20. Bringing Home the Birkin

My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag
by Michael Tonello
started 4/27 finished 5/5

I have developed quite a handbag fetish in the last 5 years or so. When I was in college the main goal was to somehow get a Lo.uis Vuit.ton purse, and my boyfriend at the time was able to come through with that one (Thanks, Todd). Then maybe ten years later I wanted a Coach purse, and my friend who worked at a department store at the time was able to help out in the discount department (Thanks, Melody). In between those purses and after that, I carried a succession of manly, but attractive backpacks and totes bought mostly from the G.ap. They were big and had lots of pockets & compartments and because I don’t have a car, I carry a lot of stuff and they were perfect.

But then the purse market started to realize that there were a lot of women were like me and they started making purses bigger and bigger, with lots of pockets & compartments and they were attractive and still feminine. I started to take notice. The Grandaddy(Grandma?) of them all is the Hermes Birkin bag.

Michael Tonello stumbled upon them by accident. A successful business owner and hairdresser, Tonello decided he wanted a geographical change in his life. When a friend offers him a job with a new company he was starting, he moves to Spain. As luck would have it, the friend doesn’t get the financing he needs and now Tonello is jobless and in a multi-year apartment lease in Barcelona. To earn some cash he sells a Hermes scarf he only wore once on e-Bay. The response was so immediate and lucrative that he begins buying up scarfs all over Europe and reselling them on e-Bay to customers in the U.S. (where most of the designs are no longer available).

One of his regular customers lets him know that if he can get his hand on one, she would be very interested in a Birkin. See, you can’t just walk into an Hermes store and ask to buy one (as Tonello would soon find out). In most stores they aren’t even on display and if they are you will be told that they are reserved. If you are lucky and connected, you can be placed on a waiting list and maybe get one in 2 or 3 years. Always up to a challenge, Tonello was able to come up with a system that netted him lots of bags for resale by traveling to Hermes stores all over Europe and even South America and Japan. He sometimes enlisted the help of others and even wrote a small field guide to the different type of Hermes employee that you will encounter and what strategy to use to ensure success.
Humorous and at times touching this is a good compliment to the Simon Doonan book,
Eccentric Glamour and Deluxe.

One thought on “20. Bringing Home the Birkin

  1. Of course being the “Sex and the City” buff that I am I immediately wanted a Birkin when Sam got one for…well it ended up being Lucy Liu’s.It amazes me the books you read! I’m envious.

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