Twice is a coincidence, but three times is a trend, so now that we’ve found a fourth Hermes Birkin covered in graffiti, I feel pretty comfortable saying that defiling the iconic handbag with pain, markers and pens is officially a thing. The latest graffiti’d Birkin comes courtesy of street-art duo Mint & Serf, also known as The Mirf, who were commissioned by Jeff Kain to personalize a while leather Birkin that he bought for his wife Lynn Ban (you might be familiar with her jewelry line). That’s hot on the heels of Moda Operandi’s marked-up Birkin, plus self-styled versions by both Lady Gaga and Nicola Formichetti.

Of the four different Birkin-customization techniques we’ve seen, this one is definitely the most clearly graffiti-inspired. Or perhaps “inspired” isn’t the word – it’s straight-up covered in the stuff, and the commissioned work cost several thousand dollars on its own, according to the Daily Mail. In contrast, Moda Operandi’s version is by far the most sophisticated and traditionally beautiful of the customizations, and both Gaga and Formichetti went to town in their own personal ways. The common thread, though, is the Hermes Birkin. No other bag has had art projects performed on it so fervently, and the reason why people love to mark it up is probably similar to why Francesca Eastwood decided to set one on fire last year – there’s something undeniably attractive about the opportunity to subvert an icon.

If you live in or have traveled to a place where Birkins are very commonly carried, you probably know that there’s often a look associated with them – upper-crust women who are prim and put-together, even when headed to a spin class. (Perhaps especially when headed to a spin class.) That image of decorum and privilege, combined with the extravagant price of an Hermes Birkin and its tailored, traditional look, have turned the bag into an easily recognizable totem of profligate wealth, which is currently a fashionable thing to reject. Nominally, anyway – you still have to have that wealth in order to acquire a Birkin to destroy in the first place. Or “customize.” Whichever way you prefer to see it. I’m still not sure which word I’d use.

If you’ve ever walked along Canal Street, you probably have a good idea of just how big of a business fake handbags are on the black market in New York City. Even when you’re walking quickly, by yourself, with your sunglasses and headphones on (which are basically all the quick visual cues for “not a tourist, don’t bother me” in NYC), it’s hard to make it more than a few steps down that famous street without hawkers shoving price lists and stock cards in your face. Take your headphones off, and even above the roar of traffic and casual conversation, you can hear people murmuring “handbags, handbags” at every passing body. Those salespeople are out there for a reason – tourists flock to Canal to buy fake designer handbags and watches, which are illegal to sell, but not to purchase. If one New York City councilwoman gets her way, that’s about it change. (more…)

I’ve worked in the fashion industry for the vast majority of my post-college life, so occasionally, I forget what it’s like for people in more traditionally corporate or conservative environments, who likely constitute the bulk of women who have the funds to buy themselves designer handbags and shoes. When I read the Washington Post’s piece on White House council Kathryn Ruemmler, though, I found myself served with a stark reminder that not all workplaces are as welcoming to designer bags and expensive shoes, no matter how by-the-book-appropriate. (more…)

Luxury-industry insiders and moguls met for the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit 2013 in Vienna, Austria, over the past few days, and lots of interesting tidbits of information came out of the event’s who’s-who list of speakers, which included luminaries like Alexis Babeau, Managing Director of Luxury at Kering, and Andrew Rosen, CEO of Theory and Helmut Lang (and a huge investor in Proenza Schouler, among others). For our purposes, perhaps the the most interesting speaker was Gucci President and CEO Patrizio di Marco, who spoke at length about his brand’s commitment to social consciousness, which included a promise to stop using environment-polluting PVC in its products in the next three years. (more…)

If you’ve been following this strange story since the beginning, you know that LVMH, the luxury conglomerate that owns Louis Vuitton, has been in some hot water with European financial regulators lately over CEO Bernard Arnault’s covert maneuvers to acquire a significant portion of stock from one of his company’s biggest rivals, Hermes. Regulators from European financial agency AMF believe that some of those tactics may have been illegal, or at least not on the spirit of the law, and on Friday hit back at Hermes with quite the penalty: 10 million euros, the largest fine allowable by law. (more…)

As Christina Passariello wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Louis Vuitton, with its flagging growth and logo-covered bags, now finds itself in the throes of the fashion business’ most baffling paradox – how do you sell bags to as many people as possible without becoming a company that’s associated with mass-market consumerism instead of rarified luxury? At least right now, LVMH execs think that the solution to that problem might be to raise prices across the board. Vuitton’s growth has slowed in recent months because luxury-hungry consumers in emerging markets like China are becoming rapidly more sophisticated; in essence, they want subtle leather bags instead of the logo-covered canvas pieces that are Vuitton’s bread and butter, in addition to being the brand’s most visible symbol. So how, exactly, might a price hike help? (more…)

[Editor's Note: In light of the very serious situation on the ground in Boston today, we didn't feel right going forward with business as usual. Our thoughts are with the people of Boston and the law enforcement officials who've worked tirelessly last night and today to make us all safer.]

We’ve tried to provide a bit of fluffy fun in the face of this week’s tragic events in Boston and Texas, but when we found out that our friends at Boston-based Rue La La had come up with a way for people around the country to raise money for the victim’s medical bills and honor the city simultaneously, we thought we’d be remiss not to let you guys know. Rue La La’s Honoring Boston T-Shirts, which come in both men’s and women’s sizes and retail for $20, will send all their net proceeds to the Emergency Medicine Fund at Massachusetts General Hospital, which supports the patients and families affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy. You can pick one up via Rue La La.

A long time ago, I ranted a bit about why terming the purchase of a bag as an “investment” was probably a bit silly, not to mention inaccurate, and the kind of marketing terminology that encourages consumers to overspend on goods that depreciate even more rapidly than cars. It still is – at best, buying fashion is an investment in your own enjoyment, and the dividends it pays won’t be of the monetary variety. Hermes, it turns out, bucks that trend on two levels.

Last week, Hermes released its 2012 profit information and informed us all that it had been another banner year for the French powerhouse. Revenues were up 18.5%, making it Hermes’ most lucrative year ever, with jewelry the most quickly expanding sector, up 45%, according to Vogue UK. Bags, though, enjoyed an impressive 22% jump in growth, on top of a year of business that was already sprinting to keep up with seemingly endless demand for everything from canvas Garden Party totes to alligator Birkins. When compared to relatively flat leather goods growth across competitors like Louis Vuitton, the number is even more remarkable.

That means two things. First, if you can get your money around some Hermes stock, you probably won’t be sorry you did. (It might be a little more difficult than merely placing a call to your broker, though – Louis Vuitton has its guy on speed dial when it comes to Hermes.) Second, it means that the actual bags are more valuable than ever because demand still outpaces supply, despite some modest supply-side expansion from Hermes; if you have a specific bag in mind and aren’t an established VIP, you’ll likely have to wait. When you combine that with annual price increases that continue to raise the value of existing Hermes bags, you end up with a situation where well-kept used bags, especially Birkins, regularly sell for more from a third party than they do from an Hermes boutique. If you’re the kind of person who has $10,000 to spend on a brand new bag but are told you’ll need to wait, perhaps months, then maybe you’re also the kind of person who has an extra couple thousand dollars to skip the line and buy a new-looking bag from a third party.

The online sale marketplace seems to bear out that theory. Luxury sites like Moda Operandi and Rue La La routinely host sales where auction houses offer an assortment of pre-owned Hermes bags, the most desirable of which are marked above retail. Invariably, the bags fly off the virtual shelf, most within hours of launch. If you have the money and have been considering the purchase of a Birkin, it boils down to there being almost literally no risk involved – if you later decide it doesn’t suit you and you have the savvy to resell, you’ll likely recoup your costs. My advice, though, would be to buy some stock instead. You can flip it to Louis Vuitton later when they invariably call you.

[Image via Moda Operandi]

We don’t delight in bad news around here, and a price increase is just about the worst news that you can ever expect to find on a handbag blog. (We’re lucky that way.) Unfortunately, that’s what this time of year brings for Hermes lovers, and NYC shopping blog Mizhattan reports that we can expect a noticeable uptick in price for everything from Birkins to Colliers de Chien to flasks. How much? That depends.

The price increase is rumored to be between seven and 10 percent, depending on product, which would raise the price of the brand’s marquee handbags by over a thousand dollars apiece for higher-end leathers and exotics. It seems as though the increase will phase in start any day now and running through the beginning of February, and as Mizhattan mentions, it seems logical that bags would be among the first pieces to see the hike because of their importance in the Hermes product lineup.

Hermes also increased its prices at the end of January last year, and it seems as though the brand will continue to do it until the market won’t bear it anymore. Birkins, Kellys and all of Hermes’ other bags still fly off the shelves as fast as they can be cranked out, it seems as though we have a ways to go before a slowdown. Does the price increase make you any less likely to buy something from Hermes, or are price increases just part of being a luxury consumer?

I am a major sports fanatic, and starting July 27th I will be glued to my TV to watch the Olympic games. Because of my athletic background, I have many friends competing for Team USA and with other teams around the world. Every four years, I look forward to the world coming together to root on our athletes toward one common goal: performing to the best of their abilities and honoring their country.

So when I saw Ralph Lauren was the official outfitter of Team USA, I thought it was a great fit. Now that we’ve seen the uniforms, though, let’s just be honest: RL botched an amazing opportunity to dress Team USA’s 2012 Olympians in America’s finest apparel. The official team uniforms are beyond boring and almost militant in appearance (especially the women’s uniform). A lame beret is to be atop each athletes head, and things don’t get much better as you move down. A long skirt that will be unflattering on most women’s figures will be paired with a boxy jacket. At least the men’s uniforms work a bit better, as a pair of slacks and a jacket is par for the course. (more…)

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