It certainly is good to be Hermès these days. The Paris-based design house has won its battle against an LVMH takeover and continues to demand the highest prices for its famed bags. The house announced in late 2013 and again this year that it would be increasing prices of its coveted handbags, a move reportedly aimed at countering rising material costs and mitigating currency fluctuations. On the heels of such price increases, the price of Hermès bags at auction is growing, as well. According to our friends over at Blouin Art, an Hermès Birkin Himalayan bag in white crocodile, circa 2009, set a new record at Christie’s Paris this week, selling for $171,675. Offerings from the iconic Paris-based design house, whose new creative director of womenswear, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, made her debut this week, dominated Christie’s inaugural handbag and accessory sale in Paris. All the top 10 lots were Hermès handbags, primarily Birkin models, though other models went several times over their pre-sale estimates, including a tricolor Kelly Sellier bag, circa 1992, selling for $99,735 and a Kelly picnic, circa 2011, selling for $53,955. The rising costs at auction hardly come as a surprise. Hermès bags are one of the few, if not the only, bags that fail to depreciate in value, consistently making them hot items at retail and at auction alike.
Interestingly, the Himalayan bag is one worthy of note, as its diamond encrusted sister, the 30-centimeter diamond Himalayan Birkin, is said to be the rarest and the most expensive bag on the market -- last year one went for a cool $432,000, up from its initial retail price of $300,000. This Himalayan is made of Nilo crocodile and is the result of a particularly painstaking dyeing process, which takes many hours to complete—the lighter the hue, the more difficult the process. The diamond version features a cadena lock that alone is comprised of 68.4 grams of 18-karat white gold and encrusted with 40 white round brilliant diamonds, totaling 1.64 carats. On the bag, three different structural elements of the Birkin—the Touret, the Pontets, and the Plaques de Sanglons—feature more than 200 diamonds for a total of 8.2 carats.
While the luxury design house has stated that it had no plans to significantly raise prices, the most recent increase (a 5% to 10% rise in prices that took effect in January 2015) coincides with an industry-wide trend. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of 2014, the price of a Chanel quilted handbag had increased 70% over the preceding five years. Louis Vuitton has been raising its prices, focusing on higher priced accessories, and limiting quantities over the past several years to fight the logo fatigue that was plaguing its growth. Gucci has reportedly taken a similar road, but has yet to see the turnaround that Louis Vuitton is enjoying.