In our world of fast fashion and mass production, handmade items are often a rare find and, as a consequence, are increasingly becoming luxury goods. And for a good reason. How many of us can actually tell who made their favorite pair of jeans or earrings?
When it comes to accessories, there is one über-brand, whose name incidentally also starts with this week’s letter H, which prides itself on keeping the art of handcraft alive.
I am talking, of course, about the French luxury goods house Hermès, renowned for its handmade luggage and handbags. According to Wikipedia, the company does not use assembly lines. Only one craftsperson, who may have been employed by the company for decades, makes a single handbag at a time, hand-stitching individual pieces with linen thread and using an awl. One bag might require 18 to 24 hours to produce.
Hermès’s “Birkin” is arguably the most coveted bag in the world, which can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $150,000 and is notoriously hard to obtain (hence the best-selling paperback “Bringing Home the Birkin”). The company justifies the cost of the Birkin bag, compared to other bags, based on the meticulous craftsmanship and scarcity.
Mothers have been known to put their newborn daughters on the Birkin waiting list, celebrities have been envied for their large collections of Birkins, and all the while fashion commentators have been arguing whether the iconic bag has lost its appeal.
With each authentic Birkin bag being guaranteed a lifetime of TLC by Hermès, including a specialized “bag spa”, it is no doubt a heirloom to be passed down from mother to daughter – and perhaps even granddaughter.
If, however, you are not prepared to fork out thousands of dollars for the privilege of being a member of the world’s most exclusive bag club, there are some alternatives.
For example, I love this tote by Tusting, a traditional English family leather firm, which retails at a much more realistic £315. This handmade bag comes in a variety of hues, including orange – not unlike Hermès’s signature shade!
So whether you are after the elusive Birkin or simply a classy and well-made bag, by choosing handcrafted items and, with them, their unique and original stories, you can start writing your own fashion history.