The Birkin Bag Epidemic: The Rise of The Knockoff


In 1985, Hermès created the Birkin bag as a dedication to the British-born actress and singer, Jane Birkin, subsequent to an incident on an airline flight. Hermès CEO, Jean-Louis Dumas, got the idea after seeing Jane Birkin struggling with the belongings that were spilling out of her bag. It wasn’t long until the Birkin bag became iconic and on the top of every lady’s wish list.

Although the Birkin was an ‘it’ bag for a long while, it was hardly ever seen around because of its expensive price. In early 2009, the Birkin bag became every girl’s arm-candy and appeared far and wide after being frequently seen around by celebrities and socialites.  Is it feasible that everyone has all of a sudden become filthy rich? Especially during a rough time such as a worldwide recession? Of course not! What’s shocking is how young girls now receive their Birkins in every single color and skin in less time than Victoria Beckham can get hers! Isn’t that shockingly absurd?

Being the appreciative sister of someone who owns a number of Birkin bags, I now know how to distinguish between the fakes and authentics by one fleeting look around the crowd. So, how does one spot a fake Birkin? It’s a very easy job. If you know the basics, you’ll be able to spot a knock-off in a glimpse.

1) Birkin bags are made of real, exotic leathers and expensive metal hardware whereas the knock-offs are made of cheap quality pieces.

2) People walk around carrying Birkins in strange colors that were never released by Hermes and odd-looking types of skins. This is one of the easiest ways to tell whether the bag is authentic or not.

Hardware used for the Birkin (that do not tarnish):

* Brushed palladium
* Gold
* Blushed Gold
* Ruthenium

Regular types of skins available:

* Vache Liageè – The most luxurious regular type of leather
* Togo – Most commonly used
* Fjord – The toughest kind of leather used for the Birkin
* Clemence – Almost identical to Togo but softer
* Epsom – Stamped leather
* Chevre – Goat leather
* Swift

Exotic types of skins available:

* Porosus Crocodile
* Niloticus Crocodile
* Alligator
* Lizard
* Ostrich

Sizes available:

* 25 cm
* 30 cm
* 35 cm
* 40 cm

Colors available:

* Every season, Hermès releases certain colors in which the bag will be sold in. The most commonly released colors are the basics such as black, and they are the most obtainable. Other colors such as blues, greens, pinks, yellows, and oranges depend on the season and the skins available. (PS. I’m sorry to say this, but neon was never ever released!)

3) Stitching is a crucial quality of the Birkin. Everything in this bag is handmade and it takes 48 hours to construct one single bag. If there is missing or loose stitching, then you can be sure that the bag is a replica. An authentic bag’s stitching is even and the stitches are very close together, without gaps between each one. In addition, the color of the thread must match the color of the leather.  So a blue Birkin with yellow stitching? Never existed.

4) The Birkin’s shape is stiff and defined, while the replica bag’s shape is bulgy on the sides.
5) The stamp on a Birkin bag is neat and even, whereas the stamp on a fake bag is blemished and unbalanced. Pay attention to the accent over the “E”.
6) The engraving on the Birkin’s hardware is thin and polished, while the engraving on the fake’s hardware is wider and bolder.

7) The interior leather zipper tag should be parallel with the zipper hardware and not perpendicular to it.

8) A Birkin bag never goes on sale and is only sold at Hermes boutiques. If available at vintage stores they will never be sold at a price way below its original price (unless it was damaged by the previous owner).

If you are planning on buying a pre-owned Birkin, on eBay or a vintage store, or simply from someone you know, but are doubting its authenticity, these fundamental tips will ensure you get a better deal. Or if you want to bust people carrying this big fashion faux-pas around shopping malls, these tips will help you differentiate between an authentic and a fake Birkin bag like an expert.

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By: Moza Al Kaabi

There are 8 comments

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  1. tuk

    It’s been shown that the ‘fake’ bags are on par with the ‘authentic’ ones in terms of quality.

    There is no structural difference between the two.

    It’s simply a socioeconomic symbol of prestige. Birkin bags and other coveted items of fashion are not rare in quantity nor are they exemplary in terms of craftsmanship but the companies spend fortunes in media to cultivate this idea.

    There are thousands of these bags hidden away in warehouses (or they can be mass-produced in factories when necessary) to make people think only a few exist and that they are extremely hard to create which in turn allows them to charge exorbitant prices for each piece.

    So to answer your question Alaa as to why people would want to get fakes, perhaps it is because these people cannot afford spending their life-savings on cow-skin wrapped containers simply because society, especially Khaleeji society, expects them to.

    In short, perhaps you should learn some humility.

  2. Talo

    I must be the only girl who’s never really cared for a Birkin. It reminds me of old women. Also I don’t like bags I can’t comfortably put on my shoulder and I don’t like bags that cost over $10,000 for sure. Wouldnt be able to justify it ever, EVER in my life. Even if I were to get a real one I’m sure people would still doubt it’s authenticity seeing as there are a gagillion girls walking around with one. It’s gone the way that Louis Vuitton did a few years ago when all the knockoffs ruined their name.
    I say leave the Birkin to granny’s.

  3. palapala

    your bottom pics of the hardware, the two straps, they are both fakes if your info is right because you said that the stitching will be the same color as the leather, they both have white thread on tan.

  4. renee

    I would love to own a Birkin Bag. I love everything about them, the shape, the hardware; all of it.
    I can’t see being able to afford a authentic Birkin.

    I have seen some replica/fake/knock offs online, which are pretty darn close. I will get one of those one day. In my life, no one would ever think I’d be carrying a bag worth half a year’s salary, as some of them are in the thousands and thousands of dollar range.
    I don’t NEED a real one. I will be happy to get one of the better fake ones.

    A bag I do have is Birkin inspired, though it, in no way, could ever been mistaken for a real one.

    There are at least two online sites which carry very good replica bags.

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