The timeless story of the Hermès Birkin bag and how to restore it

The Hermès Birkin bag: a timeless icon of luxury and timeless fashion. After all, “It’s not a bag. It’s a Birkin” – as stated in the famous Sex and the City series.

The Hermès Birkin bag is not just a great financial investment but also a symbol of luxury and elegance that has stood the test of time. If the financial investment is what you might be looking for, first you will need to get access to one of these bags - not an easy task because you’d have to have a long-standing relationship with one of the Hermès sales associates - and you also need to take extra care of the Birkin bag to maintain its value. For a Hermès bag not to lose value, you must keep it in perfect, like-new condition.

Originally created in 1984, it quickly became a coveted item among the elite and celebrities. The iconic Birkin was born around 1984 after the singer and actress Jane Birkin met Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London in an interesting scenario. A year before the Birkin bag launch, the cool Parisian actress Jane Birkin was on a flight to London. Her treasured basket bag had been run over by her then-husband, Jacques Doillon, a few days prior, and she was carrying a replacement. It wasn’t fit for this purpose as she ended up dropping her notebook, and remarking that no bag was large enough to hold all of her papers.

Because Jane Birkin expressed how she wished she would love to have a functional and stylish bag that could be carried all day and while she traveled, and Jean-Louis Dumas hear her, this led to the design of the famous Birkin bag.

Today, the Hermès Birkin bag remains one of the most iconic and sought-after handbags in the world. The Birkin bag price was around 2.000 in 1984 when it was launched. Today a standard leather Birkin is around 10.000 while a crocodile and diamond-encrusted Birkin bag can retail for as much as 200.000.

Each bag takes between 12 and 18 hours to create by master craftspeople who have to undergo between 2 and 6 years of training before starting work in Hermès’ leather atelier. Most of the Birkin bags are sewn by hand using the Hermès signature saddle-stitching technique.

However, with time and use, any bag including a Birkin may start to show signs of a very loved condition. And especially if you see this bag as an investment, you must keep it in perfect condition. If it’s a bag that is worn, you might get scuffs on the leather to worn-out corners, and broken handles, these issues can take away from the beauty of this iconic bag. Fortunately, in most cases, there are ways to restore a Birkin handbag to its original splendor.

Restoring a Hermès Birkin: the leather

The leather used in the construction of the Hermès Birkin handbag is usually of the highest quality. The leather used is often Togo, Clemence, or Epsom. Togo is a soft, pebbled leather that is known for its durability and resistance to scratches. Clemence is a thicker, grained leather that is also highly durable. Epsom leather has a smooth texture and is known for its resistance to scratches and water. Though other types of leather can be used for creating a Birkin bag, such as crocodile, ostrich, lizard, ostrich…

However, even the best leather can suffer from wear and tear over time. Scuffs, scratches, and stains can take away the elegance of the bag. To restore the leather, it's always important to take it to a professional who has experience working with Hermès Birkin handbags. But if you just want to prevent early aging, know the bag needs maintenance, such as cleaning and moisturizing the leather.  

If you don’t want to do it yourself, usually a professional restorer will first clean the leather to remove any dirt or stains. They will then apply a special conditioner to the leather to restore its suppleness and shine. If there are any scratches or scuffs, they will use a dye that matches the color of the leather to cover them up.

Restoring a Hermès Birkin: the corners

The corners of a Hermès Birkin handbag are particularly susceptible to wear and tear. Over time, the corners may become scuffed or worn out. If left unaddressed, this can lead to further damage to the leather.

To restore the corners of a Hermès Birkin handbag, a professional restorer will first assess the extent of the damage. If the corners are only slightly worn out, they may be able to use a special conditioner to bring back their shine. If the corners are more severely damaged, they may need to be reinforced with leather patches, or suppress that part of the corner.

Restoring a Hermès Birkin: the handle

The handle of a Hermès Birkin bag is another area that naturally can suffer from wear and tear. Over time, the leather may become cracked or discolored, making the bag not so spectacular.

To restore the handle, a professional restorer will first clean the leather to remove any dirt or stains. They will then use a special conditioner to restore the suppleness and shine of the leather. If the handle is severely damaged, sometimes, they may need to replace it with a new one.

A way to prevent the wear and tear of the handle is to get a Hermès Twilly. These bag accessories scarfs were first introduced in the late 1930s. Twillys are made of silk, a fabric that stays cool even in the warmest of months.  So, if you have a Twilly around your bag’s handles, your hand will be kept in good condition for a longer time.  

Tips for maintaining a Hermès Birkin in a great condition

With proper care and maintenance, this quiet luxury handbag can last for decades and even become a fabulous family heirloom.

Here are some tips for maintaining a Hermès Birkin handbag:

  • Store the bag in a cool, dry place when not in use.
  • The safest way to pamper classic Hermès leathers, like grained Togo Epsom or soft Swift is using a dry microfiber cloth to gently wipe the bag’s outside and inside.
  • Avoid exposure to direct sunlight and heat, which can cause the leather to fade and dry out.
  • Use a leather protectant spray to help prevent scratches and stains.
  • Exotic skins can dry out over time without proper nourishment, especially Lizard scales tend to crack.
  • Use a dry microfiber lint-free cloth for occasional cleaning, always in the natural direction of the scales (especially for Lizard).
  • Keep the bag away from water and other liquids, which can stain the leather.
  • Clean the leather and moisturize it regularly, so it doesn’t crack and get old.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials to clean the bag. Use a leather conditioner regularly to keep the leather supple and prevent cracking. Handle the bag with clean hands to avoid transferring oils and dirt to the leather.
  • Veau Doblis is a very rare suede leather used by Hermès artisans. Use a suede brush for occasional grooming, to remove dirt, and to restore the natural suede texture.
  • Rotate the bag and avoid overfilling it to prevent stretching and distortion of the shape.
  • Don’t place your bag on the floor, so it’s not exposed to dirt or spilled liquids.
  • Overloading the Birkin bag can put undue stress on the handle, causing it to stretch or become damaged.
  • Empty your bag every time you use it.
  • Don’t overstuff your Hermès bag and avoid carrying bulky or overly heavy objects.
  • To store your Hermès bag fill it with acid-free tissue paper to maintain its shape and keep it in the dust bag.
  • Leave your purse in an upright position.
  • You shouldn’t wear your Hermès bag every single day. Leather is an organic material, that needs time to rest, breathe, and recover.

By following these tips and taking your Hermès Birkin purse to a professional restorer every 1-2 years, for regular maintenance and repairs, you can ensure that your beloved Hermès purse stays in pristine condition for years to come. And with proper care, it may even increase in value over time, becoming a treasured investment piece.   


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