As far as handbags goes, there isn’t one that comes close to the Birkin when it comes to the craftsmanship and skilful techniques employed in its making. Hermes’ leather atelier is located on the outskirts of Paris and it is at this facility where the Birkin takes form and comes to life. A leather artisan has to undergo rigorous training with more experienced masters from between three to four years before they are allowed to create this portable work of art. When they have passed the stringent test which makes them a Birkin craftsman, they then are responsible for making the Birkin from start to finish using the same tools that were used in the 19th century, ensuring that their initials together with the year, and name of the workroom where the bag was made are stamped in the bag so that if the bag is brought back for repairs, it can be repaired by the same craftsman who made it.
Making a Birkin bag comprise four main stages, starting with the selection of raw materials. From the tanning of calf leather to the specialised treatment for crocodile skin, Hermes pays meticulous attention to quality control and the provenance of the leather and skins used for the Birkin. After an exposé by PETA on alligator farms in Texas and Zimbabwe sparked an outrage among animal rights activist as well as the actress whose namesake bag used the crocodile skins, Hermes assured everyone concerned that this was an “isolated irregularity” and would ensure compliance with best management practice and reiterated its “firm commitment in the ethical treatment of crocodiles in partner firms.” No doubt ensuring all these SOPs are strictly adhered to will inevitably add to the cost of the making the Birkin. There was however, no mention of lizard, ostrich or calf leather and whether those animals were ethically treated or not.