Book Review: Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello

Michael Tonello’s Bringing Home the Birkin is not like any of the other books I have recently read/reviewed. It’s definitely non-fiction, but more of whimsical and personal tale of a man who fell into a business unexpectedly. Prior to his adventure he was unaware of the Hermès mystique (as I was until a week ago). [Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag]

Tonello tells his own story of moving from New England to Barcelona, Spain. While culling his herd of fashion accessories and clothing he decides to sell an old Hermès scarf on eBay only to be amazed that it sold for so much. And soon after that, he realized that there was an entire sub-culture that chased Hermès scarfs and bags, including the mythical Birkin. The wealthy devour these products, especially limited edition and rare items. I liken it to Beanie-Baby collecting for the super-rich. ;-)

Not long after the first scarf sale he was approached by many others looking for rare Hermès scarfs and ultimately the Birkin bags, which are almost legendary in their difficulty to obtain. He took it as a personal challengs to break the secreat Birkin ‘code,’ ultimately obtaining hundreds for his clients all over the world. He would soon become one of if not the world expert on Hermès luxury goods in general and Birkin bags in particular.

Tonello is also a seasoned world-traveller (official site). It’s a pleasure reading about the places he visits and the (sometimes too) real characters he encounters. And the entire culture of and around the fabled Birkin waiting list is interesting enough.

Bringing Home the Birkin is an easy read and enjoyable. Published Spring 2008, about 250 pages. Recommended if you’re looking for something light and enjoyable rather than pedantic.

A few items of note:
1. Apparently, Hermès makes its own tissue paper?
2. Hermès makes a notebook/journal called the Ulysse, I’d love to get my hands on one.
3. In at least one of the book’s pics, Tonello is seen with a Ulysse journal and S.T. Dupont fountain pen. Nice taste. ;-)

4. Tonello had a small group of agents around the world acquiring Birkins for him at one point. In order to help them navigate the terrain of the Birkin game he created a bio of all the various employee types one might encounter in an Hermès store as well as how to deal with him or her. That alone is hilarious.
5. Birkin bags range roughly from USD $7,000 to USD $100,000.
6. Tonello travels to Andorra several times, good to see the obscure country mentioned.

7. At one point in Paris, Tonello’s tale is intertwined with that of Oprah when she was outraged over not being given special treatment at an Hermes boutique that had already closed.

Related links:
Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag
Conversations With Famous Writers: Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello
Fashion Copious: Interview With Michael Tonello
Review: Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello
Powell’s Books – Bringing Home the Birkin
The Santa Barbara Independent Bringing Home the Hermes Birkin
Birkin bag – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bringing Home the Birkin – Michael Tonello – First Chapter
Michael Tonello: About the Author: HarperCollins Publishers

  • michael

    thanks for such a great review and posting about my book.
    happy new year and
    be well!
    michael tonello