**Sitting patiently with my $499 to buy my Himalayan now that Bey has made it affordable**
Is this some prank to lure in unsuspecting Hermès-buyers with a “buy Birkins for cheap!” scam? A counterfeit ring? Or a call for some ultra-damaged Birkin (that too in Himalaya!) with no hopes of being brought back to life whatsoever (not even by Hermès… if that’s even possible)?
Funnily enough, it’s neither. Rather, quoted above is what a user tweeted in response to Beyoncé’s latest album, Renaissance, which was released with massive fanfare on the 29th of last month.
If you haven’t listened to the new album, drop everything else and do so immediately.
And if you have, you’ve already come across the various nuggets Queen Bey has dropped for her fans all along. From paying tribute to black musicians, like Diana Ross and Donna Summer, to the Progress Pride Flag designed by artist Daniel Quasar, and even her godfather, Uncle Jonny, the seventh studio album of the dance diva has been described as “a love letter to the Black queer roots of dance music” by Essence Magazine.
But that’s not all. This bold set of tracks saw Beyoncé dress in the likes of established luxury houses, like Schiaparelli, Gucci, and Mugler, as well as rising indie and black-owned designers, like Melissa Simon Hartman, Bethany Cordwell, and Luis De Javier, for the artwork of her album.
And the name-dropping – oh, the name-dropping! From Chanel and Tiffany to Bottega, Balenciaga, and many more, lovers of fashion, dance, music, and pop culture have all been abuzz with excitement and speculation ever since the release of the musical masterpiece.
But where does the Birkin fit into the picture?
The Incriminating Scoop
As this article from The Cut describes,
“But even in moments of great joy, there are casualties.”
More specifically, in the ending stanza of “Summer Renaissance,” the final track of this 16-song dance-and-house music collection, Beyoncé unexpectedly delivers a burn on the Birkin. The lines in question are:
Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy
Collect your coins, Beyoncé
So elegant and raunchy
This haute couture I’m flaunting
This Telfar bag imported
Birkins, them shits in storage
I’m in my bag…”
To unsuspecting listeners (and let me assure you, no one anticipated such a dig at the legendary carryall from the superstar herself), this was the most shocking revelation.
Is Queen Bey denouncing the Birkin in favor of the Telfar shopping tote? Its direct interpretation would be that, yes, the singer’s substantial collection of Birkins, that Jay-Z literally dedicated his 2006 song “30-Something” to, is now gathering dust in her closet (quite possibly a veritable storage unit of its own). And perhaps there is some truth to this claim. Throughout the last year, Beyoncé was spotted numerous times with a white version of Telfar’s polarizing vegan leather tote, no Birkin in sight!
So, does this mean that the days of the Birkin are numbered? When the album’s first song, “Break My Soul,” came out, the singer proclaimed, “quit your job,” and people actually did! Now, would they do the same for the Birkin? Or does this signal something else entirely?
The Bags in Question
The Birkin, of course, needs no introduction, and honestly, by now, neither does Telfar. Owned by the queer black Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemens, the New York-based brand was launched in 2005. The brand’s Shopping Bag immediately rose to fame, selling out drop after drop and going for a premium on the resale market.
From its aim to democratize luxury with affordable prices (the small size starting at $150), the Telfar tote has become a symbol of Black and LGBTQ+ communities and a way for the buyer to show their solidarity for Black-owned brands, especially after the events of 2020.
Boasting a clientele as vast as Dua Lipa, Selena Gomez, Zoe Kravitz, Bella Hadid, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Real Housewife of New York Sonja Morgan, as well as Beyoncé herself and her sister, Solange Knowles, the bag has been affectionately dubbed “the Bushwick Birkin” by its fans.
The Hermès Birkin, on the other hand, has come under fire in recent days for its use of exotic skins, which drew criticism and concerns from Jane Birkin herself, and now the fashion house is actively working to source in a more ethical and less cruelty-free manner. This, however, has not put a dent in the bag’s popularity, its retail and resale prices soaring beyond the realms of luxury into “ultra-luxury” territory. And the Himalaya Crocodile Birkin that sold for half a million dollars (which the Twitter user refers to above) is a testament to that.
Battle of the Bags
But, when Renaissance dropped, the battle between the original Birkin and its Bushwick counterpart seemingly came to a head. Vogue Business reports that on the luxury resale site, The RealReal, there was a whopping 85% increase in views for Telfar on the day of the album’s release compared to the previous day. While the number of views of the brand on the weekend of the LP’s drop rose by 131% compared to the same timeframe in 2021.
Fashionphile data analyst Rachel Koenig also witnessed a 47% increase in searches, page views, and “add to cart” activities for Telfar on the site following the release of Renaissance. And seemingly, just as Queen Bey predicted, search volume for the Birkin, reportedly the third most searched term among millennials this year on Fashionphile, remained unchanged.
Social media platform TikTok has been going crazy in the Beyoncé-induced Telfar frenzy, with the search term ‘Telfar’ now having 149.6million views. And with these figures and the fact that the vegan leather market is anticipated to be worth $66.84 billion by 2030, it’s easy to think for a hot second that Telfar is indeed about to surpass the Birkin.
But not so fast. While search analytics on Google Trends shows that searches for “Telfar” exceeded those for the “Birkin bag” on July 30, the spike lasted only for five hours, with the Birkin much more popular overall. Rebag’s data shows a 33% rise for the term Birkin, between July 28 and 31, from the previous three-day period, while the searches for “Telfar” grew at a slower rate of 21%.
Apparently, the Birkin continues to dominate.
So, the Birkin isn’t over. Or is it?
Beyoncé may have puzzled Birkin lovers for a bit there. Still, the bag’s historical performance (and reputation as an “investment purchase”) not only remained steady but has grown stronger during the pandemic. At the luxury resale site, Privé Porter, Birkins sell for 50 to 100% over their retail price, rarer pieces going for up to 10 times that figure. And regarding the purse’s outstanding COVID-era performance, the company’s managing director Jeffrey Berk says, “The clientele for a Birkin or Kelly handbag suddenly wasn’t traveling, buying a house or a Bentley. She had a lot of cash and needed to park it in an indulgence.”
In the real world, we have seen how this has panned out, with the Hermès store in Guangzhou, China, having made over $3 million in sales on its first day of opening post-pandemic, one of the biggest single-day sales figures the company ever reported and definitely higher than pre-COVID sales. The Birkin has remained enduringly popular. In the brand’s attempt to limit sales to its top clients and restrict supply (its leather goods production only increases by about six percent to seven percent annually), its perceived scarcity and perceived value seem to rise.
So, is the Birkin really going anywhere, or is it here to stay? Judging by the responses and reactions to the Beyoncé album, I’m inclined to say that it’s still a classic. We definitely should check out Telfar, not only due to its rising popularity but also because of its community-driven motto. Telfar and Hermès, however, represent two very different worlds and, by extension, audiences, so I suppose it’s quite safe to say that Telfar probably isn’t going for the Birkin’s throne. Both can happily coexist.
And after the album’s release, it’s apparent that there really is no bad publicity for Hermès. In fact, some Birkin-lovers have even stated that Birkins are like gold and need to be secured to protect their pristineness and prices! Neither is Queen Bey leaving her mainstream designer brands anytime soon, as apparent from the name-dropping in the album.
But there has undoubtedly been a shift in the perception of luxury, especially among millennials. Kayla Marci, the market analyst at retail decision intelligence company Edited, says, “Renaissance is an homage to Black women and the Black queer community. The brands mentioned — particularly the traditional heritage labels — should align their strategies with the album’s messages, as the accompanying music video will undoubtedly have a significant impact on fashion and culture.” So, serving the younger, more aware and more conscious audience, alongside battling the challenges the resale market pose, are what Hermès needs to focus on now if it is to keep its crown as the “Mother of All Purses.”
Until then, what do you think? Is Beyoncé leaving the Birkin for good?