A ‘extraordinarily rare’ Hermès tote bag sold at auction today for $300,168, making it the most expensive handbag in history.
- Ten-year-old Himalayan Nilo Crocodile Birkin Bag sold for $300,168
- The winning bidder, an Asian private collector, has chosen to stay anonymous
- Both Kim Kardashian and Victoria Beckham are fans of the Nilo Birkin
The Himalayan Nilo Crocodile Birkin, which is encrusted with 245 diamonds and is crafted from extremely pale crocodile skin, was bought by an anonymous Asian collector after a frenzied bidding war in Hong Kong. In a press release issued prior to the sale, Christie’s said: ‘The diamond pieces created by Hermes are exceptional, but none are nearly as iconic as the Himalaya. ‘It is believed that only one or two of the Diamond Himalayas are produced each year, globally, making it one of the lowest production runs for handbags.’
In 2014, a similar tote sold at auction for $185,000 and prices have escalated ever since. Last year, a diamond-studded Hermes Birkin in fuchsia sold for $222,000 but even that has now been eclipsed.
The fashion house remains elusive about how many of the bags are sold every year, with ordinary buyers arriving in store often prevented from purchasing them in favour of celebrity or high-profile fashion clients.
Appraisers generally agree that even the most basic of the Birkin range – starting from around £7,000 – will hold their value.
Waiting lists have been known to last up to six years, with prices quickly entering five figures.
Given its eye-watering price, however, it seems unlikely that the latest bag sold at auction will ever grace the arm of its mystery owner.
Handbags of this high calibre are produced in tiny batches and reserved only for a ‘select number’ of elite Hermès clients.
Even a standard Birkin comes with a waiting list and a $10,000 starting price tag. According to Ms Guzman, if you walked into any Hermès store in the world and asked for one off the shelf, ‘they would look at you like you had two heads.’
Victoria Beckham is famously fond of the Hermès design, reportedly owning a collection worth over $2 million, while Kim Kardashian has so many that she uses one as a gym bag. She has a Himalayan Nilo Crocodile Birkin, which is thought to have cost £80,000. Kim Kardashian also has her own Himalayan Nilo bag which she regularly carries as she runs errands.
In 2014, an Hermes collector, Jane Finds, told Vogue:
‘The 30-centimeter diamond Himalayan Birkin is possibly the rarest and most desirable handbag in the world.
‘This bag is made of Nilo crocodile, rendered in a subtle colouration that is meant to evoke images of the majestic Himalayan mountains. This dyeing process is painstaking and takes many hours to complete – the lighter the hue, the more difficult the process. This is arguably the rarest, most spectacular, and most jaw-dropping Birkin to ever be made.’
Ironically, the woman the Birkin bag was originally inspired by and named after – actress Jane Birkin – doesn’t even like them. The British star has famously denounced them as ‘bloody heavy’ – and said the one she owns hurts her arm. The Birkin came into existence following a chance meeting on an airplane between Ms Birkin and Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas in 1981. Mr Dumas watched as Ms Birkin struggled to get her straw bag into the overhead compartment – and when she finally did, the contents fell back to the floor. Ms Birkin, who is best known for her film roles in the 1960s and for being the partner of French singer Serge Gainsborough, explained she couldn’t find a decent weekend bag. In response, Mr Dumas modified an existing design and in 1984, the Birkin Bag was launched. It was an instant hit with fashionistas around the world – but Ms Birkin herself was less than impressed. In an interview in 2012 Birkin grumbled: ‘What’s the use of having a second one? You only need one and that busts your arm – they’re bloody heavy.
‘I’m going to have to have an operation for tendinitis in the shoulder.’