Book Review: Bringing Home the Birkin

26 May

I picked the following book for bookclub. We usually only read ‘serious’ books. But, each summer we pick a beach book. I thought this was a good summer read. Especially for those who like fashion and celebrity (umm, me). It comes out in paperback this July.
Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag by Michael Tonello

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
$25,000 for a bag? Not so crazy in the circle that author Tonello travels in. How can Hermes claim to only make 100 bags a year and put people on a waiting list? The author was able to buy five at a time and spent years traveling the world lookng for new Hermes stores to buy from. All his wares ended up on eBay or sold otherwise online. What is ingenious is how Hermes built their name and the mystique surrounding them by totally faking exclusivity. The BEST chapter IMHO is when one of his bags is taken hostage. The rest of the book felt like filler to that point.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to read something easy and light. And, this was read start to finish on a Friday evening after work. It is *not* high lit, but would be great for a marketing class.

I was impressed with the ingenuity of the author and the thrill he gained from working the system. But, to read how ravenous others were for a handbag boggled my mind.

The writing was *ok*. I did feel like the publishers asked him to throw in more about his romance and backstory to flesh out the book. I was also uncomfortable with him talking about his parent’s wealth, seemed to have little to do with the story.

I think if you’re not interested in fashion and retail, this book will annoy you. If you are interested, you will be amused.

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13 Responses to “Book Review: Bringing Home the Birkin”

  1. kathleen May 26, 2009 at 19:58 #

    I read all about this gentleman a few months ago in the Boston Globe – he’s quite an operator! And so is Hermes. Exclusive? ha ha ha…right….the whole handbag thing reminds me of Dr. Suess’s Sneeches story.

  2. Sewist May 26, 2009 at 22:47 #

    “What is ingenious is how Hermes built their name and the mystique surrounding them by totally faking exclusivity.”

    Worked for De Beers and diamonds.

  3. Carol May 27, 2009 at 01:23 #

    Perhaps this says something about me, but when I first read this title I read Bringing Home the Merkin …

  4. Johanna Lu May 27, 2009 at 03:02 #

    What a interesting way to get behind the smoke screens of luxury brands. I guess I should have not been surprised, but still I am a little. Hermes has clearly done a much better PR job than some others “exclusive” brands.

  5. Michael Tonello May 27, 2009 at 03:45 #

    Thank you for the kind review and the time and effort it took to post it.
    I am however a bit confused about this comment: “I was also uncomfortable with him talking about his parent’s wealth”. Where in the book do I discuss my parent’s finances and what ever gave you the idea of “wealth”? If my parent’s had money I certainly wouldn’t have been selling-off all of my posessions to pay the rent, nor would I have worked all summer (to go to France with my French class) when I was fifteen years old.
    I very much appreciate that you mentioned the release of the paperback this summer.
    And sew-
    be well,
    michael~

  6. cidell May 27, 2009 at 07:02 #

    I am so tickled you responded!

    I just loaned my copy to one of my bookclub members yesterday. I think there were just two specific instances that I recall. There was a mention of your parents being left some money. And in the last section where you touchingly wrote about your mother, you noted she could well afford a bag on her own.

    Oy. I hope that doesn’t sound harsh. It’s like a local gossip columnist that I always found funny until she was talking about me. It’s easy for me to be the critic isn’t it?

  7. Michael Tonello May 27, 2009 at 07:57 #

    Hi Cidell,
    wow, good memory. point well taken. i guess the fact that my mom could afford a birkin would lead some to believe she was wealthy. i bet you liked that juan’s dad is a tailor. also, kate (my former roomie in ptown) is an avid knitter. i really like your subtitle: I sew. I cook. I travel. But, I do not clean. i’m down with the travel and cooking!
    hugs from barcelona,
    michael~

  8. Phyllis May 27, 2009 at 08:16 #

    As we all know, used but virtually brand new Birkin’s can be had for 1/2 price or less on luxury-shops.com. They list 12 of them at the moment, including a blue ostrich skin, a pink alligator and a silver goatskin in addition to darker colors.

  9. Michael Tonello May 27, 2009 at 08:27 #

    Hi Phyllis, I just looked at Luxury-Shops.com and see all the Birkins, however I don’t see where you could say they are 1/2 price. For example, a used 40cm black leather birkin in being offered for $10,714…..that bag didn’t cost that much when it was new. The next birkin on the list, a used 25cm silver leather birkin is offered at $7946. and again that bag did not cost that much when new.
    There is a recent article I believe it is in Forbes magazine about how birkins actually appreciate.
    michael~

  10. Phyllis May 27, 2009 at 18:38 #

    Now I had alway been told they were litterally in the 50k range brand new! Thanks for setting me straight. So that *giant* one that I’ve seen Katie Holmes use – is that a one off special bag?

  11. Nancy W May 27, 2009 at 23:47 #

    I think I need a book club.

  12. Barbara May 28, 2009 at 12:28 #

    OMG so funny that I stumble upon this and I’m reading that very same book! And then I come to leave a comment and see that the author has posted!!

    I like this book – I think it’s funny. I love the part about the crochety saleslady.

    Barbara

  13. michael tonello June 10, 2009 at 11:34 #

    To answer Phyllis’s question about Katie Holmes. That is a 40cm or 45cm Birkin. It is normal leather and would cost in the area of $10-12K at Hermes. Now, if that bag were an exotic skin, like crocodile, it would be closer to $60,000 or $70K.
    This article gives a bit more insight:
    http://www.abcnews.go.com/Business/AmazingAnimals/story?id=7797686&page=1

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