Hermès is a huge fashion house, but its most iconic star is the Birkin bag, a leather tote bag defined by its simple design and fold-over clasp and lock. By now, the bags are legendary for reasons that have nothing to do with fashion– the name is on the lips of every politically-savvy Malaysian thanks to former Prime Minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor’s well-documented fondness for the bags.
If you’re wondering why the photos of all the iconic orange Hermès boxes being carted out of residences linked to Najib and Rosmah are such a big deal, here’s why.
The Hermès Birkin Bag
The Birkin bag, which sees its origins in a 1983 chance meeting between the then Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas and English actress Jane Birkin, is unassuming and almost inconspicuous in design. There are no prominent motifs or defining symbols that mark a Birkin as one– in fact, an observer less in the fashion know might not even be aware they are looking at a bag that can easily cost more than a car.
Prices start at USD$11,900 (RM56,000) for the most basic of the bags. Those made from rare materials like crocodile skin and embellished with precious gems and diamonds can fetch even more, like the one sold at a Hong Kong auction for around USD$300,168 (RM1.1 million) – reportedly to Rosmah herself.
But just why do they cost so much?