In Part 1 of Birkin 35 review I wrote about features such as aesthetics and construction of the bag, its dimensions, weight and the date stamp.

The aim of Part 2 is to shift focus to aspects such as durability and functionality of Birkin 35, the Hermes Spa, and consider whether the bag provides a true value for money.

Birkin 35 at Bank station

Durability of Birkin 35

How durable is the bag? From my experience so far, a properly cared for Birkin 35 is likely to last a very long time. And who would not want to look after an item with such a considerable price tag? The fact that the second-hand bag market is inundated with used Birkins in a good condition is a testimony that overall the classic design ages well.

Of course, the longevity of the bag will depend on the owner and the level of use they intend to put it through. It seems natural to be extremely cautions with the bag at first and I remember that my first Birkin was sitting in a box for a very long time before I found the courage to finally take it out. Aware of its value and scarcity, I was a little paranoid that someone might snatch it or damage it on the public transport, so on the first outing I was holding onto it for my dear life. I was also reluctant to take it to work because I was worried that flashing such an expensive item in the office environment would result in me never getting a pay rise again.

Thankfully, the relationship with my Birkins has relaxed overtime, I get so much more use out of them now and they are my trusted travel companions. Working in the City of London also reassured me that there are, in fact, other women who confidently carry their Birkins around without looking suspiciously over their shoulder. But the overall point here is that because of the rarity of the bag, women are more likely to take care of them and therefore the bag is bound to last forever.

The bag against the backdrop of a London bus

Understandably, there are certainly parts of the bag more exposed to wear and tear e.g. the bottom corners and the metal hardware. While not much can be done about the corners, the hardware comes with plastic, transparent protectors so these can be kept on to guard against scratching.

Some parts of hardware can also be exposed to oxidation/tarnish caused by elements such as moisture or contrast in temperatures, more likely to occur more humid climates. While I have never encountered similar issues with my bags, other reviews claim this can be removed with jewellery cleaning cloths.

Some types of leather will also scuff more easily so for anyone concerned about longevity should consider opting for the more hard-wearing finish of their Birkin e.g. Togo. The softer type of leather is also likely to buckle at the back with years of use, so it is advisable to store the bag filled with paper or plastic to help it maintain its shape. While the handles are strong and do not suffer much damage, they can be afforded additional protection with a Hermes twilly which also adds a touch of personal style. [Back to Menu]

Birkin 35 held by top handles

Hermes Spa

To ensure that Hermes bags can be enjoyed for as long as possible, the brand has created a bag restoration program called the Hermes Spa. The scheme allows customers to bring old or damaged bags to a local Hermes store which are then shipped to a workshop in Paris for maintenance and cleaning.

While Hermes do not provide an in-store bag authentication service, the Hermes Spa will not refurbish counterfeit bags and these are confiscated and destroyed. Although this sounds harsh for anyone who has spent a fortune purchasing a second-hand item in good faith and subsequently found it was fake, Hermes are merely complying with local laws aimed at protecting the market from counterfeits. Thus, the admission to the Hermes Spa program is a form of authentication itself.

One thing of note is that if the bag was previously serviced via another bag restoration provider, it will not be accepted to the Hermes Spa which is something to be considered when choosing this kind of service for a Birkin.

The cost of restoration works carried out by the Hermes Spa will vary depending on the level of intervention required. Just as an example, in 2018 the price of replacing the Plaques de Sanglons on a Birkin 35, that is the metal plates attached to straps, was £70 whereas the cost of cleaning the bag and colour retouch i.e. “Nettoyage – Maquillage – Astiquage” was £180. [Back to Menu]

Photo of the bag by a pedestrian crossing

Functionality

Let’s start with positive aspects of Birkin 35, because this is the size I am most familiar with. The bag is highly usable due to its spacious interiors and hence perfect for travel, work and everyday wear. It will easily contain a large purse, washbag, phone, brush, book and headphones, all in one go. You can even fit a file or a change of shoes, if you like. To me, the size is its main draw and so I always have it with me when travelling.

Although the generous interiors are a big advantage, the bag has only two small internal pockets, one with a zip, and they are quite slim so not much will fit inside. Because of this, it is worth investing in a liner/organiser which will make fishing out items out of this large bag much simpler and will also help to protect the interiors from scratches and staining.

The bag has a flap which can be either tucked inside the bag or drawn over the front of it to secure it. When the flap is placed inside, the bag has a very relaxed feel and it is easy to access its contents. This aspect has an obvious drawback because this means that the contents are not entirely secure. However, as the bag is not really suitable for being carried over the shoulder, it would be difficult for anyone to stick their hand inside the bag e.g. from behind, unnoticed.

To me, the one aspect of Birkin 35 which is mildly frustrating is the fastening system. To fully lock the bag, the design requires drawing the flap over the front, pulling the side stripes and securing them within the metal brackets, then adjusting the straps further so the ends with metal plaques can be anchored over the turnlock. And that’s without using the padlock and keys. This is not to say that the process is impossible to achieve but it does take a moment to lock the bag which may be frustrating when time is scarce. [Back to Menu]

Taupe Birkin 35 with St Pauls background

How to wear Birkin 35?

Unlike the Hermes Kelly bag, Birkin does not have a crossbody strap option therefore it can only be carried by top handles or over the arm. Birkin 35 in particular, because of its size, would be too large to be used as a crossbody bag anyway. Personally, I think the bag looks the best when carried over the arm.

Taupe bag held over the arm

Although the bag has top handles, these are not long enough to allow it to be worn as a shoulder bag.

A fun fact! Apparently the way you wear the bag says a lot about your personality. According to a psychologist, Katherine Hendricks Ph.D., women who chose to carry their bag over the arm do so unwittingly to signal and emphasise their status and position whereas those who prefer to hold the bag in their arm subconsciously convey that they mean business and want to be treated seriously. Which one are you? [Back to Menu]

Birkin 35 and Chanel flats

Value for money?

Birkin is a very considerable investment. A Togo version of Birkin 35 currently sells in the UK for £8,300. And that is if you can get it from your local boutique. For anyone unable to purchase the bag directly from Hermes, a brand new second-hand Birkin 35 will set you back at least £14,000. Madness, isn’t it? Still, there are people who will be willing to spend that amount of money to add the crown jewel to their bag collection.

To rationalise spending such a significant amount of money on a bag, one must view it not only as a luxury fashion item but as an actual investment. Birkin will hold its value for a long time hence it makes commercial sense to keep it in a pristine condition for as long as possible. A few years old, used Birkin 35 in a good condition is likely to cost more than a new bag bought in a local Hermes store and a decade old Birkin 35 in a very good condition often sells at the price of a new bag. Hence, Birkins must be viewed through the prism of being rare collector items, or a piece of art, rather than utilitarian objects.

Will you get any more enjoyment out of Birkin that any other bag? In terms of usability, Birkin 35 is as good as Hermes Garden Party 36 because it is spacious and versatile but with a more extortionate price tag. However, practicality is not really the point of owning it. Birkin is a status symbol, it is a conversation starter, it is the Ferrari of handbags’ world. Hence the value of this indulgent bag needs to be measured not only in terms of its actual monetary value but also as the overall package.

Would I recommend buying a Birkin? If money is no object then yes. However, I do recognise it is a total vanity purchase and there are many other beautiful bags which can serve as a perfectly acceptable substitute without breaking the bank. Overall verdict: a Trophy [Back to Menu]

Photos by Badiu Photography

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