Are Hermes Birkins and Chanel 2.55s still relevant fashion investments?
Bag to the future
Investment is a word that gets thrown around a lot in fashion, usually as justification for very expensive things. There are few trains of thought: investment as in something you'll love, wear or carry for years to come, and investments that you keep pristine to sell later at a higher price. The latter has, arguably, come to more accurately define investment in the age of millennials and Gen Z spenders.
Perhaps the most well-known investment pieces in fashion are the Hermes Birkin and Chanel 2.55 bags. Both are products of intense and dedicated mythmaking. The Birkin bag traces itself to a complaint the French actress Jane Birkin (whom the bag was named after) made to the house's chief executive on a shared flight, and has become notorious for being incredibly hard to obtain. Years-long waiting lists are the stuff of legend, and exotic variants have been traded at auctions at six-digit figures. The 2.55, released in February 1955, banks on the allure of Coco Chanel as perhaps the world's most famous fashion designer.
Both items have become so embedded in the cultural consciousness of luxury and aspiration that their appeal — at least monetarily, if not stylistically — is immovable. At certain points, both bags have been compared to, and performed better on a return-on-investment basis, than the stock market, gold, and real estate. That's to say their prices have only increased year on year, and the bags hold value immensely well. Even rapper Drake recently revealed that he has been collecting Birkin bags for years as a gift for his future wife.
But both the Birkin and the 2.55 represent a slightly traditional version of aspirational, collectible luxury. When millennials and Gen Z spenders began to fixate on sneakers and rare collaboration pieces, the market began to shift towards a new type of investment item. Now, it's just as likely you'll find exorbitant prices for rare Supreme pieces and Jordan sneakers.
They might not get traded (yet) at traditional auction houses like Christie's or Sotheby's, but it's perhaps a matter of time considering the above-retail prices they get sold on preloved marketplace sites like Grailed and StockX. In fact, the most expensive pair of Jordans ever sold are the Air Jordan 12 Flu Game, the pair Michael Jordan wore when he went on to win his fifth NBA title whilst overcoming a flu during the game. The shoes were considered an important piece of history to many, and went on to fetch US$104,000 (S$148,000) on eBay. That's comparable to a rare, exotic skin Birkin.
For all the surface differences, both the new and old world of fashion investment pieces have the fundamental element of scarcity in common. Brands like Hermes and Chanel are well aware of the fact that low, controlled supply creates stronger demand and drives prices higher. That's basically the entire model that Supreme — and subsequently the entire machine of limited edition collaboration releases — has built itself on. Reselling and flipping have become whole jobs of people who stalk releases and snatch up sold-out products to sell them at a profit on the secondary market.
It might, however, still be too early to tell what pieces will emerge as this generation's investment pieces. Remember that French fashion brands have had years on which to build their brands and the accompanying prestige. Streetwear, which drives a lot of contemporary collecting and investing, is still in its relative infancy as far as sky-high luxury prices go. There are still years, decades even, to come before buyers and spenders decide which designs and styles from today have longevity long after its inception.