Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag

Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag

by Michael Tonello

For more than twenty years, the Hermes Birkin bag has been the iconic symbol of fashion, luxury, and wealth.

With a fabled waiting list of more than two years to purchase one, the average fashionista has a better chance of climbing Mount Everest in Prada pumps than of possessing this coveted carryall.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.82
  • Pages: 272
  • Publish Date: April 22nd 2008 by William Morrow
  • Isbn10: 0061473332
  • Isbn13: 9780061473333

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That's more money than most of us will ever see at once, and it's ridiculous to imagine it going towards handbags and scarves. Michael Tonello reads like a Sex and the City character, or one of the catty flamboyant BFFs that populate chick-lit novels everywhere. This is a guy who enjoys judging people, and has it down to an art form, and considers an $800 tab with a colleague a good investment. Initially, he enjoyed the thrill of the chase, but I think his mother's failing health and getting screwed over by that Luc guy put his "work" into perspective.

And human nature being what it is, of course, it's nearly impossible to get one's hands on an actual Birkin, with there being an infamous two-year waiting list at most stores to even be given the opportunity to blow that kind of money; needless to say, the self-imposed scarcity drives all these upper-class women with self-esteem issues crazy, with some of them willing to go to almost any lengths and pay any price to get ahold of one of them themselves. And thus enters witty gay entrepreneur and Huffington Post columnist Michael Tonello, whose new memoir Bringing Home the Birkin is a doozy of a book; it's the purportedly true story of how Tonello managed to get his hands on literally hundreds of Birkins himself over just a few years' time, always done legally and with Hermés employees fully aware of his existence, making himself a fortune in the process by reselling them on eBay for insane markups. This led Tonello to trying out different things at the various Hermés stores he visited across Europe, trial-and-error style until he was able to notice certain things working over and over; and then this realization inspired the expansion of Tonello's globetrotting shopping sprees, to the point of finding himself traveling to places like South America and Russia on a regular basis, just to hit up the stores that rich old white women usually don't make it to. But of course, I'm simplifying the situation for humorous effect; as Donello actually demonstrates here quite well, the real secret to becoming a Birkin regular is more complicated and ephemeral than that, a strange mishmash of sucking up, buying into the hype, and sincere friendships, a legitimate community of high-end haute-couture lovers that you must somehow ingratiate yourself into, if you want any chance of making an actual career out of something like this. In fact, that might be the most enjoyable thing of all about Bringing Home the Birkin, is that Tonello is simply a natural storyteller and gifted raconteur; take for example what is easily the best story of the entire book, his uneasy relationship with a skeevy chickenhawk gay hustler he accidentally meets one night, who has various Hermés employees "eating out of the palm of his hand" and so can therefore get his hands on certain items that Tonello can't. That's what makes Bringing Home the Birkin so fascinating, because ultimately that's what Tonello's story is about as well -- not the fashion designers themselves, but those who game the fashion system in order to skim a profit off its top, the endless retail employees and eBay resellers and party crashers and blog owners and the rest, all of them taking their own little cuts from the massive amounts of money being exchanged in the middle of it all.

After many failed attempts, Tonello plans a weekend drive to Madrid in search of the haute couture holy grail; the result is a both a hilarious raid on fashions strongholds and a memoir that satisfies like a novel.

Though it takes Tonello some time to crack the Hermès fortress, he eventually stumbles across "the formula" and soon finds himself the Birkin bag it-boy. But it was Tonello's business savvy that really catapulted him into the big time; he took the niche he'd stumbled across and ran with it, learning everything he could about Hermès in the process.

Michael Tonello details his adventures as a "re-seller" of Hermes products, namely crocodile Birkin bags (around US$30,000 a piece for those not in the know). I probably haven't done a great job of selling this book to you, but like I said--it's a quick read, it's funny, and a little frightening at the same time (!)

Well my goodness that was an interesting book.

He soon goes from selling his clothes, to becoming a talented finder of the world's most elusive handbags: the Hermes Birkins.

In 2017 I founded the luxury brand, Respoke (www.respoke.com)