Big Mac.

After all, they are the ones who sell the Birkins, right? (I began to suspect that the “Birkin” was like a phoenix or a unicorn…you’ve heard of them but never seen them.) Dummy bag or not, I didn’t deserve that kind of treatment for asking about a Hermès bag in an Hermès store. After several days of obtaining the information I needed by interviewing the population of the French interior, I did not receive the condescending attitude of a nondescript woman, on whose shoulders she wore a scarf made by the company where she worked.

What does “closed waiting list” mean? So there is a waiting list, but I can’t wait? Are you trying to tell me I can’t wait?! This is not a restaurant, you can’t stop serving. I’m in the Hermès store, right? You make what’s called a Birkin bag, right? Ah… I think I can guess…

It produces them, but does not sell them… Then everything is clear. Look, I had a great idea: why don’t you charge people to put them on a waiting list? Oh sure, the waiting list is closed, how could I forget.

I poured out on this unfortunate woman all my indignation accumulated during a month of fruitless search for the Birkin. But she did not regret it, especially since looking at the rest of the store employees, one got the impression that they were ready to form a circle and applaud at any moment.

“Sir, if you don’t stop yelling, I’ll have to ask you to leave the store,” she said triumphantly. I bet nothing gave him more pleasure than shoving customers out the door.

– First of all, I did not yell, and I do not like your hints about this at all. Second, we had a very nice conversation with another vendor before you decided to storm the Normandy coast and drive her away… Excuse me, but I’d like to continue my discussion with her about the scarves I’m interested in purchasing. Or do you have no headscarves?

My voice was filled with sarcasm. In response to my comment about the scarves, she turned and walked away. Where was the first saleswoman, you ask? She couldn’t sell me a Birkin either, but she treated me like a hero all afternoon. The feelings that I experienced ten days later in Milan cannot be remotely called a feeling of despair. No, I did not live my Birkin dream neither in Saint Tropez nor in Cannes nor in Monte Carlo. But sitting in Boeucc, a restaurant that’s over three hundred years old, lazily sipping an Amarone and enjoying truffle fettuccine, it’s impossible to feel miserable.

I’ll be honest, my trip to the south of France wasn’t terrible, although I didn’t find the bag I wanted. I decided to make one last desperate try at the local Hermès store the next day, but I was hopeless. I needed to review the initial percentages: to consider my trip a success, I planned to spend 75% of my time on pleasure, 25% on business. I determined such figures due to the complete absence of Birkin in his native France. Someone should add them to the Red Book, and fast: soon only those that are bred in captivity will remain.

At the same time, the population of headscarves flourished; These little ones are feisty creatures. At least I knew for sure that the clients on the wish list would be happy with my vacation.

I returned with a trunk full of handkerchiefs. No matter how satisfied I felt at the time, a small part of me couldn’t take comfort in failure. Was Grace right and was I destined to be without the Birkin for the rest of my days? I thought about money and possible plans as I sipped my panna cotta.

What happened next reminded me of Christmas the year I was eight years old. I began to suspect that the guy in the red suit wasn’t Santa Claus (come on, you can’t fit that many presents on the sleigh). My parents took drastic measures. On Christmas Eve, the father, despite reasonable warnings from his mother, decided to climb on the roof, loud enough to convince the 8-year-old that Saint Nicholas really existed.

Now he had exactly the same feeling as when he had been in bed listening to the reindeer move along the ledges; the same feelings came over me that night in Milan. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a Birkin bag (I recognized it from photographs) was on the arm of a stylish woman walking past my table. I immediately believed in its existence again. I asked myself: who is this woman? What does she know that I don’t? Did she really wait two years for her bag?

After these questions came a solution so simple that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it sooner. I’ll ask Santa for one. I bet he won’t even have a question about the waiting list.

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Hansen Taylor
Hansen Taylor
Hansen Taylor is a full-time editor for ePrimefeed covering sports and movie news.
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